James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: France

  • In Defense of Johnny Hallyday

    In the spirit of Lafayette and Tocqueville, a voice for Franco-American amity.

    A non-French reader now based in France has concluded that I am a Francophobe. Pas du tout! On opportunity-cost grounds, I may mildly regret the years I spent loading French, Latin, etc into my schoolboy brain (as opposed to Arabic, Chinese, etc), but that is hardly France's fault. Least of all is it the fault of the French singer whose box office appeal was established by the time I was learning the language and has spanned more decades than Bruce Springsteen's: the immortal Johnny Hallyday, shown in a previous post in folkloric (if unintentionally comic) outfit, thus:

    Thumbnail image for 17518.jpg

    The reason I had involved Hallyday in the first place was to argue that Arizona's "show me your papers" immigration law seemed fundamentally Gallic/Napoleonic (or Chinese) in its inspiration, rather than American. That doesn't make me either anti-French or anti-Chinese. I like both places, as I like "the Elvis of France," Johnny H himself. But I do stand solidly with James Thurber, as previously quoted in saying that "je vais demander ses cartes d'identité!" is a French import we don't need. Here's the reader's complaint:

    I've been sitting here, a casual francophile, in Sète, south of France, for a couple or three weeks steaming about your no-comment-necessary take-down of Johnny for dressing up as a cowboy, complete with wool Stetson, medallion, Rolex, and super-bowl ring.

    What you may not understand is that Johnny never had a choice in the matter, not after Elvis first turned out for, what was it, Love Me Tender? If Elvis had played mostly carnival barkers or seal trainers Johnny would have had to dress up as one of those, no fault of his own. It was the career choice.

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