A Colossal Wreck: A Road Trip Through Political Scandal, Corruption, and American Culture

Alexander Cockburn. Verso (Norton, dist.), $29.95 (496p) ISBN 978-1-78168-119-0
Cockburn, a radical journalist and Nation columnist who died in July 2012, casts a jaundiced, jolly eye on passing scenery in this stimulating if erratic miscellany. In these short, sharp pieces, Cockburn (Corruptions of Empire) covers 18 years of U.S. politics and history, from Monicagate through Occupy Wall Street; recounts travels through America; eulogizes family and friends (and damns nemesis Christopher Hitchens for “constant public drunkenness and brutish rudeness”); and expounds his idiosyncratic version of left-wing politics. Cockburn issues his usual scabrous denunciations—of American military adventures, Wall Street, every Democrat from the Clintons to the “slithery” Obama, and of anyone who was spineless enough to vote for them. Meanwhile he embraces gun culture and conservative populism, which he finds more temperamentally congenial than the politically correct left in the U.S. Cockburn’s stylish prose is full of erudition, ribald gossip, and pithy insight, but under hard scrutiny, it’s not always convincing, reliable, or coherent. He calls Gerald Ford “America’s greatest president” and swats down dubious conspiracy theories only to float his own. (He blames ex-New York Governor Elliot Spitzer’s call-girl scandal on a right-wing plot.) No matter, Cockburn’s gleefully contrarian punditry makes for an entertaining read. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013
Release date: 09/10/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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