Well, this book had some serious ups and downs. On the negative, the book is frequently dull, and somewhat plodding, making meaningless and drab descriptions of early American life, amongst other things. It's hard to imagine how the author accomplished this considering how colorful the time is (I happen to be reading an immense amount of revolutionary-1812 era American writing at the moment by sheer coincidence.)On the positive, Carey elevates his prose to the peak of eloquence....for a few sentences, then drops back down to a more pedestrian level. There are sections where entire pages are sublime, but in general, the book is so spotty in this manner it's hard to objectively recommend it to one's friends.Next the themes... In general, the author, an Australian who has lived in NYC and done almost all his professional work within the USA's borders seems to have a serious love-hate relationship with it. He takes great fun at lambasting our political process, at lancing the commerce of art and it's buyers, painting them as the tasteless peasants with new found money which many surely are in any age of history after the development of the merchant or middle class. However, as a professional artist, I can assure you, Gentle Reader, that old money is exactly as clueless of quality, mercenary of money, and as petty of taste as any nouveau riche or bourgeois banker to be found in the new world, whether of this age or the Jacksonian past. And complaint of anyone's method of selection of leadership would imply there's a superior system elsewhere. While I personally, while being quite American, prefer a Parliamentary system, it's not as though it provides a VASTLY superior product in terms of leadership. I just happen to prefer the ability of a bicameral system to still function in a highly divided age (unlike the current U.S. Congress)..so cheap shots at American leadership seem to lose their punch coming from a Aussie who abandoned his native shore so long ago.I'm given to understand that the author, Mr. Carey has avoided American settings and themes quite studiously during his career, making this sole venture into them. Perhaps he'll go back to avoiding them in the future. My countrymen are ignorant enough of our own history and system (while maintaining a self-image quite the opposite) that this kind of stuff muddles the works even more.In general, he gets three stars, for the boldness of the attempt, and the rare nugget of fine writing to be found. Overall, I wouldn't recommend it to a friend though, as those nuggets are too rarely found, and the political and philosophical statements are too flawed from being imprecise, incorrect, and ill-informed. Take umbrage or principled stance if you like, disagree with me all you care to, but please do so from a position of fact and objective consideration, not from generalities. The impression I gain is that the author simply doesn't like ANY leadership, ANY system, or ANY society. Like my countrymen who are crippled by apathy and cynicism, I can point out that YOU are the government, YOU are society. In this context the author comes across like a child being pointlessly mean, slapping you with your own hand while saying, 'Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself...'.