America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t: Book Discussion

Hello, Hubsters . . .

And members of the great and always re-becoming greater Colbert Nation. About two months ago, we celebrated the release of the newest manifesto from our leader, Mr. Stephen Colbert. By now, I am sure you all own and have studied this majestic work and its red, white, and blueprint. Inquiring minds want to know what you think! STEPHEN wants to know what you think. As he pointed out, he “is a humble man,” and a little ego-feeding is in order.

 

America Again book cover

I am going to go out on a limb and say that I believe America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t is even better than I Am America . . . And So Can You. To me, it brilliantly reveals the richness of Colbert and staff’s political satire–which definitely reached its apex this past election year. If the first book took off from Stephen’s character, the self-proclaimed “well-meaning idiot” he plays, this new work paints on a larger canvas. Just like the gorgeously designed chapter opening images, it’s in 3-D—ideas and fun on a deeper scale. I think the more you read the book, the more you’ll discover that you missed on the first go. In fact, the shift in perspective is right there in the title, in the move from “I Am” to “America Again.” From the personal to the political.

It seems to me that this second (adult) book is profoundly connected to the evolution of the Report, which has grown sharper and sharper as its targets have grown ever more worthy of skewering. When I look at America Again compared to the (admittedly wonderful) I Am America, I can feel the changes in the show reflected in its pages–changes in keeping with the altered and fragmented state of the nation. That’s why Stephen’s mock title does really sound so much like the actual names of so many recent political tomes. Stephen has truly gauged the zeitgeist, and what’s nice is that his book came out virtually side-by-side with those others. He’s not reacting to their books; he’s capturing the combative, often-toxic American atmosphere.

As someone who has worked in publishing for a very long time, I’d like to give a shout-out to the book’s editor. It’s easy to see what a complicated job this manuscript must have been to edit; it’s not an easy, flowing narrative, and my bet is that it came to the editor without images so (s)he had to envision what it would look like with the words and pictures juxtaposed. And then, there’s that very special point of view and tone. I know I’d feel intimidated at marking up something that came from Stephen and his writers, because no one knows “Stephen’s” voice better than they do. Speaking of images: my second, very loud shout-out must go to the designers. Almost never have I seen a humor book that’s so beautifully, elaborately, and even lovingly fashioned. When you look at it closely, it’s stunningly complex: the photo research itself must have taken a ton of time. Plus, it even feels good to pick up and hold—the best argument against an e-book. (Though I read those too.) And am I a terrible person for finding those cover photos of a bruised and black-and-blue Stephen really attractive? All in all, it’s clear that every detail was carefully considered, from the under-the-jacket cover picture of Stephen in his 3-D glasses amidst a sunburst to the mock-egotistical self-endorsement on the back, to the copyright page with its spiraling type. There’s not a single thing that’s less than extraordinary.

Of course, what I really want is to hear all YOUR thoughts. Was America Again the book you were expecting? How do you compare it to I Am America? Did you like the 3D effects and the glasses? And what is your favorite thing about the book? Also, I myself have not yet heard the audiobook. For those of you who have, please share your opinions!

Stephen Colbert holding up America Again

Now for everyone, here are a few reviews, interviews, and other publicity about the book to enjoy.

Why does America have the best healthcare system in the world? Stephen tell us in the exclusive clip, done just before the book’s release for Entertainment Weekly‘s “Shelf Life” colum.

I liked this article, written for New University.

Read a reiew in Huffington Post.

Take a look at what The Examiner has to say.

For a negative take on what I see positively–the connection between the book and the show–check out this Chicago Tribune reprint of a Variety article. Peter Bart is SO NOT an it-getter.

And now, I’ll let Stephen say bye–but be sure to let me know your thoughts! Cheers.

 


12 thoughts on “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t: Book Discussion

  1. I’m sorry to say I haven’t had too much time to read much of it yet, too many things I HAVE to read, but so far I love what I have read. Right off the bat, the part with all the warnings and rules and whatnot made me crack up so hard! Especially the tiny print where the writer just goes off on his life and how terrible it is. It’s always the little things in Stephen’s books I enjoy the most. In I Am America, I got a huge kick out of the list of Super Bowls in the back. And in Wigfield, my very favorite part is the newspaper clipping about the dam being built.

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  2. I think one of my favorite chapters was the “Jobs” chapter. The resume is really hilarious. I thought the whole economic slant to the book was indicative of just how crappy economic conditions have gotten since “I am America” in 2007. The book is reflecting that reality. I liked the Buy Gold advert as well, because we know that Stephen firmly believes we should all have a good portfoilio comprised of gold, women (for their agile hands), and sheep.

