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America Day by Day

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  375 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Here is the ultimate American road book, one with a perspective unlike that of any other. In January 1947 Simone de Beauvoir landed at La Guardia airport and began a four-month journey that took her from one coast of the United States to the other, and back again. Embraced by the Condé Nast set in a swirl of cocktail parties in New York, where she was hailed as the "pretti ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published January 5th 1999 by University of California Press (first published 1948)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  375 ratings  ·  38 reviews


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Greg
"So why choose one toothpaste over another? In this useless profusion, there's an aftertaste of deception. There are a thousand possibilities, but they're all the same. A thousand choices, but all equivalent. In this way, the American citizen can squander his obligatory domestic freedom without perceiving that this life itself is not free."
Simone de Beauvoir
New York January 1947

Non-fiction travel.
First published in France 1954. First published in Great Britain 1998

In 1947 Simone de Beauvoir
...more
blue-collared mind
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: beatniks, feminists (any out there?) and
I just read parts of this again, after originally reading it a decade ago. Like Italo Calvino's "Hermit In Paris" it's fascinating to read what European intellectuals found of interest in the new world. Both of them first came and wrote about it in the 1950s and yet their perspectives of America remain current, including the public ugliness of segregation and racism in America.
But for Beauvoir, the real treat is her study of all people, especially of women and intellectual posers. As befitting h
...more
James Murphy
Sep 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Geoff Dyer once wrote that after reading a writer's biographies and her fiction, to discover the real writer one should read her journals and letters. Having already read de Beauvoir's letters, those to Sartre, at least, I dived into this daily account of her 1947 trip to America. She was hungry for the experience. She'd wanted to come with Sartre in 1945 but had been unable to secure a sponsor. Sartre later wrangled an invitation for her alone, a trip combining travel and visits with scheduled ...more
Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Plea for Less Restraint

I had hoped that this memoir about an affair with someone other than Sartre would be more stimulating than this, either intellectually or sexually or both.
But I don't think it was either.
SDB would be a far more stimulating author if she was having all of these experiences now, assuming she would be the same age she was when she had and wrote about them.
I guess what I mean is that there is a modesty and restraint about her writing that I wish she had broken free of (sorr
...more
Lindsey
May 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
While at times, I very much appreciated Beauvoir's gorgeous writing style, here's what I have to say after several weeks of plowing through this arduous collection of journal entries: GOOD RIDDANCE, BEAUVOIR.

About two hundred pages too long, "America Day by Day" comes across as an extremely judgmental narration of the country; the reader doesn't even get a taste for Beauvoir's true appreciation of certain aspects of America. Even when she is praising, her praise doesn't sound positive -- hers is
...more
nina f
Jun 16, 2008 is currently reading it
I keep fighting the urge to copy page after page in my notebook.
Jamie
Jun 24, 2008 rated it liked it
It is rare for me to begin a book and love it so fervently only to find myself skimming and skipping to applicable parts when the book is well underway. But, life is full of suprises, although past experiences with Simone du Beauvoir could have eluded to this reaction.
Because one of my two majors was French Studies, it makes sense that I've read some of her stuff before, and, before I even begain this I did mention to a friend I hoped I would find it too "accademic." But, I was a little mistaken
...more
Isa Flores-Jones
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The original “infinity diaries”

Carole B
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read in contrast to Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, this book is a marked improvement. It pursues local knowledge with an awareness of the limitations of a four month timespan and a foreign perspective. It attempts the grand scheme and understanding that I wanted from Travels. Assembled from her notes during the trip, it even takes a more detailed and personal approach to the landscapes that de Beauvoir meets.
The translation was luminous, and though I cannot access the original, Carol Cosman'
...more
Blanca
May 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, travel
This is book was recommended to me in the context for urban studies, but I also found it a compelling travel diary and memoir.

The author is often overlooked because she is overshadowed by her famous love interest and her more well known book, but if you are interested in reading the perspective of an America long-gone by a foreigner, this is an excellent read.

