From the author of The Metaphysical Club—"a richly nuanced reading of American intellectual history" praised for its "rare common sense and graceful, witty prose" (Jean Strouse, The New York Times Book Review)—comes a major collection of essays on American art, American thought, and American life.
At each step of this journey through American history, Louis Menand has an original point to make: he explains the real significance of William James's nervous breakdown, and of the anti-Semitism in T. S. Eliot's writing. He reveals the reasons for the remarkable commercial successes of William Shawn's New Yorker and William Paley's CBS. He uncovers the connection between Larry Flynt's Hustler and Jerry Falwell's evangelism, between the atomic bomb and the Scholastic Aptitude Test. He locates the importance of Richard Wright, Pauline Kael, Christopher Lasch, Laurie Anderson, and Rolling Stone. He explains why Norman Mailer doesn't get Madonna. He talks to Al Gore in the White House when the Starr Report is released, and to Maya Lin soon after the attack on the World Trade Center.
Like his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Metaphysical Club, American Studies is intellectual and cultural history at its best: game and detached, it helps us understand why we think the way we do.