Richard Melson

September 2006

Shape of Things: book

The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy And the American Voice

by Greil Marcus




Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Marcus plumbs the depth and breadth of American exceptionalism through his unique lens of cultural criticism, forging often astounding links between people, places, works of art and miscellaneous phenomena, as he has in most of his previous nine books. The independent scholar posits that the United States of America is a cultural construction, grounded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Without those bedrocks, Marcus believes, the nation would be "little more than a collection of buildings and people who have no special reason to speak to each other, and nothing to say." Marcus builds his own erudite vision upon John Winthrop's 1630 speech "A Modell of Christian Charity," Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address in 1865, Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 exhortation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the later novels of Philip Roth, the films of David Lynch and the music of David Thomas with his band Pere Ubu. More than most books, Marcus's latest tour de force is quite likely to divide readers into two camps: those who find it brilliant and those who find it baffling. (Sept.)

Book Description

From the author of Mystery Train and Lipstick Traces, an exhilarating and provocative investigation of the tangle of American identity

"America is a place and a story, made up of exuberance and suspicion, crime and liberation, lynch mobs and escapes; its greatest testaments are made of portents and warnings, biblical allusions that lose all certainty in the American air." It is this story of self-invention and nationhood that Greil Marcus rediscovers, beginning with John Winthrop’s invocation of America as a "city on the hill," Lincoln’s second inaugural address, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech about his American dream. Listening to these prophetic founding statements, Marcus explores America’s promise as a New Jerusalem and the nature of its covenant: first with God, and then with its own citizens. In the nineteenth century, this vision of the nation’s story was told in public as part of common discourse, to be fought over in plain speech and flights of gorgeous rhetoric. Since then, Marcus argues, it has become cryptic, a story told more in art than in politics. He traces it across the continent and through time, hearing the tale in the disparate voices of writers, filmmakers, performers, and actors: Philip Roth, David Lynch, David Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, Sheryl Lee, and Bill Pullman. In The Shape of Things to Come, the future and the past merge in extraordinary and uncanny ways, and Marcus proves once again that he is our most imaginative and original cultural critic.

Product Details:

Shape of Things to Come: book

September 12, 2006