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Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle Hardcover – Jul 28 2009

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Hardcover, Jul 28 2009
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada; Fifth Impression edition (July 28 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307398463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307398468
  • Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #134,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Berger on Oct. 25 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of five 'essays', connected by the twin themes of the triumph of illusion over reality, and greed over decency. Hedges looks at different areas of American culture, ranging from acedemia to the porn industry to make his case. The book ends a discussion on how the combination of illusion and greed augur a bleak future for the US.

The first four sections are much stronger than the final. The themes are clear, the examples interesting, and his case coherent. Hedges does a good job in helping the reader understand the human costs of creating illusions. He laments the decline of critical thinking and the rise of what he terms as "pseudo-events." The numerous quotations had me flipping to the bibliography and making notes for further reading.

I found that the book stalled in the last chapter, which was largely a diatribe against corporate America. Hedges seems to lose his flow and theme. While as thought provoking as the earlier chapters, it rambled and ended weakly.

I would recommend reading the book. It asks you to reflect on difference between images and ideals.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rose on Nov. 22 2010
Format: Paperback
The over-riding theme of this collection - condemning the commodification of life - hits hard from all angles. Hedges is writing in the tradition of copia, the practice of approaching an important idea in different ways in order to reach as many readers as possible. For this reason, these essays may seem uneven from piece to piece. However, the breadth of Hedges's thesis calls for this treatment.
The final essay, The Illusion of America, must fall flat by necessity because his hope lies in a simple choice: love over commodity, the dialectic that has dominated great minds of all disciplines throughout civilization. Why make a simple, universal value more complex than it is? to cater to our contemporary craving for a stunning climax, even in non-fiction? The first essay holds possible keys to this disappointment; WWE fans aren't the only victims of commodified entertainment. We all are. It's the air we breathe.
The ideas in this book are far-reaching and immediately useful. They cry out for action, which every reader is able to employ. Democracy is a tool that we must teach ourselves to use, and this book is part of my personal toolkit.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 14 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this series of critical essays on America's current and future national status, Hedges attacks all that its leaders and citizens have come to regard as the cornerstones of its existence. In clear expository fashion, he challenges an assortment of major social, moral, political and economic myths that this society has created in the name of generating wealth, fostering national pride, exploiting the weak, and dominating the world. At the end of these withering assessments, the reader should have no problem understanding Hedges's concerns about this country's dangerously shaky grasp of reality. He believes that the US, through the corporate manipulation of many of its misguided leaders and the willingness of millions of naive citizens to follow, has created the illusion of a world empire that promotes freedom for all while rewarding a select few for accepting risk. In the space of five poignant essays, Hedges employs his expository skills to expose the fallacy of such a culture. Life is not, as the utopian or liberal would have us believe, getting better over time. In fact, just the opposite can be proven. The ability to read is being replaced the desire for digital images in the form of video games; the traditional sense of love and fidelity is being corrupted by the instant gratification of pornography; the importance of renewing national values is giving way to enforcing international superiority; and the deference to wisdom and knowledge is succumbing to arrogance, intolerance and stupidity. To prevent these writings from becoming a murky rant against all that is perceived to be wrong in society, Hedges provides a lot of critical information that confirms the unmistably downward spiral of a once proud country.Read more ›
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Daikon on Feb. 23 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you were looking for hard insight into the dumbing-down of America and the current obsession with self-made celebrity, you won't find it here. Chris Hedges takes bottom of the barrel cultural mediums and uses them to represent the American population. To make a stereotype, sure one could say that those who spend their lives watching Jerry Springer, gonzo porn, wrestling, and reality shows are less likely to have read books, but it doesn't explain why they enjoy investing their lives into those things. It doesn't explain where less literacy may equate to narcissistic fantasy. A lot of North American reality shows & game shows are inspired by or are franchises of shows from other parts of the world, and though the youth in other countries may also be obsessed with social networking sites, they do not suffer from high crime rates, low education levels, and fascist nationalism like in America. Hedges doesn't explain nor come up with solutions for any of his observed statements. He also states that Canada and America has a population that is 42% illiterate or semi-illiterate. What he doesn't explain is that both nations have a huge immigrant population. The Canadian census for 1991-2001 shows that 70% of the work force is made up of immigrants. In the latter chapters, he then starts attacking corporations and capitalism in a Naomi Klein'esque way, using disparate, egregious events as proof for socialism. It kind of broke up the feel of the book.

The book does bring up a few good points to ponder about. I just didn't enjoy the way these points were made or brought up.
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