BOOK REVIEW: Rather's 'Dream' a compelling read
The Lantern ( Ohio State U. )
(U-WIRE) COLUMBUS, Ohio -- "The American Dream" by Dan Rather is a quick read that offers inspiration to even the most cynical of critics souring at the simplistic idea of patriotism.
I was one of those skeptics. Taking up over two-thirds of the cover is a bright, colorful picture of the American flag. Then, there's the title, "The American Dream."
To top it all off, the author is Dan Rather, the beloved news anchor on CBS giving the news to middle-class America. Honestly, I thought this book was going to be 266 pages of why people should love America with no ifs, ands or buts.
I was partly right and partly wrong. This book is not simply about the United States. After reading only half of "The American Dream," readers will learn about the Baha'i faith, the struggle between Ethiopians and Eritreans, the Japanese internment camps, the Los Angeles Police Department, the First Amendment and useful American history many have forgotten.
I was pleased to see Rather did not white-wash the corruption -- and at times, brutality -- this nation has held. Throughout the book, Rather comments on our nation's weaknesses as well as its strengths.
"The American Dream" is a more complete compilation of the "CBS Evening News" feature "to discover what, if anything the dream means to today's Americans," Rather said.
Through the art of interviewing, Rather formed an intriguing book which jumps from the diverse lives of different people living in this country today.
The common tie holding the book together is each story exemplifies people's definition of what life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is, and how they have achieved it.
Although a simple idea, it makes for a great book.
The people are what make the pages come alive. It is not Rather's eloquent writing but the people's eloquent struggles, failures and successes that makes this book thought-provoking. By picking a colorful group of people to interview, the book is an easy read.
"Democracy's messy. It's not easy to listen to everybody," said Margaret Gilleo, one of the women interviewed for the book.
Instead of giving a cookie cutter description of what success is and what it is not, Rather provides readers with a full array of different people with different views of what success is. Some of the stories will relate to success as material wealth, while others will focus on stripping away commercial excess.
Readers will not find two stories alike. The book offers stories from more than 30 people, each demonstrating their own creativity and determination.
I had few criticisms while reading the book. Each story starts with the person's full name.
Rather's writing style was a bit distracting and at times, it was easy to get swept away in his speech. The reader may chuckle at Rather's sappiness.
"It is in our blood, from the 10th-generation Mayflower descendant to yesterday's Pacific Rim immigrant," Rather said.
Rather's narration can get a bit melo-dramatic, but no more melo-dramatic than his news anchoring.
Overall, the book read at a fast pace. The only time I found myself twiddling my thumbs was when Rather seemed to pound into the ground his reason for introducing the next chapter. However, I did enjoy the people's stories, so overlooking the flaws were manageable.
By the end of the book, I felt inspired. This is the book that forces people to look at their lives and ask themselves if it's really what they want. More importantly, the book helped bring me back to the notion that although this country has made and continues to make mistakes and injustices, it is still the land of opportunity.
Through the use of story-telling, readers will regain their appreciation for freedom of choice.
©Copyright 2002, The Lantern (Ohio State University)