The Twilight of American Culture -- BOOKRING

by Morris Berman | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 039332169x Global Overview for this book
Registered by avanta7 on 10/20/2002
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9 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by avanta7 on Sunday, October 20, 2002
A prophetic examination of western decline, the underground bestseller The Twilight Of American Culture provides one of the most caustic and surprising portraits of American society to date. Whether examining the corruption at the heart of modern politics, the "Rambification" of popular entertainment, or the collapse or our school systems, Morris Berman asks if there is anything we can do as a society to arrest the onset of corporate Mass Mind culture. Citing writers as diverse as de Tocqueville and DeLillo, Berman cogently argues that cultural preservation is a matter of individual conscience, and discusses how classical learning might triumph over political correctness with the rise of a "new monastic individual" -- a person who is willing to reject the corporate consumer culture of our time and instead work to preserve the historical treasures of our civilization. (cover blurb)

Harsh social commentary -- The United States is becoming a cultural wasteland according to this author. He targets the mass market homogeneity of the big box stores and nationwide chains; the decline in quality of our popular entertainment; the on-going demise of the individual character of our different regions.

Scary book, because it's true. McDonald's, Disney, and WalMart have taken over....
Trade paperback.

Journal Entry 2 by avanta7 on Friday, August 15, 2003
Bookring now forming.

International is welcome, and the final mailing order will accommodate participants who are unable to ship overseas.

Journal Entry 3 by avanta7 on Sunday, August 24, 2003
Here's the final mailing order for the Twilight Of American Culture bookring. It's wonderful that this book is going to so many places outside the United States. I'm especially looking forward to the journal entries from a non-domestic perspective.

cobaltcat, Fresno, California, USA
symphonicca, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
jmg49, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
caligula03, Pacifica, California, USA
janaqq, Austin, Texas, USA
busybooklover, San Marcos, California, USA
Hawkette, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
veritas9, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia<-----current reader
etherea, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
TracyShannon, Huntsville, Alabama, USA
kellyhp, San Antonio, Texas, USA
pambueno, El Cajon, California, USA
LeapingLizzards, Ft. Myers, Florida, USA
jenny-lou-who, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
skcreader, Roanoke, Virginia, USA
IrasCignavojo, Tübingen, Baden-Württemburg, Germany
DenzilPenberthy, Llanelli, Wales, UK
Kernow8, Southhampton, England, UK
bkwrm23, Haskell, New Jersey, USA
magicwritinggal, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA
mmz18407, Towson, Maryland, USA
and back to me, avanta7, Yuba City, California, USA

PM the next one in line when you're ready to send out the book. Changes may occur from time to time, so be sure to check for any revisions to the mailing order when it's your turn to pass it on.

Each participant is asked to make at least three separate journal entries: one upon receipt of the book, one when the book is reviewed, and one when it is sent off to the next in line. Of course, feel free to make interim entries as you read if you are so inclined.

Thanks for playing along, and enjoy!

Journal Entry 4 by cobaltcat from Fresno, California USA on Saturday, September 13, 2003
Received today. Will read and comment.

Update 10/22/03...I'm a little over halfway through the book. Extremely interesting, with the author paralleling the causes of the decline of Rome with what's happening in the States today. I find myself nodding yes, yes, I agree with much of what he says. It's a slow going book, and I'd really like to be able to take more time with it to give it the in-depth reading and consideration it deserves.

Journal Entry 5 by cobaltcat from Fresno, California USA on Saturday, November 15, 2003
I must first apologize for having this book for such an incredibly long time. At only 183 pages, one would think it would be a quick read. Not so for me.

This was one of those books that, for me, I had to read and reread passages, and digest that information before moving on to the next section. In addition, it's been a long time since I read a more "intellectual" piece of writing. (My material tends to lean more towards mysteries.) Therefore, I took longer than I should have. However, I don't think this is a book that one can, or should, read quickly.

Some sentences that really struck me:
"Instead of classics, we shall have best-sellers; instead of genius, technique. Real thought will be supplanted by information....."

"For a zoned-out stupefied populace, "democracy" will be nothing more than the right to shop, or to choose between Wendy's and Burger King, or to stare at CNN and think that this managed infotainment is actually the news."

I think this book struck a nerve with me, because I have never been a person drawn to consumerism. I've never been caught up in the need to drive the trendy cars (my current vehicle I've owned for 14 years), buy name brands, or spend every penny I have. I'm an anomaly from the standpoint of most people I know. (I'm debt-free except for a mortgage, due to be paid off early, I save 25% of my pretax income, my home is modest compared to what I "could" purchase, I can't remember the last time I set foot in a fast food restaurant....you get the picture). I guess this makes me somewhat of a "new monastic individual" (explained in the book).

I deplore the rampant consumerism and spending that I see around me. I thought I was the only one that mused about what I see as a decline in critical thinking, and the failure of the United States to value a quality of life rather than a quantity of belongings. I no longer watch the "news" if that's what you want to call it. (At least the American news...I do watch the BBC world news, as well as use their website, since they at least give a more objective view of topics).

