Aficionados of American culture and Anglophiles alike can rejoice: Across the Pond (W.W. Norton, $14.95) is more than “an Englishman’s view of America.” Terry Eagleton, one of the most influential literary critics of recent decades, is the ideal guide to everything idiosyncratic about our beloved country, especially those things the natives never bother to notice. What makes American-Britiish relations so fascinating is just how close we are to each other—and yet how very far. Taking this distance as a starting point, Eagleton is a passionate observer, a wit, and a Brit who’s determined to get at the roots of the oddities, niceties, and just slightly off-ness of American life (at least, as his compatriots see it) . Now, if only he could explain Benedict Cumberbatch…. Perhaps in his next book.
In his latest collection of essays, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) (Scribner, $16), the inimitable free-thinker Chuck Klosterman delivers an unconventional commentary on culturally relativist assumptions that define our lives. The book is about celebrity, adulation, abstraction, guilt, mockery, demonization, and how society’s worst impulses are safely played out in our villains (and heroes). His wide-ranging subjects include: NWA and Lars von Trier; O.J. Simpson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Charles Bronson and Bernhard Goetz; and, of course, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-tung – and David Bowie. Don’t take things for granted! Think about what you believe! Grapple with Mr. Klosterman’s intellect and see if your opinions hold up.