A collection of essays that diagnoses the steady decline of civilization, often masked as progress.
In his inaugural effort, Gerszewski provides a “study of our modern-day human nature” that covers a remarkably broad spectrum of issues. The book’s overarching premise is the parlous decline of society, both morally and rationally, particularly when compared with that of the Depression-era generation. He confronts what he feels is a disease; the rise of morbid obesity, the cult of self-esteem, the deterioration of the nuclear family, and even the demise of cursive writing, he says, are among its symptoms. Although the book is held together by its theme of civilizational’s enfeeblement, each chapter is essentially a stand-alone essay, and their order isn’t important to following the argument’s thread. The commentary is often cantankerous, but it can be lively and humorous; for example, he calls a teenager’s smartphone “the only thing smart about her.” Even when the author issues depressing predictions, he generally maintains a breezy, informal style. Unfortunately, the often astute observations are mixed with a good deal of all-too-familiar hyperbole; for example, the author describes Facebook as a place “where we congregate to post mundane and meaningless tidbits about our moment-to-moment pathetic lives—tidbits about what we had for dinner or how bad it sucks to be stuck in traffic on a Friday afternoon, as if this is something new that no one else knows about.” Much of the book has the air of nostalgic complaint, wistfully pining for the good old days of yesteryear, but it provides little concrete counsel to foster improvement. Still, the work as a whole is lighthearted and charming enough that most readers won’t feel overburdened by the author’s gloomy assessment.
Cultural criticism that recycles familiar material with refreshing élan but doesn’t cover a lot of new ground.