Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II

In This Review

Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II

By Richard Pells
Basic Books, 1997
464 pp. $30.00
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Pells' attempt to show "how Europeans have loved, hated, and transformed America's culture since World War II" is awesomely ambitious. He covers America's cultural diplomacy (including the Congress for Cultural Freedom, but he seems not to have read the most interesting book on it, Pierre Gremion's Intelligence de l'Anti-communisme), the effects of the Marshall Plan and of the Fulbright program, transatlantic prejudices and misunderstandings, the impact of American methods and products on European economic and social life, the transmission of American mass culture and its reception in Europe (here come Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Disneyland), and the impact of European art forms, tastes, and ideas on America. Nobody can accuse Pells of not being comprehensive. His judgments are full of good sense: he emphasizes the degree to which the "American invasion" has been welcome, rather than imposed, and to which Europeans have reshaped American influences, safeguarding their own distinctiveness. But the reader feels like the spectator at an endless slide show who would love to stop the machine and examine at greater length the most interesting of the slides -- alas, all of them, great or trivial, stream by at the same dizzying speed.