Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reviewed: Faludi, The Terror Dream

THE TERROR DREAM: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America by Susan Faludi (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company) is reviewed this weekend in the New York Times. But the Faludi review not to miss is Rebecca Traister's interesting pairing of Faludi and the new Springsteen album Magic, at Traister begins:

It may be pop culture heresy to rope together Susan Faludi's new book, "The Terror Dream," and Bruce Springsteen's new album, "Magic," both released this week. Faludi, author of 1991's "Backlash," is a diligent chronicler of the country's gender problems. Springsteen is a swaggering blue-collar cult hero whose critical thinking about American culture has made him an international rock star. Yet there is a neat perfection in the pairing of these two uniquely American storytellers, as if Mars and Venus had conveniently weighed in simultaneously, after six years of consideration, on what exactly has unfolded in this country, with which they are each so critically obsessed, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Springsteen, of course, has already made one contribution to the national artistic accounting of 9/11 with "The Rising," his 2002 album that Faludi might crankily write off (as she does movies like "United 93" and "World Trade Center") as a piece of art that "seemed to have no purpose but to repeat what we already knew." On it, Springsteen gave voice to those whose lives had been damaged by 9/11: a firefighter who died, one who survived, widows both American and Arab. Five years later, he and Faludi are on related missions: to step back from the firsthand experience of events and attempt to pick out the patterns in all that's gone down since.

Faludi is characteristically grim in her reading of the country's tea leaves; she is unsurprised to report that the cultural signifiers are, as always, oppressive. Springsteen's music has always been buoyed by American symbolism; he's never been shocked by its misuse, but on this record, his grief and anger over its twisted meanings are palpable. Both "The Terror Dream" and "Magic" employ images of surrealist dread to describe the post-9/11 manipulation -- by media and politicians -- that has left us warped and brainwashed, and both deploy terrifying visions to make their points. On the title track and throughout his record, Springsteen describes the creepy carnival tricksterism of the Bush administration and the sinuous ways it has distorted his vision of America, while Faludi sees a vast national conspiracy to put women back in the kitchen and alpha males like John Wayne (or perhaps Bruce Springsteen) back in their lost positions of power.

Continue reading here.

There is also a Faludi review in the Chicago Trib. The Trib has made it harder to find reviews on their website, unfortunately, but the paper has had among the most substantive reviews of the major papers, so it is worth the effort. Go here and scroll down.