Patrick McCoy's Reviews > The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice

The Shape of Things to Come by Greil Marcus
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's review
Sep 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: essays

I’ve always considered Greil Marcus one of America’s more profound and interesting cultural critics. I found his old Real Life Rock Top 10 columns for Salon, and now for The Believer magazine, eclectic and interesting. He shows this once again with his fascinating book The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice. He looks at the American tradition and where it is going by looking at cultural artifacts as diverse as sermons by John Winthrop, the novels of Philip Roth, the films of David Lynch, the music of David Thomas and Pere Ubu, and the poetry of Allen Ginsberg. Marcus mixes his eclectic knowledge of history and high and low culture to explain what it means to be an American today. He clearly understands the significance of the puritan tradition in a modern context. He sees the values of society reflected in pulp fiction, popular music, literature, TV, films, and other works of art. There is a prologue and an epilogue and in between are the following sections: Philip Roth and the Lost republic, American Berserk: Bill Pullman’s Face, American Pastoral: Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, Crank Prophet Bestride America, Grinning: David Thomas. I’m not sure I can summarize Marcus’ conclusions, but getting to the end was a enjoyable and fascinating trip.

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