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In America School & Library Binding – May 1 2001


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School & Library Binding, May 1 2001
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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • School & Library Binding
  • Publisher: San Val (May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0613494377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0613494373
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.7 x 3.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 472 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)


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IRRESOLUTE, no, shivering, I'd crashed a party in the private dining room of a hotel. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Sampson Hudson on April 22 2003
Format: Paperback
I have enjoyed the depth of Susan Sontag's lucid, witty essays in the New Yorker magazine, and recently we saw her on Cspan Book -TV. A caller asked what would be the best introduction to her writings, and she suggested her novel "In America."

This book was surprisingly disappointing to me. I kept waiting to get swept up into it, but came to the last page with only a sense of duty for finishing. The characters are drawn well enough ,the time frame (post-Civil War America) is interesting, but the book failed to engage me somehow. Sontag has an affinity for the movies and for actors;she has created as the lead character a Polish actress who finds stellar success on the American stage.
I will continue to enjoy Sontag's essays but doubt I will read another of her novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rob Shimmin on May 11 2002
Format: Paperback
In America intends to be an "important" act of "literature." It is not. It is not even a good read. In the whole story of Maryna Zalezowska, a Polish actress who emigrates to America with a horde of friends and admirers, fails to found a commune farm, and returns to success on the stage, the only remotely memorable moments are snapshots of local color that are almost digressions from the story itself.
The account of two of the characters' sea passage across the Atlantic, focusing on the contrast between their first-class accommodations and those in steerage, actually is touching. There are descriptions of 19th century New York, early Anaheim, and Comstock Lode silver mining towns that might make a die-hard jingoist shed a tear, not because they are flattering of America, but just because they portray her painted large in all the false glory of the gilded age. The last chapter, a long, rambling, almost humorous monologue by Edwin Booth as he half-heartedly tries to seduce the protagonist by telling her how pathetic a person he is, is worth reading (or maybe that was only my impression because it was the end of the book).
But these highlights are actually digressions from the story itself. The real story, revolves around Maryna, who is terribly uninteresting. She possesses a self-centeredness that enables her to do whatever she wants and entrain those around her in her wake, but when one looks closer to see what aspects of her character this self-centeredness might stem from, there is nothing. No innate charisma beyond being a beautiful woman, no grand ideas other than those lifted wholesale from 19th century French social theorists, no traits of human mobility, as if a present-day purveyor of postmodern literature could condescend to believe in such a thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on Feb. 18 2002
Format: Paperback
Once the gassy raconteuse of Chapter Zero has been endured (this device may have been charming in brief, but does not remain engaging for more than a few pages), there is a brief, disorienting feeling of freedom as the unknown frontier of the novel is broached. Unfortunately, this exuberance dissipates immediately.
Not that there isn't a terrific novel hidden In America somewhere.

I can't help but wonder why Sontag chose to tell much of the novel from her female protagonist's perspective, since her male narrators are so consistently vividly imagined and effective, and her female characters are not. A scene in steerage and an excerpt from Maryna's husband's diary are much more provocative than Maryna's musing... since the actress-protagonist is a motivating force and an object of adoration, there really isn't much for her to do besides inspire and wonder. Interestingly enough, this imbalance, this failure of imagination when portraying male and female perspectives, is also evident in The Volcano Lover (a much more fully realized book).
Perhaps the questions Sontag asked herself in writing this book were never satisfactorily answered for (asked by?) the author... or perhaps the book means to evoke the aridity of both failed dreams and success, as well as the narcissism of the theater and the heavy blankness of the American gaze.
Regardless, this is not generally a diverting reading experience, nor is it particularly engaging as a novel of ideas.
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Format: Paperback
The best feature of Sontag's novel was the narative style which did not fail to change from Chapter to Chapter. Sometimes it was in an omniscient voice, and other times in the character's own first person narative, in writing and speech, which brought us into the minds and thoughts of the various fascinating Poles in the story. The plot of the story is ineresting in itself to a certain degree, but the idea of leaving Europe and forging a new life in America must have been re-done many times over esp. in the original immigrant literature. The irony of how the Europeans went to America to leave what they were used to behind, to escape the fetters, but seem to pursue the exact same fetters in America is present in Sontag's novel. It also brings out the other ironic element of wanting to do something different and unexpected, but falling into the mold in wanting to form an utopian community which was fashionable at the time. I enjoyed the flow of the storyline and the characterisation of Ryszard as the writer and Maryna as an actress, artists who without art will lose their self, and their use. The first Chapter of the book also leaves one wondering -- was that the author as a persona -- Sontag imagining her characters into play? As a writer would? To see their world, enter it, and develop it? Or was it a neutral observer preparing is for Maryna's plan to leave for America? Sontag's novel of immigration, America, Europe, art, religion and relationships is thought-provoking and a fascinating study. Highly enjoyable.
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