It was interesting that Berman has paralleled the decline of America with the decline in the Roman empire. It's quite scary for me in that I can agree with him in the comparison, being an avid reader of Roman history myself.

In summary, this is a book I wouldn't mind purchasing so that I could reread it again.

It's now, (FINALLY!) off to symphonnica.

Journal Entry 6 by symphonicca from Ottawa, Ontario Canada on Thursday, November 27, 2003
Just received this in the mail--- thanks colbaltcat! Will get to it as soon as i finish the bookring i am working on right now!

Journal Entry 7 by symphonicca from Ottawa, Ontario Canada on Thursday, January 1, 2004
Well, after playing around with the many, many comments and ideas in this book, I am finally finished and ready to pass it on. I have hesitated (procrastinated?) writing this journal entry for a while, as am not sure how to explore my thoughts, and those of the author. Many things I agree with, but many others i do not.

I thought there were loads of interesting and intriguing observations here about the current state of american culture. Lots of resonance with the comparison between the fall of the roman empire and the fall of the current state of american society-- the patina of plasticity and insincerity in so much of what is happening right now, the growing disparity between the classes, insularity of the upper classes, the growth of fundamentalism, etc.... Scary, and hopefully a wake-up call!

In my oh-so-very-humble opinion, things need to start changing. From an outsiders perspective (but pretty darn close to the action at the same time), like Rome, the US seems to need to move beyond that myopic "do what's best for me" way of acting and move into a more inclusive, worldly role, realizing that all actions (and inaction) has reprecussions both inside and outside of the country. Pretending things don't matter does not mean they, in fact, do not matter. This kind of self-imposed ignornace can have deadly reprecussions, as we have all seen.

Although I think he supported a lot of his arguments regarding the current state of decline, I had a lot of reservations about some of the other content of the book. One thing I particularly took issue with in this book was the way the author talked about the 'monks' who will carry the essentials of the american culture into the next phase of americanism (should this change indeed occur). To me, it felt like just another form of elitism. I know he kept poo-pooing this oberservation, celebrating his elitist stance, and saying this is not a class or identifiable group, but how can it be anything but this? This monastic option scares me a bit. It is similar to the probs of history--- who wrote it?? White, monied men. What a singular and incomplete perspective!!! He did not convince me that this 'monastic' movement will be anything but a repetition of past historical inaccuracies.

I also didn't really agree with a lot of his observations on academia. He just sounded like an overworked, frustrated professor, putting all the onus on students to pull up their socks and start working. Give me a break! What about the apathy of profs, the commercialism invading the academic realm, the rising cost of tuition, etc.... He did little to bolster any of his arguments on this topic, which drove me nuts!

These are just two of the many many many tangents he chooses to delve into, making broad sweeping generalizations, brutal assumptions and angry conclusions. I didn't buy a lot of his arguments, but whatever. This journal entry is getting too long... :)

So, in short, I am glad I read this book, and thought it has some interesting ideas to ponder. However, i still think it lacks a lot of substantial analysis, and a true, informed and realistic perspective on the suggestions it posits. But this is just my opinion. Thanks, avanta7, for making this book available to us! Much appreciated!

Journal Entry 8 by symphonicca at -- Controlled Release in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada on Friday, January 2, 2004
Released on Friday, January 02, 2004 at A fellow bookcrosser in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada.

Sending this out to the next person on the list--- enjoy!

Journal Entry 9 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Friday, January 9, 2004
I just took this book out of the mailbox and am looking forward to reading it. I'll make another journal entry when I've read it and am ready to pass it on.

Journal Entry 10 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Tuesday, January 20, 2004
I started reading this book last night and will add another journal entry when I have finished.

Journal Entry 11 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Wednesday, January 28, 2004
I liked Berman's historic analogies and his depiction of the degradation of American culture. Some of my friends and I have been commenting on this for some time. I live in a highly saturated television reception area and get a lot of local news programs from Buffalo & Erie as well as here in Ontario and it seems that the American stations give an inordinate amount of exposure to sensational items that really have no impact on anyone other than those in the story. Some of our reporting here in Ontario, sadly, has been adopting this trend. For the most part, however, our local stories have more of an informative nature involving the 5 W's of journalism.
I'm digressing here. My point is that the news is becoming a video moment of a shooting or a car crash without any in-depth discussion of the who, where, what, when and Why. This is, I think a microcosm of what Berman is saying.
When he gets to the "monks" I tend to agree with what symphonicca said.
The whole time I was reading this book I couldn't get "The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi)" out of my head. In this masterful book Knecht predicts that in the coming pop culture everyone will have their 5 minutes of fame.
Thanks for letting me read this avanta7. I could talk on this subject for hours because it really interests me.

Journal Entry 12 by jmg49 from Woodstock, Ontario Canada on Saturday, January 31, 2004
Mailed to caligula03 today. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 13 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Tuesday, February 10, 2004
The book has arrived safe and sound. I will read it as soon as I can.

