By Jean Baudrillard
“The choice of wild, frequently hilarious postcards from his journey to the US comprises many of the year’s most unusual and gorgeous writing.”—New Statesman and Society
In this, his so much obtainable and evocative booklet, France’s top thinker of postmodernism takes to the freeways in a set of traveler’s stories from the land of hyperreality.
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The recourse to a pure form of compliment, be it animal or infantile, is much more successful and the whole American population comes together in this toothpaste effect. No idea - not even the nation’s moral values in their entirety - could ever have produced such a result. Reagan’s credibility is exactly equal to his transparency and the nullity of his smile. The skateboarder with his Walkman, the intellectual working on his wordprocessor, the Bronx breakdancer whirling frantically in the Roxy, the jogger and the body-builder: everywhere, whether in regard to the body or the mental faculties, you find the same blank solitude, the same narcissistic refraction.
The code of separation has worked so well that they have even managed to separate the water from the pan and to make the pan transmit its heat as a message, or to make one body transmit its desire to the other as a message, as a fluid to be decoded. This is called information and it has wormed its way into everything, like a phobic, maniacal leitmotiv, which affects sexual relations as well as kitchen implements. Other examples of this mania for asepsis: The Getty museum where old paintings look new, bleached and gleaming, cleansed of all patina and craquelure, with an artificial lustre that echoes the fake Pompeian decor all around them.
The whole place has the same air of obsolescence about it as Sunset or Hollywood Boulevard. You come out feeling as though you have been put through some infantile simulation test. Where is the cinema? It is all around you outside, all over the city, that marvellous, continuous performance of films and scenarios. Everywhere but here. It is not the least of America’s charms that even outside the movie theatres the whole country is cinematic. The desert you pass through is like the set of a Western, the city a screen of signs and formulas.
America by Jean Baudrillard