Hefty but compellingly readable—essential for anyone desiring a deeper understanding of status inequity.

STATUS AND CULTURE

HOW OUR DESIRE FOR SOCIAL RANK CREATES TASTE, IDENTITY, ART, FASHION, AND CONSTANT CHANGE

A culture writer explains how two critical concepts impact modern life.

Tokyo-based writer Marx, author of Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, argues that status and culture are so intertwined that we can’t understand how one works without understanding the other, but a major obstacle is that “status itself has…long been a mystery.” Exploring a wealth of research, anecdotal evidence, and observations across a number of disciplines, the author attempts to solve what he calls the “Grand Mystery of Culture,” encompassing questions of why humans gravitate toward some behaviors and not others, how defined sensibilities and conventions emerge, and why behaviors change or persist over time. Every person uses status symbols to communicate, and all conventions also have status value; we understand that not all of them are equal, and some are more desirable than others. The signaling strategies of different classes vary widely, from the vintage antique luxuries and social capital of old money families and the privileged information of professional classes to the flashy luxuries favored by flagship millionaires in the new money class. In a global society where information is increasingly democratized, displays of raw wealth become the most easy-to-read symbols, which is why lower-income individuals and citizens of developing economies often flock to conspicuous consumption. Marx thoroughly explains complex subjects, breaking down the necessary elements and bolstering his points with research and examples that are both plentiful and entertaining, including Larry the Cable Guy, designer cupcakes, England’s “teddy boys,” and Lassie, to name just a few. A crucial takeaway from the book is that status isn’t going to get less important anytime soon, so it’s imperative that we are more proactive not only in lessening inequality in legal and economic spheres, but also being more conscientious of how we confer status in our interactions and what we value. “We all compete for status, whether we like it or not,” writes Marx. “We can at least better explain the rules to make it a fairer fight.”

Hefty but compellingly readable—essential for anyone desiring a deeper understanding of status inequity.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-29670-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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