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



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: Aug. 30, 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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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.


The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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