There is great attention to detail is the regional identity, speech, values and geography. As a foreigner, she is observant of the scener
...more
Ariel
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
absolutely wonderful. could have been written last week. her insight and analysis of the american psyche and way of life are penetrating, fascinating. and she drinks loads of whiskey and often stays up til four, talking literature and philosophy. i want to travel with her!
Mike Clinton
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last few pages of Beauvoir's account and reflection of her visit to the United States in 1947 are the most insightful of the whole book. Other parts in it provide memorable images and striking aperçus, too, while in other places her interpretation of the culture (and sometimes specific facts) reveal the understandable limits that her status as an outsider imposed on her. Even those moments, though, are valuable as opportunities to understand the misunderstandings of foreign visitors to the U ...more
Eric
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great read. Fascinating to get this insightful perspective on our country from the keen mind & unwavering gaze of de Beauvoir, who falls under its spell (especially in New York City) but is also wise and unsparing in her criticism. Tho a bit frustrating to get into at first, the book soon settles into a rhythm and allows for some extended reflection that includes some startlingly clear-eyed analysis of America's greatest flaw: its bigotry. Venturing up into Harlem against the advice of the usu ...more
Anna Kravchuk
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
It was really interesting to compare these impressions with my own. Despite 50 years between our trips, I discovered that on arrival the author was surprised by the same casual things I was: pharmacies, parks, smiles. On the other hand, the nightlife landscape has changed completely, the segregation decreased, the feminism got stronger (but still, it's astonishing how slow the society changes). I liked that she described a lot of dialogues with locals and her impressions of different universitie ...more
Hollie Rose
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diary
I truly enjoyed this book. This is her journal of her first trip to America in 1947. She was there for four months. Her observations about life as she saw and experienced it in the US are astute and insightful. She is touring colleges and universities on a lecture circuit and meets many interesting people, does lots of sightseeing, and comments on everything that strikes her. Jazz, NYC, the South, students and student life, Indian Pueblos, the Old West and the New West, Hollywood, New Orleans, C ...more
Nicole G.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very interesting view of 1950s America from a European woman. Beauvoir does not shy away from the fact that racism was quite rampant during this time period. Sometimes she devolved a little too much into philosophy and admittedly, I skimmed through those parts, as I really was more interested in her experiences in New York, Chicago, and small parts of the West Coast.
Dayla
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What Simone de Beauvoir came to America? Yes, she did, and this, like other travel books, (e.g. Travels with Charley) gives one a new insight into the great and the bad parts of America. The beautiful mountains (Sangre de Cristo) of New Mexico and then the segregation of the south.
Nicole
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a fascinating peek into America in 1947, as seen through the eyes of the iconic Simone de Beauvoir, who toured the whole country for four months. Starting from the East Coast to the West, Beauvoir traveled across America by bus, train, car, and Greyhound, and the detailed diary entries that she wrote throughout the trip are collected in this translation. Getting to see America through her eyes was a wonderful experience, like I was there myself in her company, observing all the landscap ...more
Robert Stewart
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
I was decidedly unimpressed with this book. I picked it up because I was doing research on the period and have sometimes found the accounts of foreigner travelers useful because they report on things too commonplace for an American to mention.

But de Beauvoir's observations about places are fairly dull. And her depictions of Americans are full of simplistic generalizations that seem to fit too nicely with her preconceptions. Meanwhile, she faults Americans for being naive about Europeans.

There is
...more
Jon
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I've been wanting to read this for years, and am glad it has finally appeared in print again. I love de Beauvoir's autobiographical writing, and this chunk of her story adds to the detail of my favourite volume of it - Force of Circumstance. The book describes de Beauvoir's three-month tour of the US in 1947, and recounts her impressions of the country as she travels around giving lectures at mainly privileged women's colleges, meeting new friends (including Nelson Algren in Chicago who was to b ...more
Jeanne
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Jeanne by: Magdi Baka
Simone de Beauvoir wrote this book in 1948 but it wasn't translated into English until 1999. She was in the United States for four months on a speaking tour. She never mentions what her speeches were about. The book chronicles her journey from New York City to Chicago, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Orleans and back via the South. The consistent thread throughout the book was her love of whiskey and jazz. As I read this book, I marvelled at how her observations about our culture and society could ha ...more
Katy
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Oh, Simone. I had to head-butt my way through to the end of this book, probably mostly due to her increasingly condescending all or nothing statements about American Indians and small towns. It's still incredibly interesting to read her impressions of a country so unlike her own in terms of age and size. I want to get into a semi-heated conversation with her, which is actually not a wholly negative way to respond to a book.
LuAnn
Jan 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Excellent travel memoir. This book was written at the end of the 40s, but it's interesting to see how much hasn't changed in the United States based on her descriptions. I loved her descriptions of New York. If you live here, you'll enjoy what she has to say a about the different neighborhoods in Manhattan.
Olivia
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
It only took me several years to get through this book, but it was a labor of love. What stunned me most were the parallels between issues in America today and those de Beauvoir observed in the forties. That, and her capacity to stay up all night "drinking whiskey and eating hamburgers." What a woman!
Marissa
Apr 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Check this book out for Simone De Beauvoir's fascinating takes on Americans and American culture in general, read it all the way through for the moments when she speaks with horror about the hideous ear muffs children wear.
Erin
May 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is remarkably relevant for a look at today's American culture. De Beauvoir came to America at the beginning of the red scare. While much has changed, there are some notes on the difference between American & French culture and politics that still ring true. ...more
Cherie
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A An excellent memoir of traveling in America; I really enjoyed her descriptions of her travels. I know many places have changed, but her impressions are important. I really enjoyed her insight into racism - she has a good perspective that shocked a lot of people for the time.
Kevin Karpiak
Jul 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Francophiles & Francophobes
Shelves: chicago, feminism
Lots of tedious stuff, as one would expect from a diary, but every once again there's a nugget or two
Amanda Lee.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nelson algren fans, bookworms, individuals with wanderlust.
Possibly my favorite travel log ever!
Pipfugl
Feb 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
I really like this book. I'm reading it in bits and pieces whiling putting the baby to sleep. I think a lot of what she says is applicable today. Said by a European who has visited New York twice...
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Simone de Beauvoir was a French author and philosopher. She wrote novels, monographs on philosophy, political and social issues, essays, biographies, and an autobiography. She is now best known for her metaphysical novels, including "She Came to Stay" and "The Mandarins", and for her 1949 treatise "The Second Sex", a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary ...more

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