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Authors: Louis Menand

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LAURIE ANDERSON’S UNITED STATES
1
On Anderson’s life and career, see John Howell,
Laurie Anderson
(New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 1992), which contains a long interview with Anderson; and Roselle Goldberg,
Laurie Anderson
(New York: Abrams, 2000). The recordings referred to are Big Science (Warner Bros., 1982) and United States Live (Warner Bros., 4 CDs, 1984).
Talk Normal: A Laurie Anderson Anthology
(Rhino, 2 CDs, 2000) is a selection of Anderson’s recorded work.
2
Goldberg,
Laurie Anderson,
53.
THE MIND OF AL GORE
1
This essay was published in the New
Yorker
on October 16, 1998. In September 1999, Tucker Carlson published a profile of George W. Bush, in
Talk
, which included the following passage: “Bush believes that his connection to his softer emotional side is part of the key to political success. He became further convinced of this after reading a profile of Al Gore by Louis Menand that ran in the
New Yorker
last year. Bush finished the piece convinced that Gore lacks the warmth and personal appeal necessary to win a presidential race.” On January 31, 2000, Nicholas Lemann published another profile of Bush, in the
New Yorker,
in which he wrote, “People who know [Bush] say he’s itching to take on Al Gore in the general election. When Bush talks about Gore, he does so in a way that makes it clear that he has him pegged as a member of the liberal-intellectual coterie that rose to power in the sixties, at Yale and elsewhere. He has been quoted more than once as saying that he realized Gore didn’t have the right touch when he read an interview Gore gave to Louis Menand for the New Yorker, an interview in which Gore dropped the name Merleau-Ponty.”
Actually, in our interview, I think that I dropped the name Merleau-Ponty, though I did so because Gore had cited him in his book
Earth in the Balance.
Gore’s interest in ideas is something to be admired, whether one finds his views persuasive or not. And so far as the “right touch” is concerned, it might be remembered that Gore received half a million more votes than Bush did in 2000. I have not revised or updated this essay in the interests of preserving its status as a tiny footnote in the story of that election.
THE RELUCTANT MEMORIALIST: MAYA LIN
1
This essay is based on interviews with Maya Lin conducted in the winter and spring of 2002; it was published in the New
Yorker
on July 1, 2002, before any designs for the World Trade Center site had been made public. The essay has not been updated.
After it appeared, two of the leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, John Wheeler and Robert Doubek, wrote to the New Yorker to object to, essentially, the statement that the veterans had “betrayed” Lin. Wheeler and Doubek played honorable roles in the construction of the memorial, and almost everyone (including Lin) agrees that without some compromise, Lin’s wall would not have been built. But their letters reflected exactly the mentality about public art that was one of the themes of the essay: having paid for what they called the “concept,” the veterans felt free to mix and match as they saw fit in order to accommodate various non-artists who had an interest in the site. They did not see adding a statue and a fifty-foot flagpole as emendations significant enough to require even notifying the original artist. When the compromise was announced, the president of the American Institute of Architects, Robert M. Lawrence, called it “a breach of faith … with the designer who won the competition” (see Paul Goldberger, “Vietnam Memorial: Questions of Architecture,”
New York Times
, October 7, 1982, C25).
2
Maya Lin,
Boundaries
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000).
3
See Wilma Fairbanks,
Liang and Lin: Partners in Exploring China’s Architectural Past
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994); and Jonathan Spence,
The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895–1980
(New York: Viking, 1981), 154–56, 161–65, 174, 207. Information about Julia Chang’s family and her experiences is from my interview with Julia Lin, March 2002.
4
See Robert L. Thorp and Richard Ellis Vinograd,
Chinese Art and Culture
(New York: Abrams, 2001), 395.
5
See Tom Finkelpearl,
Dialogues in Public Art
(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000), 121.
6
In the documentary
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision
, dir. Freida Lee Mock (American Film Foundation, 1995). On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the controversy over Lin’s design, see Mock’s film; Jan C. Scruggs and Joel L. Swerdlow,
To Heal a Wound: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
(New York: Harper and Row, 1986); Mary Eleanor McCombie, “Art and Policy: The National Endowment for the Arts’ Art in Public Places Program, 1967–1980” (dissertation, University of Texas, 1992), 230–40; Daniel Abramson, “Maya Lin and the 1960s: Monuments, Time Lines, and Minimalism,”
Critical Inquiry
22 (1996): 679—709; and Wilbur J. Scott, The Politics of Readjustment: Vietnam Veterans Since the War (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1993), 129–62.
7
Peter Tauber, “Monument Maker,” New York Times Magazine, February 24, 1991, 54
8
Charles Gandee, “The Other Side of Maya Lin,” Vogue, April 1995, 403.
Copyright © 2002 by Louis Menand
All rights reserved
 
 
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
19 Union Square West, New York 10003
 
 
Designed by Cassandra J. Pappas
 
 
eISBN 9780374706012
First eBook Edition : June 2011
 
 
First edition, 2002
Portions of this book first appeared, in different form, in the
New York
Review of Books, the New Republic, the New Yorker, and Artforum.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Menand, Louis.
American studies / Louis Menand.—1st ed. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-374-10434-4 (hc: alk. paper)
1. United States—Intellectual life—20th century. 2. United States—Civilization—20th century. I. Title.
E169.1 M5457 2002
973.9—dc21
2002022813
BOOK: American Studies
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