As he unravels the tangled origins of our “bittersweet” culture, Mr. Kammen makes us see that unresolved contradictions in the American experience have functioned as the prime characteristic of our national style. Puritanical and hedonistic, idealistic and materialistic, peace-loving and war-mongering, isolationist and interventionist, consensus-minded and conflict-prone—these opposing strands go back to the roots of our history. He pursues them down through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—from the traumas of colonization and settlement through the tensions of the American Revolution—making clear both the relevance of this early experience to ninetieth and twentieth-century realities and the way in which America’ dualisms have endured and accumulated to produced such dilemmas as today’s poverty amidst abundance and legitimized lawlessness.
Read alsoJefferson’s Monticello
Virginia's Monticello was Thomas Jefferson's home for the last fifty-six years of his life. He spent forty years building it, tearing it apart, and putting it back together. He knew and loved every inch of the house and the land that surrounded it. Jefferson supervised everything, opining on, for instance, the half million bricks he had baked at…