23 May 2010

"The Daily Show" Presents "America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction"

America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
Written and Edited by The Staff of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Date of publication: 20 September 2004
240 pages
Cover price: $24.95
ISBN: 0-466-53268-1

Published during the heat of the 2004 election cycle, America (The Book) took a unique approach to participating in our national political discussion.  Rather than commit to paper the same current-events material that has long been a hallmark of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on television, America (The Book) chose instead to revisit the foundation of our society.

In substance, this book is light reading--and it's meant to be.  The authors had to have suspected that their primary readership would be dedicated viewers, for whom the fallible nature of the Founding Fathers and some of the shameful Supreme Court decisions concerning race are subjects taken for granted.  There's no disguising the leftist bent of the editorial content, but what makes this so engaging is that it does a fairly decent job of staying on task and confining its commentary to events of the past.  This is by no means an essential volume for anyone's library, but it is an amusing supplement for the Daily Show fan, or history/political buffs with a sense of whimsy.

In execution, the social studies textbook paradigm was a stroke of genius.  The format make the material easier to digest, permitting the reader to easily shift between a few paragraphs about Brown v. Board and a sidebar article from Samantha Bee about how polite Canadians are.  A straightforward prose format would make this cumbersome at best, and indecipherable at worst.  The only thing that lessens the effect is knowing that the Texas Board of Education has taken action to force textbook publishers into offering materials so superficial that America (The Book) may soon lose its status as parody...and become an ideal.

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