Daniel Oppenheimer at Bookforum:
The argument was this: America at its most distinctive wasn’t Judeo-Christian or capitalist or even democratic in a simple way. It was pagan. Not an earth spirit paganism of the moors and glens, but a polytheistic, commercial, cosmopolitan paganism of the bazaar and the agora. We invested objects, people, and performances with the power of our dreams and fears, and then we organized ourselves around those idols in “non-exclusive communities of desire,” arguing about them, buying and selling pieces and images of them on the open market, trying to woo others into our camp and score points over rival camps. We were a democratic people, but to see American democracy clearly was to understand that our democracy renewed itself on a substratum of pagan devotions to movie stars, rock stars, oil paintings, charismatic political figures, football teams, ingenues, mystery novels, muscle cars, runway shows, action movies, and action painters.