Paul's Reviews > The Age of American Unreason

The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
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's review
Sep 05, 11

Read in July, 2011

Pop nonfiction offerings can be hit-or-miss, especially when read in the years following their release. Theses that might connect to current events on a daily basis when a book goes to press can seem quite dated when removed from that immediate context. The Age of American Unreason does suffer a bit--though not too much--when read three years after the waning days of the Bush 43 administration. While the mast of Jacoby's points are still spot-on, they don't quite have the same urgent resonance absent a leadership structure that insulated itself from "opinions" and derided those in the "reality-based community."

That said, Jacoby does a thorough job illustrating the fact that a certain contempt for expertise and intellectualism--and even rational thought--in America goes back to the nation's founding. Time and again, knowledge has been viewed as a pejorative rather than an asset, with "education" translating to "irrelevant egghead."

What I found more interesting--and topical--is the examination of the precipitous decrease in pleasure reading and its comparison to the screen-based consumption/dissemination of information in the digital age. While Jacoby's choice to frame part of her discussion of reading as how it historically fit in to highbrow, low-brow, and middle-brow culture will undoubtedly rub some people the wrong way, she more than makes up for it with her examination of the video indoctrination that pervades current children's lives from nearly the point of birth. If only as many prospective parents got her book as did Baby Einstein DVDs...

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