New Nonfiction: Insurrections of the Mind – edited by Franklin Foer

I’m always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction that looks at American history slantwise. Narrative nonfiction is usually a slam dunk but I also like anthologies that can be dipped into a bit at a time. I enjoyed this well-priced paperback original—and it may fit the bill for all sorts of fans of American history, politics and culture.

In 1914 Teddy Roosevelt assembled a team of editors to found a magazine that would provide a voice for progressive political reform. This year, The New Republic is 100 years old. To mark that anniversary, editor Franklin Foer selects several emblematic voices for each decade of the last century. The result charts the fluctuating influence of American liberalism in a really unique and interesting way. (I find myself curious about whether The New Republic will be mentioned in Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts starting tonight.)

A sparkling anthology. . . . Scintillating reading. . . . A rich volume full of penetrating insights into this country and-for better or worse-its liberal tradition.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“Taken as a whole, the book’s selections, organized by decade, represent the magazine’s mission to serve as a mouthpiece and conscience for liberalism….Foer provides brief intros that set the context for each piece, and also sometimes acknowledges the magazine’s failings, such as the support it offered Stalin in the 1930s. The rigorous analysis and thoughtful philosophizing otherwise displayed by the politically-minded essays extends to cultural criticism that includes Nabokov on translation, Margaret Talbot on Martha Stewart, and Zadie Smith on Kafka. Taken individually, the essays are often prescient (Andrew Sullivan’s 1989 gay marriage piece ‘Here Comes the Groom’)…Considered as a whole, they sculpt a model of journalistic sophistication that honors George Orwell’s dictum, in ‘Politics and the English Language,’ that ‘to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.’”
— Publishers Weekly

Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America (9780062340399) edited by Franklin Foer. $17.99 trade paperback original. 9/16/14 on sale.

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