On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense - David Brooks

Brooks, who calls himself a "comic sociologist," is also the author of the extremely popular Bobos in Paradise, which was about the new upper class. This book is mostly about middle-class America, suburbia, the places that are stereotyped in literature and the media as "boring and artificial, or ... superficially boring and artificial but secretly sick and psychotic." It's about the American Dream, the causes behind America's hyperactive lifestyles and pursuit of change.

The book starts with an overview of American life, in which Brooks parades out his witty stereotypes of everyone. Nobody is safe from sarcasm (except, perhaps, poor immigrants, who you can't safely make fun of if you're an upper-middle-class political journalist). Then he summarizes two popular views of America: that we are the bimbos of the world, shallow and morally bankrupt; and that despite appearances we are driven by something deeply spiritual. He examines various aspects of American life (shopping, working, education) through the lenses of these two competing views, and then finally offers his own conclusions about what drives Americans.

I have mixed feelings about the book. Sometimes his stereotyped descriptions are hilarious, but after a while it gets tiring and you long for something a little more serious. At the same time, he does a good job of recognizing patterns and trends in behavior that I wouldn't necessarily have spotted myself, and many of the statistics he offers are startling. Americans definitely are different from the rest of the world, and On Paradise Drive is a good outline of those differences. His analysis of why we do the things we do is worth thinking about, whether or not you agree with him.

Overall, a decent read, though not the best book I've read this year.

Fed to jonathan's brain | March 01, 2005 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?