BLOOM'S MORNING by Arthur Asa Berger

BLOOM'S MORNING

Toothpaste, Toasters, and the Secret Meaning of Everyday Life
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An admittedly irreverent stab at leveling the distinction between elite and popular culture by transmogrifying the ho-hum (the master bedroom, the garbage disposal) into the ``mythic'' in the semiological tradition of Roland Barthes. Berger (Communications/San Francisco State Univ.) maintains a decidedly casual posture in his extended introduction (``On the Theory of Everyday Life'') and conclusion, as though to filter out the usual academic snobbery. His case for ``sociosemiotics'' is convincing enough: ``Culture is no longer . . . just frosting on the cake of life''; the activities and artifacts of, say, a representative man's morning (Bloom's, pace Joyce) are the legitimate business of postmodern anthropology and, as such, the new cultural studies. The less convincing centerpiece here--a ``microminimalist'' narrative that takes Bloom from wake-up through ablutions to receipt of his mail, followed by 35 explications de texte--reads too often like an overwrought effort to decode what first must be proved to be in code. The digital clock, which ``atomizes'' time into discrete, unrelated moments, is an emblem of alienation; the down comforter goes beyond man-made science to ``natural technology.'' ``I confess to some tricks--exaggeration, irony, absurdity, wild analogies . . . whatever it takes,'' Berger winks at the end, and while that revelation of a sense of humor about himself vitiates some unwonted solemnity, it doesn't cover all of it, like the notion that breakfast is overarchingly ``a study in transformations'' or the too-serious claim that the king- size bed is an oedipal symbol because king = father and Everyman can make it in (to) the father's bed. Berger can't be taken to account for the whole discipline of belaboring the banal--Barthes found ``signification'' in detergent, to cite just one of his respectable reference points--so to the extent that this reads like a parody of itself, he's only partly responsible. The rest (the theory) is responsible, if cavalier. (40 b&w drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8133-3230-3
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1996