ISBN is

978-1-929001-07-1 / 192900107X

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About the book:

The bulk of Granta 77: What We Think of America, is devoted to exploring the effect of American culture, politics and economics on 24 writers in the light of the horrific events of September 11, 2001. As editor Ian Jack states in his introduction, the pieces here "are not about that day, nor are they excuses for it" but an attempt to understand quite why, after the initial outpouring of sympathy, a mood of anti-Americanism seemed to take hold. The most vocal critics of the period argued that America's policies had, effectively, "caused" the attacks. Strains of "they had it coming to them" were also heard across the globe.

With the exception of Harold Pinter who describes the United States as a "fully-fledged, award-winning, gold-plated monster", the majority of contributors offer only fairly measured critiques of American foreign policy. Ahdaf Soueif and Raja Shehadeh condemn its failure to address the issue of a Palestinian state. While Ramachandra Guha maintains that it is the curious co-existence of contradictory values--democratic and yet instinctively imperialist--that tends to make America "not a pretty sight" on the world's stage. John Gray argues that America is just "too rich in contradictions for any definition of it to be possible"; in his opinion it is actually "unknowable". Doris Lessing makes a similar point, in her view all talk of "America as if it were a homogenous unity isn't useful" but she does go on to hazard a few, actually rather pertinent, "generalisations" of her own. Taken individually some of the essays are quite insubstantial but, without wishing to be banal, it is astonishing quite how thought-provoking they are as whole. Ranging from the intimate and autobiographical to the polemical, they provide an intriguing assessment of the world's remaining superpower. With an extract from JM Coetzee's novel Youth and pieces from Blake Morrison and Ziauddin Sardar, this issue is an absorbing read.--Travis Elborough

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