I’ve just started reading Simon Schama’s latest book, The American Future: A History, which arrived today from amazon.co.uk. I got interested in the book when a friend sent me this a link to a review of the book by Niall Ferguson in the Financial Times.
The book seems to offer an argument for American exceptionalism, contending that the “American difference” lies in part in the nation’s ability to renew itself in moments of calamity — such as the present moment. Indeed, Schama begins the book by identifying Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses last January as the moment “when American democracy came back from the dead.”
The book was just published in the U.K. by the Bodley Head, but for reasons that I have yet to determine, it will not be published by Ecco in the United States until May 19, 2009 (or so amazon.com informs me). Is Schama planning to revise the book for the American edition based on the results of the presidential election? Was it published earlier in the U.K. to give puzzled Britons a sense of what’s going in in this year’s wacky race? And why is the Canadian edition slated for release in late December?
If you’ve been reading my recent posts, you know that I agree with Schama about the promise that Obama represents, and I’m hoping that the book will be helpful to me as I do work on a new revision of my “Bush-League America” manuscript, which I’m trying to “secularize” as they say in the book trade (i.e. make suitable for a “general” reader). The new working title, courtesy of my wife: “Whose Game Is It Anyway?: Baseball and Politics from Bush to Barack.” Should the unthinkable happen on November 4, I’ll keep the old title but add a new subtitle: “A Baseball Fan’s Lament.”
Meanwhile, a review in the Economist offers this caveat about Schama’s book: “One final note of caution: do not be deceived by the words on the dust
jacket. Although the book’s publishers are obviously keen to cash in on
the presidential election, and despite the fact that Mr Schama leads
off with a little hymn of praise to Mr Obama’s ability to bring
American democracy ‘back from the dead,’ this book really is not about
the contest in November or what might come after it. What it is,
however, is a fabulous jumble-sale, full of old treasures and recent
acquisitions. Anyone interested in America will find in it something to
I’ll report my own findings at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, if you want to read it yourself, use the amazon.co.uk link above.