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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but undemanding journalism, 16 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Only in America (Paperback)
Only in America offers a Washington-centred view of American life and politics covering the period of the George W. Bush presidency (the book concludes just before the election of Obama). The author's views are not merely those of a professional journalist, but of a family man who has the opportunity to reside in the country long enough to obtain more than a snapshot view.

The book is valuable in two ways. It offers a corrective to British readers who may have formed the view that the United States is essentially Britain writ larger. In addition, it gives an insight into how things have changed since 9/11. Frei devotes a chapter to each of several subjects, from think-tanks to obesity, teasing out some of the implications of each for what it means to be American in the 21st century.

As one might expect, the book reads easily - although I didn't find it as amusing as some other reviewers have suggested. Its main fault is a certain lightness and an unwillingness to judge too harshly which deprives the book of any real critical force. It's one of those instances in which BBC-bred values of objectivity and fairness don't necessarily serve the reader well. The book also appears to have been very lightly edited: there are mistakes throughout, including howlers: the contention that the US has a fifth of the world's population; "Cubic Bay" for "Subic Bay"; and many others, all of which lend a hasty air to the whole.

On balance, worth a quick read, but not revelatory.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Feb 2011, 05:24:54 GMT
R from Oz says:
Perhaps Matt's "unwillingness to judge too harshly" is what the rest of us consider to be "studied understatement". As Matt says, the US has lost many friends very quickly, has daunting problems and neither an electorate nor a ruling class which recognises how bad the problems are or has any solution, or any likelihood of any solution getting past the lobbiests. The book could have been a wholly negative whinge. But it is much better and enjoyable than that.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2011, 17:52:21 BST
F. Last says:
I agree with both points from Paul Bowes and R from Oz.

Listening to Matt Frei on radio is always a great pleasure. He is extremely careful to offer a 'balanced' view and not be critical and perhaps that comes from living in America.

From my personal experience from living in DC for 5 years, I found that there's a peculiar contradiction between individual Americans and united Americans (under one flag). Individually, many Americans come across as fair, generous and friendly, but united America always comes across as very selfish, prejudiced, parochial, callous and violent.

However, sadly I feel that it has become something of the norm to not publically criticize America (much in the way that it has become unacceptable to criticize Israel). There's a kind of social indictment for criticizing America (and Israel) as if it were almost blasphemy, in a way that doesn't exist for any other nation, and that does bother me.
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