July 12, 2009
Variations on an American theme by Alexis de Tocqueville, Washington Allston, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, William James, Louis H. Sullivan, Charles Ives, Vachel Lindsay, Maxwell E. Perkins, W. H. Auden, John F. Kennedy, and George F. Kennan. This small volume indicates the continuity of "our national disease" today, especially as it infects cultural values and the arts. Acutely aware of the failures of American society, the authors defend personal sensibility against destructive forces, conformist and non-conformist.
...the moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess success. That–with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success–is our national disease.
With its characteristic staccato patterns, its lack of follow-through, and its endless abrupt transitions of theme, commercial entertainment has tended everywhere to weaken the faculty of concentration and to debauch the capacity for sustained and orderly thought. At the back of all this is usually, though not always, advertising....
–George F. Kennan
An original mind is rarely understood,...so averse are men to admitting the true in an unusual form; whilst any novelty, however fantastic, however false, is greedily swallowed....Distinction is the consequence, never the object, of a great mind.