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on 25 November 2013
This is a hilarious and considered dip into American culture, with weirdly quite a lot about clothes in it. The opening essay 'Thoughts on the New American Uniform' is just exactly what America looks like, then there is the funniest thing ever about Cary Grant's suit. If you are a fan of North by Northwest, let me just say you need this book LOL!

A study in American repression and denial? Partly so. But there is something much more gentle about How Not to be an American. There is an article about the Elks in it which while touching, never stops, like the rest of the book, ridiculing the lot of it, or at least allowing it to ridicule itself. We all know America is in decline, and even though this is obvious in terms of economics and foreign policy, it is just plain funny seeing how all this has manifested itself in, well, what folks wear and what they eat.

Very funny book :)
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on 25 November 2013
What's it called when something is funny and sad at the same time? There's a lot of that in How Not to be An American, so does that mean your face makes strange contortions when you're reading it on the plane? This book is a selection of 25 articles, or essays, each portraying some aspect of the fall of modern America. It's all very personal however, and this isn't some ivory tower attack, but a look from the bottom up . . . there's quite a lot about growing up in America, and being a kid, and there is some very funny stuff in there.

I loved this book, and have read most of it twice. There is an essay called The Better Burger Bureau, which kind of says it all, but getting this up close and personal with America, can be quite uncomfortable at times, though most of it is high farce, comic observation, or occasionally plain silly . . . such as McEwen's list of unfilmable films which he feels should be made, for the motion picture form to reach its apotheosis, such as:

Paradise Lost (1947) TECHNICOLOR dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Don Ameche, Loretta Young. 'In Yellowstone National Park, a blind, psychotic forest ranger frames a newlywed couple for littering.'

*****
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on 6 December 2013
Why does a soft, nurturing American childhood careen into frustration and interrupted fulfillment? These essays don't answer this question instead they stand in awe of this trajectory, presenting it as model for a whole nation, jabbing it with the double blades of comedy and love. The reader zooms in onto the lost college student making a public phone call, gets sucked into the nightmarish world of a cartoon character. There is music, movies, American classics and the best kind of travel writing. Proof after proof that is it the particular that makes the greatest impression, the subjective vision that produces the best writing. This is the most exciting book I have read for a very long time.
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on 26 November 2013
If you want LIGHT AMUSEMENT read THE BEANO. If you want to read one of the FUNNIEST and most INSIGHTFUL books around try HOW NOT TO BE AMERICAN by Todd McEwen.
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on 2 November 2013
I've never given up on a book after just 8 pages before but I honestly couldn't read another word. There's no introduction to the topic at hand, just an immediate launch into an unbelievably self-righteous rant by a man who left the US for Scotland in the 80s because he didn't like what he felt it was turning into. Fair enough. But my god, can someone really get that worked up about the fact that many Americans wear baseball caps? This is the quote that made me put the book down and accept that I'd wasted my money - "T-shirts with stripes are particularly infantile". I mean, really?? Please, folks, if you want to read intelligent criticism of or debate about the US and it's place in the world, look elsewhere. This guy will just make you as angry as he clearly is.
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on 10 November 2013
I picked this to read on a wet and cold day, thought cover was interesting , read Guardian review 'one of the few real writers around' and thougbt it was an odd thing to say/quote.
I ended up flipping desperately through looking for something of interest, some wit, some charm, and found only more waffle.
There's no content to comment on, he rambles aimlessly along, 'stream of consciousness' style. Aspiring, perhaps, to be Bill Bryson, (an american living on UK) without Bryson's wit, charm, personality, observational skill, humour or anything else.
In desparation I abandoned the idea of a lazy afternoon and went out into cold daylight. A vast improvement on continuing with this book.
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on 7 February 2014
This book has frustrated me to the point where i had to leave it on the train after reading 2 chapters.
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on 16 November 2013
Picked this one up for holiday reading, hoping for some light amusement. None was forthcoming! Drivel. The writer also has an annoying TENDENCY to randomly CAPITALISE words for emphasis, presumably when he FEELS he has ITALICISED once too often.

As for that Guardian review sating "one of the few real writers around", I can only assume that it is an extract from a sentence which may originally have read something like: "This man should seek urgent advice from one of the few real writers around before expending any more energy in this area." !
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