Sunday, February 27, 2011

Book Review: Class by Paul Fussell

Wirten 28 years ago, Paul Fussell's take on the unspoken American class system, Class, is tremendous. America is a late comer to nation status and the Constitution banned titles. In everything we do, say and buy there is the stamp of our class or status. Paul Fussell attempts to walk readers through the workings of this system in America and entertains the reader.

A reader in 2011 can read this book and still consider it pretty accurate. One thing that time adds to this book is witnessing the drift the entire nation has experience while simultaneously seeing status and the eager climbing many have done through credit and spending. How dumbed down have things become? How much of our entertainment and even information sources are geared towards the lowest common denominator? How many people have spent themselves into poverty to chase the status dream? Fussell pokes fun at everyone, and even goes after the university system, which he was a part of as a professor for decades.

His attacks on higher education are hysterical. His writing in 1983 was followed by a huge run up in college costs while not providing a superior product. He cites a review of colleges done that blasted many universities for poor academic quality. This has only become worse since 1983 with the rise in college attendance by those who truly do not gain anything from it nor are prepared for rigorous classes. The descriptive paragraphs of graduates and the actions of their parents made me laugh out loud. Rear car window stickers really hit home for me.

You will laugh reading this book. You can't avoid it because everyone knows someone who is a poster boy or girl for a specific class. The climbers and folks reaching for status because of sudden wealth will make you stop and think. We are part of this system, and I try my best to avoid being trapped in it. Laughing at the people so wrapped up in the status game was a relief. Fussell also helped educate me about why people at work write the wordiest emails over the simplest things. At just under 200 pages and written in a cheeky manner, this is a quick and very enjoyable read.

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