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Dreaming Up America

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  128 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
With America ever under global scrutiny, Russell Banks contemplates the questions of our origins, values, heroes, conflicts, and contradictions. He writes with conversational ease and emotional insight, drawing on contemporary politics, literature, film, and his knowledge of American history.
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Seven Stories Press (first published 2008)
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Jan 27, 2009 Megan rated it liked it
This book is basically a transcription of interviews Russell Banks did for a French documentary. It reads as such and I was a little disappointed by that. I wanted to see many of the ideas fleshed out and better explained and supported. It was like reading the beginning of many interesting thoughts. I found the last chapter the most compelling, when he explores further the idea of American nationalism and how it is a dangerous philosophy. A fascinating subject that I would have loved to hear mor ...more
Dan Gobble
Apr 02, 2016 Dan Gobble rated it really liked it
An interesting little book! While small in size, Banks has packed in a lot of theory and ideas to ponder for many days ahead. I'm intrigued by the main threads of American self-identity which the author points out as running from the beginning of America up until this very day. In particular, he notes three main undergirding streams of identity which have shaped American thoughts and actions throughout its history:
1. The seekers of wealth and riches - whether in the form of the Spanish down in F
Jun 23, 2008 Lynn rated it it was amazing
I've read a few Banks novels and enjoyed them, but who knew he had such amazing and broad understanding of the American pschye through history? He touches on the origins of the nation, immigrants, nationalism, economic issues, wars, and so much more. In many places, he uses examples from classic film and literature to reflect on American attitudes and ideals.

Adapted from interviews for a French film on American history, the text flows easily and reads quickly. The text is not diminished by its
Tara Tetzlaff
Nov 21, 2015 Tara Tetzlaff rated it really liked it
overall a good read, but unfortunately too many topics in such a short work to have any real depth of argument on the specific points. An excellent broad view of the America psyche, nonetheless. A few gems: Banks acknowledges that there is truth in saying the Civil War was over states rights....but it WAS the right to own slaves...if it was over taxation, or militia, or the right to set aside public lands, etc no one would have gone to war over it...thus the conflict of race was at the heart of ...more
John Kaufmann
Jan 02, 2016 John Kaufmann rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Interesting take on American history, by a novelist. The book doesn't cover American history per se, but focuses more on a few of the big mythologies that make up the "American Dream" that have driven America history: the City of a Hill (religious), El Dorado, the City of Gold (materialistic, wealth accumulation), and the Fountain of Youth (you are not bound by your past but can start life anew at any time). These dreams nourished the early settlers and subsequent subsequent immigrants from Euro ...more
Sep 16, 2014 Dm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Concise & Accurate Perceptions of America

Banks, who through much of his great American fiction (Cloudsplitter, Rule of the Bone, even Affliction), wrestles with the angels of the American soul, provides invaluable insight into who we & where we are while giving glimpses into his art as well. The only problem is I wanted more.
Oct 13, 2008 Clifford rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Democrats
This is an odd little book that is something of an oral history of the United States told from a leftist's perspective, which is fine if, like me, you're a leftist. I knew of Banks's views when I bought the book, so it's orientation was no surprise. And I enjoyed it very much, agreeing with it virtually every step of the way. Whether it really should be a book that someone charges $21.95 for is another question, though. I think it would have made a fantastic magazine article in, say, The Nation.
Oct 22, 2015 Sutherland rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
A few interesting ideas with a lot of basic liberal thoughts on American imperialism that can be heard at any coffee shop.
Aug 16, 2008 William rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
The musings of Russell Banks. Very insightful. He considers where America came from - those who were looking for political or religious freedom and those who were looking for riches. He goes on to show where that has led them. How it manifested itself in the Declaration of Independence and the constitution and how the American Dream has led to conflicting ideas of isolationism and imperialism.
Very thought-provoking
Aug 28, 2008 Marian rated it did not like it
Russell Banks should be embarrassed. This was so general and on such a low level, I can't imagine listening to it even as a film commentary, which is what it originally was. I've categorized it under "read" not because I've read it but because I've given up.
Jul 02, 2008 Stephanie rated it really liked it
This is basically a book where the author kind of rambles on, which normally I wouldn't care for, but Banks is so eloquent and his insights really held my interest. He didn't use $100 words and his sentences weren't run-ons. It was very pleasant to read.
Apr 05, 2010 Andrea rated it it was ok
"We (the U.S.) would do well to recognize that we haven't yet finished making ourselves, and that we can still take mindful control of that process." Russell Banks. Excellent read!
Oct 24, 2008 Steve rated it liked it
Not a bad, quick 110 page or so read. This is actually just a transcription from an interview he did about movies.
Edward Sullivan
Sep 07, 2010 Edward Sullivan rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
A perceptive, provocative take on U.S. history and national identity by a non-historian.
Jun 16, 2010 Shelly rated it really liked it
reading a lot of books about american identity. there are some great quotes in here....
Jan 12, 2009 Tlnorz rated it liked it
This was an interesting book of Russell Banks's view of American history.
Jul 09, 2010 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society
No biggie, but a nice, quick little "3rd of July" read.
Oct 09, 2008 Gina rated it it was amazing
Amazing and brave.
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit ...more
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