Friday, January 08, 2010

"In Praise of the Delinquent Hero" out now!

This is a good moment to plug a new anthology, How They See Us: Meditations on America, edited by James Atlas.

When I was asked to write for it some time back, I thought it was a good idea. After all, haven't the Americans been proclaiming their confusion about the reasons why so much of the world doesn't like them, or is disappointed, disillusioned, saddened by them, since 9/11? It seemed like a good moment to open a discussion about how the rest of the world sees the US of A. I had no idea who else would be included in the collection, but it seemed like a great opportunity.

Well the anthology is now out. And boy! Whoa! Some serious heavy hitters in there: Mourid Barghouti, Terry Eagleton, Alberto Fuguet, Luis Fernando Verissimo....and of course, the minnow: ME!

Needless to say, I am pretty chuffed!

More interesting for me than the actual publication however is the reaction the anthology is raising from the American press. After all, as a non-American writer, this is an amazing opportunity to observe American reactions in a specific context: a sort of intellectual petri-dish if you will.

Sadly however, the initial reviews of the anthology seem to confirm what I have long thought: that there is a small band of Americans who are interested in actually hearing what the non-Americans have to say. San Francisco Chronicle (even though they got my gender wrong) and the Publisher's Weekly seem to reflect that America (that is the one that I got to know during my years as a teenager in NYC and then as a university student at Brandeis). However, beyond this circle, most Americans don't care about the world beyond their borders (and as such are constantly surprised when that world doesn't agree with their own self-image).

I have also been reminded of a remark that Belgian friend made back at university about how Americans didn't get irony, especially by the WaPo review which ends by quoting Verissimo's piece. Did the reviewer really read that anecdote straight, without irony?

If so another anthology, and another, and another may well be in order!