Review: Ever hear of Seymour Krim? I never had either. Rarely do I read every word of the essays that I review. I read every word of this one.
Summary: Americans dream the American dream and, for many of us, it ends with failure. That is the sum and substance of this essay.
Quote: “I was living in Europe at the time, where the attitude towards personal success and failure is much less of a real distinction than over here because of the evenhanded wounds of recent history.”
Quote: “And as for myself, I am lucky I guess in that I can write about this very phenomenon that I live while others who experience it just as toughly, maybe even more so, are without the words to tell you what they had gone through.”
Quotes: “But you cannot separate us from the deepest promise of the country as it was lived …and perhaps the ultimate failure of the country. This last is not an easy thing to say, even in a time in which America-baiting is the rage.”
Quote: “Like most of us in the failure business, I am, we are, patriots so outrageously old-fashioned that we incorporate the spirit of the country in our very heads, took literally its every invitation to the greatest kind of self-fulfillment ever known. There’s something beautiful about being an American sucker, even if you pay for it with tears and worse.”
Quote: “We were millionaires of the spirit for at least 20 adult years before we felt the lowering of the boom, and in the last analysis it is the spirit, the attitude within, a quality of soul, that this country has to offer to history much more than its tangible steel and the bright blood too often accompanying it….”
Comment: The ultimate statement on the failure of the American dream. The American dream as the essayist defines it is the belief that you can accomplish anything you set out to do in life. The truth is, most of us can’t. But that is the legacy of the American spirit that will be passed on to history. RayS.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.