It gives me great pleasure to report that chest-baring motormouth French philosophe Henri-Bernard Levy’s condescending bombast-fest “American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of Toqueville” is getting roundly panned by the very Mainstream Media who were expected to sneer along with him at the scenes of malls and megachurches in red-state America that fill the book.

I read one of the book’s installments in the Atlantic (there were a full five in all, and they were long!l)–or actually I read half of one and got bored. Actually, I got disgusted at Levy’s supposedly sophisticated denunciations of us Americans for our “puritanism” just because we disapproved of Bill Clinton’s having sex with a woman young enough to be his daughter–who was also one of his own employees (isn’t that called sexual harassment?)–right in the Oval Office, a public space whose upkeep is paid for with our taxes. Le puritainisme–the American curse! 

Not only did Levy’s shopworn Euro-‘tudes tire me out–so did his Windbaggery 101 prose style. Here’s a sample:

“It’s a little strange, this obsession with the [American] flag. It’s incomprehensible for someone who, like me, comes from a country virtually without a flag-where the flag has, so to speak, disappeared; where you see it flying only in front of official buildings; and where any nostalgia and concern for it, any evocation of it, is a sign of an attachment to the past that has become almost ridiculous. Is this flag obsession a result of September 11? A response to that trauma whose violence we Europeans persist in underestimating but which, three years later, haunts American minds as much as ever? Should we reread those pages in Tocqueville on the good fortune of being sheltered by geography from violations of the nation’s territorial space and come to see in this return to the flag a neurotic abreaction to the astonishment that the violation actually occurred? Or is it something else entirely? An older, more conflicted relationship of America with itself and with its national existence? A difficulty in being a nation, more severe than in the flagless countries of old Europe, that produces this compensatory effect?”

If you’re a glutton for punishment, click here for much, more more.

But I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered that Alex Beam, writing for the Boston Globe, had this to say about “American Vertigo,” which is being touted by the high culture likes of Tina Brown and Adam Gopnik:

“Color me skeptical. I can’t take Levy seriously at all. I stuck with his first Atlantic article until I tripped across the phrase ”Detroit, sublime Detroit.’ I burst out laughing.”

And then this review for the New York Times by Garrison Keillor:

“It is the classic Freaks, Fatties, Fanatics & Faux Culture Excursion beloved of European journalists for the past 50 years, with stops at Las Vegas to visit a lap-dancing club and a brothel; Beverly Hills; Dealey Plaza in Dallas; Bourbon Street in New Orleans; Graceland; a gun show in Fort Worth; a ‘partner-swapping club’ in San Francisco with a drag queen with mammoth silicone breasts; the Iowa State Fair (‘a festival of American kitsch’); Sun City (‘gilded apartheid for the old’); a stock car race; the Mall of America; Mount Rushmore; a couple of evangelical megachurches; the Mormons of Salt Lake; some Amish; the 2004 national political conventions; Alcatraz – you get the idea. (For some reason he missed the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the adult video awards, the grave site of Warren G. Harding and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.) You meet Sharon Stone and John Kerry and a woman who once weighed 488 pounds and an obese couple carrying rifles, but there’s nobody here whom you recognize. In more than 300 pages, nobody tells a joke. Nobody does much work. Nobody sits and eats and enjoys their food. You’ve lived all your life in America, never attended a megachurch or a brothel, don’t own guns, are non-Amish, and it dawns on you that this is a book about the French. There’s no reason for it to exist in English, except as evidence that travel need not be broadening and one should be wary of books with Tocqueville in the title.”

Garrison, Garrison, we didn’t think ye had it in ye! No wonder we always loved your “Prairie Home Companion” even when your politics made us sigh. And here’s Keillor’s conclusion:

“For your next book, tell us about those riots in France, the cars burning in the suburbs of Paris. What was that all about? Were fat people involved?”

As they say in the land of the little-flown tricouleur, touche!