Cullen Murphy is the editor at large at Vanity Fair and the former managing editor of the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of Are We Rome?, The Word According to Eve, and the essay collection Just Curious.
Lurid images of America as a new Roman Empire-either striding the globe or tottering toward collapse, or both-are fashionable among pundits of all stripes these days. Vanity Fair editor Murphy (The World According to Eve) gives the trope a more restrained and thoughtful reading. He allows that, with its robust democracy, dynamic economy and technological wizardry, America is a far cry from Rome's static slave society. But he sees a number of parallels: like Rome, America is a vast, multicultural state, burdened with an expensive and overstretched military, uneasy about its porous borders, with a messianic sense of global mission and a solipsistic tendency to misunderstand and belittle foreign cultures. Some of the links Murphy draws, like his comparison of barbarian invaders of the late Empire to foreign corporations buying up American assets, are purely metaphorical. But others, especially his likening of the corrupt Roman patronage system to America's mania for privatizing government services-a "deflection of public purpose by private interest"-are specific and compelling. Murphy wears his erudition lightly and delivers a lucid, pithy and perceptive study in comparative history, with some sharp points. (May 10) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
"Elegant, learned, and graceful . . . this is a disturbing book
brimming with hope." --E.J. Dionne Jr., syndicated columnist, and
author of Why Americans Hate Politics
"Are We Rome? is just about a perfect book . . . I wish every politician would spend an evening with this book." --James Fallows, international correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly
"This is a lovely book . . . It may be the most important thing written about the U.S. government in many years." --Thomas E. Ricks, author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, and military correspondent for The Washington Post
"Cullen Murphy gives a thoughtful, entertaining look around." --Richard Brookhiser, author of What Would the Founders Do?
"Cullen Murphy has written a book of remarkable richness . . . brisk, learned, and highly entertaining." --Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Problem From Hell