Journal Entry 14 by caligula03 from Hayward, California USA on Thursday, May 6, 2004
Berman's arguments go from carefully crafted analysis to rather dull book reports (specially of Canticle for Leibowitz and Fahrenheit 451). His historical analysis of the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Medieval Europe is by far the strongest pieces of the book. His extrapolations for the future of the United States waffle between concrete examples and vague terminology. His analysis of the decline of literacy for example doesn't specify when he's refering to cultural literacy (having read and understood the pieces of literature, art, etc that are the foundations for modern society) and the actual ability to read.

Journal Entry 15 by caligula03 at on Thursday, May 6, 2004
Release planned for Saturday, May 08, 2004 at janaqq in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases.

Mailing on Saturday.

Journal Entry 16 by LFL_CedarPark from Austin, Texas USA on Saturday, May 29, 2004
I got this book last week and am half way through. Thanks for making this book a ring! I am enjoying it so far.

I wanted more information, I thought that he generalized a bit too much.

I enjoyed the part about "hostility toward intelligence". And how our culture celebrates ignorance with tv and movies, "dumbing down". And "Intellectual interest of any sort is portrayed as phony and pretentious, whereas outright stupidity is equated with that which is warmhearted and authentic." (41)
I recently went to see the documentary Stupidity and I thought of this book as I was watching it.

"There are people in the world all the time who know...But they keep quiet. They just move about quietly, saving the people who know they are in a trap. And then, for the ones who have got out, it's like coming around from chloroform. They realise that all thier lives they've been asleep and dreaming. And then it's their turn to learn the rules and the timing. And they become the ones to live quietly in the world, just as human beings might if there were only a few human beings on a planet that had monkeys on it for inhabitants, but the monkeys had the possibility of learning to think like human beings. But in the poor sad monkeys' damaged brains there's a knowledge half-buried. they sometimes think that if they only knew how, if only they could remember properly, then they could get out of the trap, they could stop being zombies."

Doris Lessing, Briefing for a Descent into Hell

Journal Entry 17 by LFL_CedarPark at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring -- Controlled Releases on Saturday, June 12, 2004
Released on Saturday, June 12, 2004 at Bookring in Bookring, A Bookring Controlled Releases.

This book will continue its journey this week.

Journal Entry 18 by busybooklover on Monday, July 26, 2004
Arrived in the mail while I was away on a camping trip at Lake Tahoe... I have two books ahead of it but will commit to read and mail within a month! It looks like a quick read but based on previous comments-- I will want to read it with time to digest it. Will update when I have read and mailed :D

Journal Entry 19 by busybooklover on Tuesday, August 31, 2004
now PMing Hawkette for address... I'm a bit overdue but will get this out by Labor Day weekend!

Journal Entry 20 by busybooklover at on Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Released 17 yrs ago (10/12/2004 UTC) at

WILD RELEASE NOTES:

RELEASE NOTES:

sending to hawkette...a RING book I've had too long.

Journal Entry 21 by wingHawkettewing from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Sunday, October 17, 2004
This book has arrived with me - with a couple of surprises! Thanks heaps busybooklover!!

Journal Entry 22 by wingHawkettewing from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Monday, January 31, 2005
The decline of the US as the world power, ah la Roman Empire, has actually been a topic of much discussion for myself and several of my friends, post September 11. The idea that the current state of the world could be an indication of the merging change all seems plausible in light of the aftermath of the day that changed Western ideas about ourselves.

Many, many disturbing thoughts were presented by Berman here, although I wish he had have backed them all up better with references - whould have just made it more believable. The dumbing down of society is certainly something that I see, and worry about. The idea that next to noone reads anymore - too scary to imagine!

I guess from this read, the idea of chipping away as an individual, learning all you can about the world, and doing the things you believe to be important, os the real message. And I think our little BookCrossing movement here is fighting th good fight, spreading reading to everyone we can!

Will be sending on shortly.

Journal Entry 23 by wingHawkettewing from Sydney, New South Wales Australia on Thursday, March 3, 2005
Have finally sent this one on today - about time! It has ended up travelling a fait bit with me...I finished reading it on the plane from Melbourne to Bangkok. Then it come with me to Phnom Penh. Knowing the mail system over there, I decided to wait to post it till I was somewhere more reliable. And then when I got to Tokyo the Post Office was so hard to figure out!!
So now, I have posted it from the UK - all the way back to Australia. Fly back little book!

Journal Entry 24 by veritas9 from Melbourne CBD, Victoria Australia on Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Oh god. Hawkette pmd about this and I knew exacly what I'd done. Came home from work, picked up book from mailbox, walked into the toilet (sorry too much info), read a couple of pages and put it in the mag rack.

It was lodged in layer March. So sorry - will read ASAP which will be a bitch for the Two Years with Booker fiasco (see shelf for details).

(Note: Book will be sterilised before mailing!)


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