Nancy Ellman's review of A Changed Man by Francine Prose opens with this charming summation of American culture:
American sentimentality may once have seemed endearing, but now we know it's just another instrument of evil. Every aspect of American culture has begun to stink of the grave. The pizzas and hamburgers: this is how world tyrants fuel themselves. The cars, the drugs, the music, the TV: this is how they distract themselves from their crimes. But how can they still think they're right about anything? Their children are deep-fried, drug-soaked numbskulls, the adults hapless lemmings in their SUVs, heading straight into the back-end of the American dream. Where is the guilt -- and where the apology?
I'm an American, and I certainly count myself among the lefty, progressive types, so I regularly find fault with, well, pretty much everything that our government does. And as an American I'm perhaps lacking an ear for extreme examples of British irony. But I'm pretty sure that she means this. This humorless, pessimistic view of the US ignores art and culture, ignores millions working hard every day to improve the lives of those around them and, yes, ignores the rare occasion of a former neo-Nazi actually changing for the better (the plot of Prose's book).
And "their crimes" -- by extension, my crimes? I had hoped we got rid of the notion of collective guilt along with those Nazis.
Please, tell me this really is a joke.