Absolutely American by David Lipsky
Four Years at West Point

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Synopsis

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.
 

About David Lipsky

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David Lipsky is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, and the Boston Globe, among other publications. His fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, and his novel, The Art Fair, won acclaim from the New York Times Book Review, Newsweek, The New Yorker, People, and many others. His honors include a MacDowell fellowship and a Henry Hoyns fellowship.
 
Published December 16, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 388 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, War, Political & Social Sciences, Self Help. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Absolutely American

Publishers Weekly

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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."

| Read Full Review of Absolutely American: Four Yea...

Entertainment Weekly

Yet over four years, Lipsky was given unprecedented access to the academy, where he witnessed an institution in flux, grappling with the forces of political correctness (cadets take classes in ''wellness'') and the lure of the private sector.

Jul 11 2003 | Read Full Review of Absolutely American: Four Yea...

The Millions

"I wanted to write about the young me as I would write about a character in a novel.

| Read Full Review of Absolutely American: Four Yea...

The Millions

According to Lipsky’s introduction, he went to West Point, the military academy that trains army officers, to write an article for Rolling Stone, and he eventually found himself fascinated by the enthusiasm he found there.

Jul 14 2005 | Read Full Review of Absolutely American: Four Yea...

HistoryNet

Lipsky is representative of many Americans today, to whom the military is strange and foreign, something associated with World War II, Vietnam or the nightly news.

Jun 12 2006 | Read Full Review of Absolutely American: Four Yea...

Reader Rating for Absolutely American
75%

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