Dasein, Red Elephant.

American Vertigo: Democracy in a Road Trip


Algerian-born French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy (BNL), has just released his latest book, American Vertigo, a story about his road trip and experiences in America. According to the recent review in NY Mag, BNL has stated that the book aims to uncover America’s “crisis of identity.", its inability to recognize itself because of trauma and neurosis. In his road trip, BHL checks out the Vegas showgirls, Dallas, Michigan and even meets with John Kerry and Sharon Stone.

Sounds like an OK read to me. BNL has suggested that the book is a philosophical gesture or "a philosophical work in spite of being journalistic, comic etc" It might even turn out to be as entertaining as Baudrillard's America, a work of unintentional hilarity.

I still remember Baudrillard's obsessive journal entries about joggers in America:

…You stop a horse that is bolting. You do not stop a jogger who is jogging. Foaming at the mouth, his mind riveted on the inner countdown to the moment when he will acheive a higher plane of consciousness, he is not to be stopped. If you stopped him to ask the time, he would bite your head off. He doesn't have a bit between his teeth, though he may perhaps be carrying dumb-bells or even weights in his belt (where are the days when girls used to wear bracelets on their ankles?). What the third-century Stylite sought in self-privation and proud stillness, he is seeking through the muscular exhaustion of his body.

If that wasn't funny enough for you..

Decidedly, joggers are the true Latter Day Saints and the protagonists of an easy-does-it Apocalypse. Nothing evokes the end of the world more than a man running straight ahead on a beach, swathed in the sounds of his walkman, cocooned in the solitary sacrifice of his energy, indifferent even to catastrophes since he expects destruction to come only as the fruit of his own efforts, from exhausting the energy of a body that has in his own eyes become useless. Primitives, when in despair, would commit suicide by swimming out to sea until they could swim no longer. The jogger commits suicide by running up and down the beach. His eyes are wild, saliva drips from his mouth. Do not stop him. He will either hit you or simply carry on dancing around in front of you like a man possessed.

Baudrillard also has an remarkably..um original conception of running attire. Joggers should act in Jean Cocteau films, yah?

All these track-suits and jogging suits, these loose-fitting shorts and baggy cotton shirts, these 'easy clothes' are actually old bits of nightwear, and all these relaxed walkers and runners have not yet left the night behind. As a result of wearing these billowing clothes, their bodies have come to float in their clothes and they themselves float in their own bodies.



Jean Baudrillard, America. Translated by Chris Turner.
Verso; Reprint edition (October 1, 1989)



Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * chapiglet says:

    Baudrillard forgot to mention Lycra sort of running gear- those that hug the skin; its rather fashionable now with women both indoors in yoga studios and outdoors in parks.

    I personally like the ‘billowy’ type when I run.

    | Reply Posted 12 years, 1 month ago
  2. * hecate says:

    this book is probably one of the worst peace of literature ever whote by BHL (Bernard Henri Levy) and not BNL, a compulsive bunch of goofs about american culture… even from this side of the Atlantic, it sounds ridiculous.

    | Reply Posted 12 years ago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: