Thursday, May 10, 2007

American cliché

Bill Bryson, of all ethnographic commentators, in I'm a Stranger Here Myself (1999) :
There is a great deal about America that is deeply appealing. There are all the obvious things that outsiders always remark on -- the ease and convenience of life, the friendliness of the people, the astoundingly abundant portions, the intoxicating sense of space, the cheerfulness of nearly everyone who serves you, the notion that almost any desire or whim can be simply and instantly gratified.

The mysteries of group representations, and of always-situated observation. The mysterious force of cliché - which is also the most deep-known, unmysterious and intimate social knowledge. But the fierce stakes there; the delicate tread necessary, the lovely and déchirant demanding exercise of becoming strange, which is at the same time coming ever closer to the bone.

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