TRYING OUT THE DREAM: A Year in the Life of an American Family by Paul Wilkes

TRYING OUT THE DREAM: A Year in the Life of an American Family

Email this review


For one year Wilkes was a friendly observer-presence in the home of his American family, the ""Neumeyers"" -- die-cutter foreman Art, homemaker Betty and their children: Martha, 20; Richard, 18; and Joan, 10. Although Wilkes wisely warns against taking this view, the Neumeyers' history and current angst nevertheless seem stereotypical of that familiar media-model of the beleaguered blue-collar nuclear family. Perhaps some of this is due to the limitations of Wilkes' journalistic method as opposed to the wide lens of the Louds' cameramen; perhaps it is Wilkes' choice of illustrative details which always seem tied to crises; and the ""thoughts"" of his subjects may have been over-conceptualized. However the crises are real and shattering and alas ""typical."" Both parents came from somewhat deprived backgrounds; both worked hard to give their family the ""good life."" And now their children are stepping outside their expectations and rejecting Art and Betty's version of the American dream. Richard is sullen, often hostile, and in-and-out of those ""get my head together"" journeys on the road; Martha, who is depressed and unsure of her direction, questions her family's values. ""Where have we gone wrong?"" is the predictable new American anthem. What Wilkes records is often moving: ""To me,"" says Betty, ""it always seems like the best time was some other time."" And although the spaghetti sauce is mild and the Neumeyers' racial prejudices strong, somehow they are more accessible -- certainly more likable and gutsy -- than the Louds.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1975
Publisher: Lippincott