How America Sees the World

There’s a new issue of Granta online, featuring web content from Paul Fussell, Nell Freudenberger, Chris Hedges, Adam Hochschild, Murad Kalam, J. Robert Lennon, Eric Schlosser, Gary Shteyngart, and Paul Theroux. Editor Ian Jack explains the theme:

Can America be so immune to the rest of the world, how it lives, what it thinks? For this issue we… asked American writers how they had encountered countries other than their own, how the experience had affected them, if it had changed them or their views of their homeland. This was a trickier proposition than discovering what non-Americans felt about America. For one thing, ‘abroad’ or ‘over there’ is, other than for Native Americans, the site of every American’s ancestry or birth — in some, often dark department of familial memory ‘abroad’ is what they fled. For another, it proved difficult to find an outright expression of contempt (‘Went there once. Awful food. Showers didn’t work. No democracy, no liberty, not much free-enterprise. Quicker we get Gigantic Oil Co in there the better.’), even though contempt may form some (only slightly) submerged part of the new foreign policy.

Our contributors and their mixture of episode and opinion are all more thoughtful than that about what the rest of the world means to them. They are, of course, only writers — people almost invisible to America’s popular or political eye. But their differences give the lie to the idea of America as a monolith. The frequency of their dissent suggests that the new empire will sooner or later be in trouble at home as well as abroad — or rather, in more trouble than it is already.

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