Judith Dupré
Monuments: America's History in Art and Memory.
Random House, 272 pages, $45

Monuments generate awe or anger but rarely love. They risk being taken for granted or taken to task. They may end up as almost part of the landscape, like Mount Rushmore, or they may start out by causing a firestorm, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Like parades and anthems, they may have “official” stamped on them, which tends to bring out our inner anarchist, from Shelley’s “Ozymandias” to a kid with a can of spray-paint.

Monuments rile up the masses, then? We should be so lucky. As Judith Dupré writes at the outset, monuments often get ignored because they come off as impractical and, in a digital era, hardly cutting-edge. Even worse, monuments are about the past. And Americans, as a publisher once told her, “aren’t much for the past.” Monuments are for yawning, our...

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