    And pictures, pictures, pictures! Visuals were waay more important in this book than in IAA. As a result of the plethora of images, the book is sort of hard to take in one siting. You have to kind of take it in in little sips.

    I think that these “show” books ultimate serve a way of condensing all the program’s content into a lasting, hard-written copy. So much of TV is ephemeral, so having this book is like a way of holding onto all the big topics covered by TCR since 2007. I have a soft spot in my heart for “I Am America,” but this is a very worthy second book.

    karenatasha thanks for the post, and for the link to Peter Bart’s review. I had no idea we have been fervently blogging on behalf of a jerky opportunist! lolz. That’s not the Stephen I recognize. This book and TCR demonstrate his wit and net awesomeness every single day. Haters gonna hate.

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  3. Sadly I have not bought it. I want to but I have to wait for a bit before I can. I was waiting to buy it in case I could do it at a book signing but I think those are probably done, so I guess I could put it on my Christmas list.
    Like you, Erika, I am stocked up on so many things I HAVE to read for my classes and my head hurts when I’m done reading them. I just don’t have the energy to read anything else til my classes are done next month.
    I am interested in it for the visual richness. I love the color of the cover and how it contrasts with the blue of the first book. I think the red brings out Stephen’s handsome-ness more than the blue of the first book. :-)
    I have seen some of the images in the book and I can’t wait to get it so I can really look at all the details. Whenever Stephen and the crew work on something like this, it is so much fun to look at everything that’s going on in the image. I’m thinking of Strangers with Candy. If you watch it over and over, you start to notice all the things in the backgrounds of the halls, the classrooms etc. and how it seems as if Stephen doesn’t want to waste any space at all. If there’s a chance to make a joke, whether it’s a scripted joke or something very subtle in the background, he does it.
    That’s why I love him and the writers. My sense of humor is exactly in line with theirs. Thanks for putting this together Karen.

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  4. @Erika

    Erika, I feel your pain. The bookshelf (both real and digital) groans with things unread that I’m longing to get to. And I’m no longer in class, with a syllabus to follow.

    But it seems to me you’ve got what’s most fun in “America Again”: the candy store of little details to choose from, the attention to every little thing, so that there’s a small surprise on every page–not just the main theme.

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  5. @CN Helper

    CN, I agree with you. I should perhaps have said that Stephen and staff were responding to the political, social, and economic climate. The mock-resumes were definitely hysterical, but I think the chapter did catch the sense of desperation that job-seekers feel today. And, yes, the book does condense the show into a hard copy. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s not the same; it’s a companion.

    And, oh yeah, Peter Bart really does not get it. Actually, Sophia McClennen originally tweeted that. (It’s a bit kinder to her than Stephen.) I do feel he doesn’t watch the same show we do. I guess every viewer sees something different, but in this case I do think he’s blind to what both the book and show are saying, and definitely humor-challenged.

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  6. @llama

    Llama, I absolutely understand why you held off. When I purchased POLE, and then he turned up at Bank Street, I was a little upset because I had a choice of buying it again or not going. Ultimately, I didn’t go. I’m not sure if he’ll do more signings. It’s hard to tell, given that the Politics and Prose appearance came so recently. (That is a particularly renowned bookstore, though.)

    And it is definitely a visual feast. The designers really deserve an award. It’s a gorgeous package (as we’d say in publishing–no pun intended!) ;-)

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  7. I’ve listened the audiobook version and I loved it. My favorite chapters were chapter three, ‘Health Care’, because of his description of some alternative medicine treatments, and last one called ‘I am Drunk’, which was funniest one to listen.

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  8. @Mrc

    Hi, there! Thanks for you comment on the audiobook. I really must get it and listen. Should be fun. It must be a very different experience, without the image/word juxtaposition that is so much a part of the print version. But voice can communicate LOTS.

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  9. Karen, you commented that the cover photos of a bruised and battered Stephen were attractive and I hear ya on that one. I think that they changed the cover photo. When the cover was released back earlier in the year, it was a different photo.
    He looks better in the one that they did use. I like how the photo kind of goes along with the theme of the book; bruised and battered but still ready to fight.

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  10. @llama

    I’m trying to remember the earlier cover–I saw it at BEA all over the place. (But sadly, I did not get to see Stephen there.) The current one is fabulous, I think. All in all, the designers did a stunning job.

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  11. @Mrc I followed your advice and picked up the audiobook. You are right, “I Am Drunk” is just laugh out loud funny. And I think Hubster Erika would like it because he professes his love for America and “Erica” at the end. Just hilarious. I can’t to check out the rest of it.

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