It is hardly fair to Mr. Kipling to call American Notes first impressions, for one reading them will readily see that the impressions are superficial, little thought being put upon the writing. They seem super-sarcastic, and would lead one to believe that Mr. Kipling is antagonistic to America in every respect. This, however, is not true. These Notes aroused much protest and severe criticism when they appeared in 1891, and are considered so far beneath Mr. Kipling's real work that they have been nearly suppressed and are rarely found in a list of his writings.
tories or the new offices of the 'Examiner'?"
He could not understand that to the outside world the city was worth a great deal less than the man. I never intended to curse the people with a provincialism so vast as this.
But let us return to our sheep--which means the sea-lions of the Cliff House. They are the great show of San Francisco. You take a train which pulls up the middle of the street (it killed two people the day before yesterday, being un-braked and driven absolutely regardless of consequences), and you pull up somewhere at the back of the city on the Pacific beach. Originally the cliffs and their approaches must have been pretty, but they have been so carefully defiled with advertisements that they are now one big blistered abomination. A hundred yards from the shore stood a big rock covered with the carcasses of the sleek sea-beasts, who roared and rolled and walloped in the spouting surges. No bold man had painted the creatures sky-blue or advertised news-papers on their backs, w
This is classic Kipling the Journalist, playing the same game John McPhee and P.J. O'Rourke played - it's arrogance for us to call it the "New Journalism" when Rudyard Kipling did exactly the same thing almost a hundred years before our own journalists discovered the joys of conversational prose.
It's also Rudyard Kipling on a full allotment of testosterone, unsparingly critical of a country which he by and large seems to have loved as much as England or his native India. As an American I might bridle at some of the less fair shots Kipling takes in "American Notes," but have to concur with his assessment of Chicago as the American Calcutta, especially now that Chicago politics have irretreivably tarnished the building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and imposed any number of nasty backroom deals with the health insurance industry and the labor unions on the citizens of a once-proud Republic.
What amazes me is how little the America Kipling shows us has changed in a little over a century after he wrote about it. If you have a sense of humor and objectivity, please read "American Notes," because Kipling rewards his reader with sharp wit and a valuable perspective not found often in overseas journalism (or domestic journalism, for that matter).