American Atrophy

the literate lens

AA_coverThe clash between the bright optimism of America’s Dream and the tawdry gaudiness of its day-to-day reality is a subject that has been well covered in many artistic media. Authors from Arthur Miller to J. D. Salinger and Jonathan Franzen have filtered national disappointment through individual characters; photographers Robert Frank, W. Eugene Smith and Lee Friedlander have given us visual odes to American dysphoria; Joni Mitchell has sung about how “we paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Given this artistic bounty, one may well ask, is there anything new to say on the subject?

In the case of Phil Bergerson’s new monograph American Artifacts, which includes essays by Margaret Atwood and Nathan Lyons, the answer is an emphatic YES.

AA_Martinsville2Bergerson, who characterizes himself as “an empathetic Canadian neighbor,” has spent twenty years making road trips around the United States. During that time, he has captured…

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