Louis Menand Quote on History

“The critical massing of conditions that enables a way of life to come into being is almost impossible to detect while it is happening, and so is its deterioration. The world just rolls over, without anyone noticing exactly when, and a new set of circumstances is put into place. But the impulse to hold onto the past is very strong, and it is often very hard to understand why things that worked once can’t continue to work. A lot of energy and imagination are consumed trying to fit old systems to new settings, though the pegs keep getting squarer and the holes keep getting rounder. In the end, the only way to make the past usable is to misinterpret it, which means, strictly speaking, to lose it.”
Louis Menand – American Studies


American Studies
by Louis Menand

Essays on some very important characters in U.S. history, most now a bit off the radar – William James, Sir Wendell Holmes, Al Gore – before the present social-media and digital era. The chapter on Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell and their need to play off one another is particularly illuminating.  The short prologue cuts to the chase and gets you scratching your chin.

Apologies if the quote above is incomplete or will be misconstrued. Always best to simply read the book!