Work Title: American Vulgar: The Politics of Manipulation versus the Culture of Awareness
Work Author(s): Robert Grudin
Shoemaker & Hoard
208 pages, Softcover $15.00
Reviewer: Chris Arvidson
This author takes aim at everyone---the Bush administration, the everyday Americans who elected him, the corporate honchos, the media establishment, and academics. He puts America under a cultural microscope; and he does not like what he sees. But Grudin's not merely a sage chronicler of vulgar times. Rather, he examines American culture and provides a breathtaking and insightful historical and philosophical interpretation of vulgarity.
Grudin's preface lays the groundwork immediately by outlining how "A War and a Killing" exemplify American vulgarity. He examines how these two events were presented, how the media and related corporations capitalized on the fascination and voyeurism, and how Americans have doomed themselves to more of the same by being so predictably lucrative. And, he succinctly defines his most important operating ideas. As Grudin sees it, vulgarity is not simply any crude or coarse action; rather, "an action is vulgar when it is at once ignorant, harmful, and popular." And, the opposite of vulgarity is "consciousness," which he describes as "the ability to be alert to important things and literate in them."
Grudin is well prepared for an exposition on American politics and culture. A professor of English until 1998 at the University of Oregon, he has published widely in scholarly circles, and has written essays and commentaries for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is the author of a trilogy of...