Sunday, March 12, 2006


BHL Does Ardisson (and vice versa)

When I read the various book reviews of "American Vertigo" in American media a couple of months ago, I decided that I was in no hurry to read BHL's new book. After all, I had not finished two other of his books that I had started; the reviews and interviews gave me little reason to believe I'd get more out of this book. And I hadn't even read the review by Garrison Keillor in the New York Times. Nevertheless, I looked forward to seeing him talk about it on Thierry Ardisson's talk show, "Tout le monde en parle", and last night was the night.

Lévy claimed his purpose was to counter unwarranted (bigotted) anti-Americanism by producing the objective evaluation that he is particularly capable of providing; not by rebutting anti-American arguments and legends per se, not by taking issue with the detractors, but by revealing the overlooked goodness. In short, it seems to me, by drawing share-of-voice from negative propaganda to his objectively positive propaganda.

Ardisson can be a lot of fun to watch. He and his staff do very thorough research and preparation. I've seen guests wonder aloud "how do you know all that stuff?" [about the guest], but never, that I can recall, deny or refute his facts. His associate, Laurent Baffie, has a keen wit, and an excellent way with words. But BHL is a star, he and his wife make frequent public appearances, so Ardisson had little to gain and much to lose if he were too grueling.

As could be expected, the talking points Ardisson chose were on the theme "what is wrong or wierd in America", lap dancing and brothels with ramps for the handicapped (we don't even have brothels in France), basically all the things Keillor lists in his first paragraph (TA, did you say thank you?). BHL called him anti-American (very unagressively). But BHL also politely answered, never appeared irritated. After all, sticking to amusing anecdotes helped hide the failed pretention to "follow up on de Toqueville."

The high points:

The transcript of the interview has not yet been posted at France2.


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I'm a big fan of BHL, and I saw him speak at the New Yorker Festival two years ago. I was completely amused with BHL's piece in the Atlantic Monthly on de Toqueville. At any rate, I have to say, his wife is quite possibly the worst actress I have ever seen. Sharon Stone puts her to shame!
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