GREAT AMERICAN DREAMS: Portraits of the Way We Are by Robert G. & Jon Lowell Kaiser

GREAT AMERICAN DREAMS: Portraits of the Way We Are

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Neither New York or Peoria, Walden or the Golden West, exemplifies the ""American Dream"" of the late 1970s--the place is Las Vegas, ""where all can be purchased with cash, nothing more required."" On this premise, Kaiser and Lowell set out to interview tourists, gamblers, bartenders, and entertainers--those who provide the ""Great American Buffet"" of life styles, and those who gorge at it--in order to put together ""an impressionistic portrait of Middle America."" Social problems notwithstanding, a ""large proportion of Americans think that their lives are pretty terrific,"" the authors assert, arguing further that their ideas are neglected by politicians, sociologists, and journalists. They single out ""sports and cars [as] the two great American preoccupations,"" but they also introduce us to people whose dreams are fulfilled by silicone breast implants and face lifts, computer toys and giant TVs, stardom and security, and a chicken who can play tic-tac-toe. While the upbeat emphasis is refreshing, Kaiser and Lowell, like their subjects, tend to ignore the bad news. Each example is cited as an aspect of the ""dream"" without noting that these dreams conflict with one other: if Americans are so optimistic why are they so desperate to remain young? If they believe that the Protestant ethic of hard work still brings rewards, why do they think that life is a ""lottery?"" Much as Kaiser and Lowell want us to take seriously the ""new civilization"" of these happy hedonists, it's hard not to suspect that the happiness that comes from bigger breasts is only skin deep.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row