THE GOLDEN DREAM: Suburbia in the Seventies by Stephen Birmingham

THE GOLDEN DREAM: Suburbia in the Seventies

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After such a perfunctory nod at meaty, touchy issues as the abandonment of the cities and the complacent racism of the suburban rich, Stephen Birmingham spends the bulk of his latest book flinging around the usual high-toned meringue. When Birmingham talks about the suburbs, you must of course understand that he is not talking about the Levittowns where most of us live. He's talking about the Grosse Pointes and the Greenwiches where, in splendid isolation, the moneyed and the socially-entitled reside. Birmingham takes admiring peeks into the living rooms of the affluent, records in loving detail the models of their cars (no foreign makes in Grosse Pointe) and meditates at length on such niceties as the accent of Philadelphia's Main Liners (not unlike ""Massachusetts malocclusion""), the feud between the Tarrytown Rockefellers and their Greenwich cousins, and the ruffled feathers in Atlanta now that Jimmy Carter has brought national attention to that city's very discriminating country clubs. As in any discussion of society, there are invidious comparisons. Grosse Pointe Farms is an infinitely better address than Grosse Pointe Woods, for example, and according to one ungrammatical social arbiter, ""Watch Hill is to Newport what East Hampton is to Southhampton."" Most useful of all is Birmingham's advice to novice social climbers: Enroll your children in dancing classes. Join a philanthropy (""Any local charity that involves children is usually fashionable. . .""). Scatter some subtle Oriental rugs on your floor. And so forth. Of course, Birmingham's book will find its own constituencies. The rich will read it to indulge in self-congratulation; social aspirants will scan it for tips; and the voyeur in all of us will enjoy a free look.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row