A US State Of Mind
When I was a kid I was incredibly influenced by the American mindset. It wasn’t that I saw many Hollywood movies – I saw a few, but largely grew up with English comedies starring annoying idiots like Charlie Drake and Norman Wisdom, who seemed to have a new film out every week.
Rather it was American books, comics and magazines that filled my waking dreams. I couldn’t function without the latest issues of Mad and Cracked, Famous Monsters, Superman, Spiderman, and especially, probably more than anyone else, Ray Bradbury. Going back to his books now I can see just how brave and experimental he was, how enthralling and imaginative his world. Rereading them, they evoke a peculiarly unique American area of writing which we don’t really delve into in Europe – the endless fascination with childhood and its ability to influence and evoke powerful memories throughout our lives.
The result of this immersion in US pop culture was that I knew more American teen slang than a Bronx street gang. What struck me most was the sheer energy and positivity of American writers. Where we had enervating class warfare and complaining passive heroes, the US artists and writers were charging toward a dazzling new future.
For some reason I can’t explain, too many US comics are now written by sour-minded Englishmen, and I find the stories posturing and over-complex. It’s probably because I grew up with a sunny and simplified image of the US, and I don’t like to see that sullied. My father always said that he admired American writers because they explained things more clearly, and didn’t feel the need to dress everything up in the overly complex language that we post-Victorians tended use.
I don’t suppose Europeans are as heavily influenced by books as they once were, but many of my new US heroes are podcasters. If you’re not much of a podcast talkshow listener and want to catch something fresh, try Common Sense and Hardcore History from broadcaster Dan Carlin, now over 200 shows and counting here.