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Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals [Hardcover]

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Item description for Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals by Bill Kauffman...

In Look Homeward, America, Bill Kauffman introduces us to the reactionary radicals, front-porch anarchists, and traditionalist rebels who give American culture and politics its pith, vim, and life. Blending history, memoir, digressive literariness, and polemic, Kauffman provides fresh portaiture of such American originals as Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, regionalist painter Grant Wood, farmer-writer Wendell Berry, publisher Henry Regnery, maverick U.S. senators Eugene McCarthy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and other Americans who can't---or shouldn't---be filed away in the usual boxes labeled "liberal" and "conservative." Ranging from Millard Fillmore to Easy Rider, from Robert Frost to Mother Jones, Kauffman limns an alternative America that draws its breath from local cultures, traditional liberties, small-scale institutions, and neighborliness. There is an America left that is worth saving: these are its paragons, its poets, its pantheon.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   210
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1" Width: 6.25" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   May 15, 2006
Publisher   Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN  1932236872  
ISBN13  9781932236873  

Availability  0 units.

More About Bill Kauffman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Bill Kauffman is the author of seven previous books, among them Ain t My America; Look Homeward, America (ISI Books), which the American Library Association named one of the best books of 2006; and Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette, which won the 2003 national Sense of Place Award from Writers & Books. Kauffman writes for the Wall Street Journal, the American Conservative, and Orion, among other publications. He lives in his native Genesee County, New York, with his wife and daughter."

Bill Kauffman was born in 1959.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Social Sciences > Political Science > History & Theory
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > History & Theory
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > U.S.

Reviews - What do customers think about Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals?

A Dangerous Book!  Mar 21, 2008
Wow! What a great book! But a dangerous one too. Not only are the concepts thought-provoking and contranarian but it will send you to the this site search button as you hunt up (and order) books by and on the folks he cameos. Kauffman will have you (re)considering people and themes you know, don't know, think you know but really don't. Simply brilliant! And he can write, turing a phrase with elan and humor. This book will make you think, rethink, and investigate all sorts of viewpoints in a very non-consensus surf across American history, culture and politics. Highly recommended.
Eccentric, unworkable values or grounded, sensible ones? You decide.  Mar 10, 2007

Let no one accuse Bill Kauffman of being lukewarm. His "Look Homeward, America" is a rollicking, almost freewheeling survey of some unorthodox thinkers who did or do eshew super-sized militarism and strangling federalism, universal corporatism and commercial uniformity, and who did or do desire local control in nearly every arena of life. Chapters bob and weave as they address politicians compared, economic distribution systems, regional art, empire and war, working-class anarchists, civil war "reactionary radicals," and localism at work in Kaufmann's own backyard.

With wit, gossipy and creative connectivity, and vocabulary that the national student's spelling bee ought to raid, the peppery author always lets the reader know exactly where he stands, both on philosophical points and on august and not so august personages. He pronounces - as he sees fit and with nimbleness and unperturbed surety - admiring, admonishing, or acicular judgments on the likes of Patrick Moynihan, Eugene McCarthy, Dorothy Day, Clement Vallandigham and Wendall Berry. Although some of his subjects hold opinions farther "out there" than a more placid freethinker like myself could wholly embrace, Kauffman's core vision for his beloved country shines with solid values, a peaceful intent toward all peoples, and a preservation and conservation instinct that most "conventional" liberals, conservatives, and even independents can't claim. Kauffman's ideal is healthy and sane. Recommended.

Another excellent book by Kauffman  Jan 26, 2007
Bill Kauffman is one of the finest writers of our time. Great style, great viewpoint. This is a fascinating book using selected individuals to illustrate the best of American culture. Along the way, Kauffman goes off on some side roads and we get to hear some lesser-known folks with important things to say. I highly recommend this and every other Kauffman book.
Thought provoking insights into public policy  Sep 11, 2006
The author presents outlines of several Americans, that are neither liberal nor conservative, but instead are an unusual blend of left and right: They tend to be anti-war; But conservative in that they value family, spirituality, tradition, and are worried that modern life is eroding those values; They dont like big brother or large corporations; They dont trust the federal government to intrude on many aspects of life (education, welfare, health); They value the constitutional principles of the founding fathers; They think that neighbors are more important that politicians.

The profiles include Eugene McCarthy (senator), Dorothy Day (Catholic Worker movement), Grant Wood (artist), Wendell Berry (poet).

