Monday, November 08, 2004

Many of us are still trying to make sense of the American election and trying to figure out what the election results tells us about America. Yesterday, I was *this* close to announcing to the world that I had found a book that made sense of the election results to me : On Paradise Drive by David Brooks.

I had read and very much enjoyed brooks' earlier Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There which helped me finally understand what the Baby Boomers had become. On Paradise Drive promised to illuminate the lives of the American suburbanite - by an man who actually likes suburbanites and even gets angry if you call them closed-minded for voting Bush.

Ah, but I have since learned that Brooks' humourous anthropology shtick is largely that - shtick. His work doesn't hold up to fact-checking, once liberal friends have turned against him, and even McSweeney's lampoons him in a brilliant David Brooks Also Eats Cereal. This review Paradise Glossed: The problem with David Brooks from the Washington Monthly summarizes his fall quite nicely.

It's too bad that On Paradise Drive isn't the book that it promises to be. That being said, Brooks understands and explains the American Dream better than anyone I have read before...

Over the past two chapters, I've sketched two broad ways of describing life in the United States. One sees middle-American life as essentially mediocre, materialistic, driven by worldly longing. The second sees a life that is primarily metaphysical and imaginative, in which every Americans are driven to realize grand and utopian ideals through material things... I would like to think that the second way of looking at America is the true way.

(Ok - maybe this passage isn't the best summation of his thoughts on the matter, but he does take two chapters to really flesh out the idea)

I think this is a book for all those Brits and other non-North Americans out there who think that because they are down with American cool that they then understand Americans. David Brooks is best advised leave his column at The New York Times and pick up a gig at the Guardian so at least they won't throw another US election.

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