Quick Reads: “Across the Pond” by Terry Eagleton

Across the Pond

Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America

By Terry Eagleton


In his Tocqueville-meets-Hodgman essays, British literary theorist Terry Eagleton throws a mostly kindhearted, if predictable, roast of America, taking apart, for instance, our obsessive positivity, puritan insistence on waking up early, and belief that “anything is possible” so long as you try hard enough. In darker moments, he observes that “societies like the United States which insist on success are bound to produce large amounts of human wreckage”—which we then manage with everything from yoga to psychotherapy to prisons. Eagleton’s examples frequently miss the mark; his contention that American tourists will “explore the dullest landmarks, listen attentively to the most tedious of guides, and labour their way up and down the most unforgiving flights of stairs,” while not inaccurate, might just as well apply to his own countrymen—or pretty much anyone with a fanny pack and a camera.