Synopses & Reviews
The author of the acclaimed bestseller Bobos in Paradise,
which hilariously described the upscale American culture, takes a witty look at how being American shapes us, and how America's suburban civilization will shape the world's future.
Take a look at Americans in their natural habitat. You see suburban guys at Home Depot doing that special manly, waddling walk that American men do in the presence of large amounts of lumber; super-efficient ubermoms who chair school auctions, organize the PTA, and weigh less than their children; workaholic corporate types boarding airplanes while talking on their cell phones in a sort of panic because they know that when the door closes they have to turn their precious phone off and it will be like somebody stepped on their trachea.
Looking at all this, you might come to the conclusion that we Americans are not the most profound people on earth. Indeed, there are millions around the world who regard us as the great bimbos of the globe: hardworking and fun, butalso materialistic and spiritually shallow.
They've got a point. As you drive through the sprawling suburbs or eat in the suburban chain restaurants (which if they merged would be called Chili's Olive Garden Hard Rock Outback Cantina), questions do occur. Are we really as shallow as we look? Is there anything that unites us across the divides of politics, race, class, and geography? What does it mean to be American?
Well, mentality matters, and sometimes mentality is all that matters. As diverse as we are, as complacent as we sometimes seem, Americans are united by a common mentality, which we have inherited from our ancestors and pass on, sometimes unreflectingly, to our kids.
We are united by future-mindedness. We see the present from the vantage point of the future. We are tantalized, at every second of every day, by the awareness of grand possibilities ahead of us, by the bounty we can realize just over the next ridge.
This mentality leads us to work feverishly hard, move more than any other people on earth, switch jobs, switch religions. It makes us anxious and optimistic, manic and discombobulating.
Even in the superficiality of modern suburban life, there is some deeper impulse still throbbing in the heart of average Americans. That impulse is the subject of this book.
"[A] bravura performance and always entertaining, if not always convincing." Michael Kinsley, The New York Times Book Review
"From a cuddly conservative: a genial ode to America that only a snooty French deconstructionist could fail to find amusing and enlightening." Kirkus Reviews
"While engagingly written and insightful at points, Brooks's affirmation is unlikely to resound with anyone outside the conservative choir, and even less likely to spark change or even a desire for change." Publishers Weekly
"For better or worse, Americans are dreamers, filled with hope, forever pursuing fantasies, and historically and uniquely obsessed with a complicated future. This is a persuasive and inspiring thesis, even if it's not completely convincing." Library Journal
Take a look at Americans in their natural habitat: guys shopping for barbecue grills, doing that special walk men do when in the presence of lumber; super-efficient soccer Ubermoms who chair school auctions, organize the PTAs, and weigh less than their kids; and suburban chain restaurants, the Chilis Olive Garden Hard Rock Cutback Cantina. Are we as shallow as we look? Many around the world see us as the great bimbo. Sure, Americans work hard and are energetic, but that is because they are money-hungry and don't know how to relax. But if you probe deeper, you find that we behave the way we do because we five under the spell of paradise. We are the inheritors of a sense of limitless possibilities, raised to think in the future tense and to strive toward the happiness we naturally accept, the fulfillment of our dreams. On Paradise Drive, at once serious and comic, describes this distinct American future-mindedriess that shapes our personalities and underlies our beliefs.
Are we as shallow as we look? At once serious and comic, Brooks describes the distinct future-mindedness that shapes Americans' personalities and sense of limitless possibilities.
About the Author
David Brooks is a political journalist and "comic sociologist" who writes a bi-weekly Op-Ed column for The New York Times. He appears regularly on PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and NPR's All Things Considered. Formerly a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, his articles have also appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, and other publications. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
Review A Day
"American society, especially the center of it, is an important subject, and it is also an accessible one, but it presents more literary and intellectual perils than you would expect. In cleverly and successfully avoiding some of them artificial gloominess, facile prescription, political hectoring David Brooks has let himself fall prey to what is, in this realm, the most venerable peril of them all: boosterism." Nicholas Lemann, The New Republic
(read the entire New Republic review