Eugene McCarthy committed political suicide when he ran against fellow democrat LBJ, in response to LBJ's proclamation (made thru an undersecretary of state) about the Vietnam war: "a presidential declaration of war is out-moded in the international arena". McCarthy thought the US was being too arrogant, too ambitious, too mechanical.

Dorothy Day was a "distributionist" which is another name for Jeffersonian democracy: de-centralized government, no bureaucracy, everyone owning their own land, farm, or business. She was distinguished from communists because distributionists do not believe in collective ownership. She hated demeaning assembly lines and promoted handicrafts.

Wendell Berry was a poet who asked (during the Vietnam war) "Is there any right I have, any property or freedom, that I would want my son to die for? ... and the answer is no".

The author has collected scores of intriguing and stimulating quotes and anecdotes, but he does a terrible job enunciating his unifying point, which is: he is celebrating daily family life and asserts that our public policies should be based on that family life, and should not be decided by big business and soulless bureaucracies.

But, sure, schoolchildren and backyard gardens are sweet and noble, but the book fails to address the follow-on questions: If we were to adopt a decentralized, agrarian, home-centered government system, what would happen to mail delivery? To airline service? To health care? To the defense of our country if invaded? To consumer rights? To prices paid by consumers?

When mad cow disease comes knocking, I'm glad the FDA is there to mount a nationwide campaign against it :-)

Although the author is certainly anti-war, he is not a simplistic Al Franken style demagogue: in many ways he disagrees with the Democratic platform also.

Even though the book is a bit disjointed, I would still recommend it to anyone interested in public policy, because of the scores of thought-provoking quotes and anecdotes.

The Empire Has No Clothes  Jun 4, 2006
Bill Kauffman's "Look Homeward, America" is as refreshingly quirky as the heroes of place, community, and freedom one meets in its pages. It is a brilliant book, but also one that frequently causes the reader to wince--at times because Kauffman's keen observations are expressed so succinctly as to overwhelm with their heart-rending truth and honesty, at other times because his free flowing invective is so spot on it seems almost brutally cruel.

Part rhapsodic panegyric, part unmitigated venting of spleen, "Look Homeward, America" explores everything Kauffman loves and loathes about America: the modern America of chain restaurants, shopping malls, big box stores, fake boobs, and smart bombs and the not-yet-dead alternative America rooted in the love of place and communitarian values. Kauffman shows us that this alternative America has a worthy history exemplified by an unlikely cast of heroes including U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, founders of the Catholic Worker Movement Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, mid-western visual artists John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, Maine novelist and founder of a "love militia" Carolyn Chute, and the great Kentucky farmer and agrarian author and essayist Wendell Berry, just to name a few.

His invective is reserved mainly for politicians: JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Kissinger, Bush, Cheney, the Clintons. And it can be quite nasty: he calls Kennedy a "priapic skirt-chasing male bimbo" and mocks his "fabled forty-five second love marathons." He takes a nice swipe at the National Organization of Women, "who stroked Senator Clinton's randy husband as though they were silky hookers." And another swipe at "diversity," "...back in those prelapsarian days before mandatory 'diversity' drove off the entire nineteenth century and left our daughters with the belief that the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were fought primarily by runaway slaves and girls dress as boys."

But "Look Homeward" is not an endless tirade; there's plenty of love it in as well. One of the most interesting chapters in the book is about pariah novelist Carolyn Chute, a woman now universally ignored and disdained by the mainstream media and chattering literary class. Nevertheless, Carolyn Chute is a woman whose ideas deserve a hearing and thankfully Bill Kauffman had the gumption to interview her and share her insights with the public rather than turn away in horror from someone so un-p.c. as to advocate armed militias.

Although published by ISI, "Look Homeward" is not unlikely to make conservative Republican readers feel ill at ease. (For example, Kauffman at one point viciously flays Lamar Alexander while extolling the goodness of Mother Jones. And he's no more a fan of Reagan than Clinton or LBJ.) However, in a time of mindless red state/blue state myopia Kauffman's fearlessness in searching out the virtuous traits of politicos from both the left and the right of the political spectrum--what Kauffman calls "our hopelessly inadequate and painfully constrictive political corral"--is both stimulating and challenging.

"Look Homeward, America" is a fine book. At once discursive, discerning, gentle, bitter, nostalgic, and hopeful, it aptly describes the moral and spiritual emptiness of a far-flung empire of the deracinated, and the joys to be found instead in family and community life firmly rooted in place and history. It is also a nice antidote to Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, which is a fine book and expresses some of the same sentiments but is a bit too prissy and pulls too many punches. Bill Kauffman doesn't pull any punches.

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