Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Abandoned Books: Elsewhere, U.S.A. by Dalton Conley

It's been a while since I had to punt on a book, but it's that time again. I got almost a quarter of the way [1] into this look at the changes in private life over the past few decades, but I finally couldn't stand:
  • Conley's relentless flood of tone-deaf neologisms, from intravidualism to weisure to convestment
  • His insistence of making sweeping judgements about how vast swaths of the American public lives, based on the lives of himself and his fellow top 1/10th of 1%-ers
  • A related misunderstanding that his hyper-scheduled, jet-setting New York elite life is not widely shared by more than a few thousand people
  • A vast disinterest in talking honestly about class -- in the cultural, socio-economic sense -- signposted by a quick family history through his small-town lower-upper class grandparents, his bohemian upper-middle parents, and his own urban, supposedly meritocratic position in what I'm sure he'd call the upper middle class, at no point of which does he mention or even clearly think of class.
Elsewhere, U.S.A. may settle down to talking about issues of wider applicability, but, at the point at which I bailed out, it had a laser-like focus on the ennui and disappointment of a tiny sliver of vastly underprivileged whiners, and of trying to determine why they have all of the money in the USA and still aren't that happy. When my fingers started itching for a torch or pitchfork -- instead of finding myself sympathizing with these cretins, as Conley clearly intended -- it was time to go.

If you find that newspaper trend articles perfectly encapsulate your life, if you're affluent and urban and over-scheduled and a parent, if you're a "knowledge worker" who often doubts your own knowledge...then Elsewhere, U.S.A. will be right up your alley. If not, I'd go elsewhere.

[1] That sounds much more impressive than it is; it's not even 200 pages long.

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