Thursday, March 16, 2006

BHL's American Vertigo

"American Vertigo" has all the depth of a crème brûlée - once you break through the thin topping of burnt sugar, you sink into custard.

I wouldn't push the critique that far. American Vertigo is an interesting read, despite its shortsightedness, standard clichés, cultural misunderstandings, and critical oversights.

Yet, how can BHL discuss America without addressing the issue of healthcare and social security? Why does he always reduce everything to his own origins? Why his shock at the American prison system, when France's is the second worst in Europe and an international scandal? What's so different with American strip joints?

As a philosopher, how could he not be capable of understanding that cities like L.A. are developed on a different model, with different parameters? How can he pretend to understand America when he whisks through it in a chauffeur-driven car? And finally, why do I have this nagging feeling of reading yet another of my countrymen using a gimmick to gaze at his own belly button?

BHL reminds me of Peter Mayle, Joanna Harris, Adam Gopnik, Annette Lévy-Willard & all -- authors who wear such biased googles that they cannot capture the essence of the places they pretend to describe. And yet, they're intriguing to read because we always learn something, despite of, or maybe thanks to, the static coming from cultural stereotypes.

American vertigo? French vertigo? World vertigo? BHL vertigo. An outsider's weak yet interesting series of snapshots.
photo Google Images

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