Results of the National Book Award in the year 1993.
Gore Vidal’s reputation as “America’s finest essayist” is an enduring one. Vidal has a gift for writing about the events of the moment with an astuteness usually reserved for the beneficiaries of hindsight, and about events of the past with the familiarity of someone who has just come out of the room where they were happening. This collection, chosen by the author from forty years of work, contains about two thirds of what he has published in various magazines and journals. He has divided the essays into three categories, or states.
State of the Art covers literature, including novelists and critics, bestsellers, pieces on the French New Novel, Henry James, Oscar Wilde, Suetonius, Edmund Wilson, Nabokov, Herman Wouk, Italo Calvino, and Montaigne (a previously uncollected essay from 1992). …[more]
On the morning of June 8, 1862, two armies met on a rain-wet field in Cross Keys, Virginia. When the Battle of Cross Keys was over, the Confederate army had halted the Union advance, an important victory in Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign. The armies moved on, leaving behind their dead and wounded, and a field strewn with the detritus of war.
One hundred twenty-five years later, artist Peter Svenson purchased forty acres of farmland encompassing the battlefield with the intention of starting over in rural privacy. He built a house, refurbished the old barn on the property, and taught himself to farm hay. At the same time, he immersed himself in the history of the land and the Battle of Cross Keys.
In Battlefield Svenson intertwines a detailed description of the battle based on field reports, letters, and other firsthand accounts with a lively recounting of his own present day war against progress in the form of pesticides and mini-malls.…[more]
Gunfighter Nation completes Richard Slotkin’s trilogy, begun in Regeneration Through Violence and continued in Fatal Environment, on the myth of the American frontier. Slotkin examines an impressive array of sources—fiction, Hollywood westerns, and the writings of Hollywood figures and Washington leaders—to show how the racialist theory of Anglo-Saxon ascendance and superiority (embodied in Theodore Roosevelt’s The Winning of the West), rather than Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis of the closing of the frontier, exerted the most influence in popular culture and government policy making in the twentieth century. He argues that Roosevelt’s view of the frontier myth provided the justification for most of America’s expansionist policies, from Roosevelt’s own Rough Riders to Kennedy’s counterinsurgency and Johnson’s war in Vietnam
Absorbing and incisive, Land of Desire tells the story of a fundamental transformation in the culture and economy of America—the rise of mass-market consumerism and the attendant shift to a society “preoccupied with consumption, with comfort and bodily well-being, with luxury, spending, and acquisition, with more goods this year than last, more next year than this.” Tracing the rise of American mass-market culture from its beginnings in the 1890s, William Leach reveals how pioneering and visionary merchant princes—John Wanamaker, the Straus brothers, Marshall Field, and A.T. Stewart—constructed the modern department store business and lured millions of buyers with remarkable feats of showmanship. Spectacular displays with dazzling light and color effects and marching bands and bugle corps were part of the pageantry employed to entice Americans into the pleasure of consumption and indulgence. Famous architects and stage designers were enlisted to create the proper atmosphere, and they became part…[more]