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Absolutely American : four years at West Point
2003
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This superb group portrait of the corps of cadets at West Point focuses on the four years of Company G-4, "the Fighting Guppies." Entering in 1999, just after hazing was abolished, its cadets graduated into the post-September 11 world. They include all sorts and conditions of people, as well as, these days, both sexes (women are 14% of the corps of cadets) and varied class, ethnic and national backgrounds. Rolling Stone reporter Lipsky (The Art Fair) focuses on cadets like George Rash, repeatedly passing the physical fitness tests by the skin of his teeth if at all, but finding support and comradeship that eventually brings him to graduation into the Engineers. Then there is "Huck" Finn, a hulking football player whom no one would suspect of leadership qualities until he leads his team to victory in a military-skills competition. Dan Herzog graduates just as G-4 enters and spends four years wrestling with what he wants out of the army (not broken romances), and Col. Henry Keirsey is forced out of the army for backing a subordinate who made a non-PC joke. Lipsky is evenhanded with the Keirsey affair and with other controversial aspects of both the military in general and West Point in particular, even if his prose occasionally lapses into infelicitous journalese. Ultimately, he came to respect and know the people he was following, future officers of the U.S. Army in a world at war. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Annotations

Documents the daily routines of the prestigious U.S. military academy during a turbulent time in its history, offering portraits of cadets and the elite officers who educate them, describing the institution's reaction to the September 11 attacks, and considering how it reflects American society. - (Baker & Taylor)

Documents the daily routines of West Point, offering portraits of cadets and officers, describing the institution's reaction to the September 11 attacks, and considering how it reflects American society. - (Baker & Taylor)

In 1998, West Point Made David Lipsky an unprecedented offer: stay at the Academy as long as you like, go wherever you wish, talk to whomever you want, to discover why some of America's most promising young people sacrifice so much to become cadets. Lipsky followed one cadet class into mess halls, barracks, classrooms, bars, and training exercises, from arrival through graduation. By telling their stories, he also examines the Academy as a reflection of our society: Are its principles of equality, patriotism, and honor quaint anachronisms, or is it still, as Theodore Roosevelt called it, the most "absolutely American" institution? - (Blackwell North Amer)

Lipsky, a Rolling Stone writer and an award-winning novelist, chronicles daily life at the U.S. Military Academy during the most tumultuous period in its history.

In 1998, West Point made David Lipsky an unprecedented offer: stay at the Academy as long as you like, go wherever you wish, talk to whomever you want, to discover why some of America's most promising young people sacrifice so much to become cadets. Lipsky followed one cadet class into mess halls, barracks, classrooms, bars, and training exercises, from arrival through graduation. By telling their stories, he also examines the Academy as a reflection of our society: Are its principles of equality, patriotism, and honor quaint anachronisms or is it still, as Theodore Roosevelt called it, the most "absolutely American" institution?
During arguably the most eventful four years in West Point's history, Lipsky witnesses the arrival of TVs and phones in dorm rooms, the end of hazing, and innumerable other shifts in policy and practice known collectively as The Changes. He uncovers previously unreported scandals and poignantly evokes the aftermath of September 11, when cadets must prepare to become officers in wartime.
Absolutely American spotlights a remarkable ensemble of characters: a former Eagle Scout who struggles with every facet of the program, from classwork to marching; a foul-mouthed party animal who hates the military and came to West Point to play football; a farm-raised kid who seems to be the perfect soldier, despite his affection for the early work of Georgia O’Keeffe; and an exquisitely turned-out female cadet who aspires to "a career in hair and nails" after the Army. These cadets and their classmates are transformed in fascinating, sometimes astonishing, ways by one of America's most mythologized and least understood challenges. Many of them thrive under the rigorous regimen; others battle endlessly just to survive it. A few give up the fight altogether.
Lipsky's extensive experience covering college students for Rolling Stone helped him gain an exceptional degree of trust and candor from both cadets and administrators. They offer frank insights on drug use, cheating, romance, loyalty, duty, patriotism, and the Army's tortuous search for meaning as new threats loom.
- (Houghton)

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