For many years there has been a series of books published annually with titles such as Best American Short Stories, Best American Science Fiction, Best American Non Essential Reading, etc….you get the picture. I’ve been giving my brother-in-law Best American Short Stories for about 14 years, picking up the tradition after my mother died…..John has quite a library of that anthology.
As someone who thrives on travel I started reading Best American Travel Writing a couple years ago. The included stories come from magazines, blogs, travel websites, etc, that have been published in the previous year. Some authors are very well known (Paul Theroux) to more obscure writers. Last night I was reading the 2014 anthology and was struck by an article originally published in Vanity Fair Magazine titled America The Marvelous.
I’m not usually one who wears his patriotism on his sleeve….in fact no where near that person. I’m often critical of our American culture (yes, I can be a snob). I’ve traveled to Europe several times over the past few years and see most Europeans as more sophisticated than Americans….at least that’s what I decided to take away from my overseas experiences. That said, I was always relieved once the wheels of the jumbo jet touched American soil on our return to the states.
So what do I see wrong with our country? Are we not the fattest and least healthy country in the developed world? Why can’t we see that we’re eating ourselves to death? Why does our government feel it’s our role to police the world? Is racism really dead in America? And is a society based on consumerism good for our souls? Shouldn’t we value the arts, our diverse culture, friendships among the diverse nationalities that make up our population? Why do we all feel it’s our way or the highway? And why is your religion, or lack of, more ‘right’ than my beliefs? “Can’t we all just get along”?
That’s just part of a long list of gripes I consider when watching CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS and reading The Huffington Post, Grist, the AJC, Esquire, etc, etc, etc… But I gotta tell you, A.A. Gill, the author of the above mentioned article America The Marvelous, has made me rethink my criticism of our country. It’s so easy to look at the negative, so easy to be critical of those who don’t agree with your values and so easy and self righteous to think my way is the right way to live ones life. Read the article….it’s short, succinct…and it just may give you a perspective that many of us have lost about America….it did me.
3 thoughts on “America The Marvelous”
Your review was interesting so I bought the anthology. Enjoyed AA Gill’s essay, especially the description of Salman Rushdie’s tactic for winning the debate about American pop culture! Looking forward to reading other travel essays in the book.
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From Steve: Want to thank my friend Peter Leafman for recommending “The Best American Travel Writing 2014”. I’ve enjoyed it, but especially enjoyed “The Birthplace of the American Vacation”. Made me want to go back to the Adirondacks, which I had the great pleasure of exploring by bicycle in the 90’s.