america: the audiobook

So, I’m temping again, and along with all of the dubious joys of temping comes the legitimately joy-inducing ability to listen to headphones for an entire shift, day after day. There are only so many times in one day I can listen to Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning*, so I was off to my library’s website and an audiobook search, which yielded America: The Audiobook by Jon Stewart and crew.

I hadn’t gotten around to checking out the paper book yet, and I know by listening to the audiobook I missed such treasures as the now-famous nude picture of the Supreme Court, but the benefit of the audiobook is that you get to hear the whole thing read by Stewart et. al. in their familiar Daily Show personas. Except Stewart himself — he seemed to be confused about whether he was delivering satire or real historical content, which come to think of it also seems to be the case with his TV show. This has been sort of endearing, but is at some point going to bite him in the ass.

So yeah, it’s funny. It’s witty and knowledgable and sarcastic, just like the show, and just like the show, I think it’s a little too sarcastic and knowledgable for its own good, or at least for ours. I say this because I am also a teacher of freshman comp, and my students LOVE Jon Stewart and gang, who have instilled in them a kind of interest in public debate about which I am not sure how I feel. Some say that if Jon Stewart is getting kids interested in politics, great, but when a former student of mine said he thought Jon Stewart should be president, I started to worry.

I guess I am not always sure that people who are not knowledgable about history or politics grasp that The Daily Show is making fun of the media as much or more as it is making fun of government, and that there are extraordinarily complex issues behind every sound bite on TV, whether it is coming out of some pompous media ass at CNN or out of Jon Stewart, who is brilliant but is fast on his way to becoming a pompous media ass himself. And I think the way that America: The Book makes fun of historical study might actually delegitimize the study itself to young people who could otherwise be open to it.

Then again, I may be taking it all too seriously. If there is one thing my students can usually do, it’s tell who is bullshitting them, especially when it’s me. And the book is pretty funny if you do know a little about American history, even though some of the jokes are kind of tired if you have spent any time in any undergraduate American history courses. But how many of us have done that?

-angie kritenbrink

*Once in the morning to wake up, going back and listening to track #2 and then 6-10 again, and then maybe once again in the afternoon to wake up after my 2:00 lull in consciousness.
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