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Class: A Guide Through the American Status System Paperback – Oct 1 1992
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Chicago Sun-Times Highly amusing....a witty, persnickety, and illuminating book....fussell hits the mark.
The Washington Post Move over, William Buckley. Stand back, Gore Vidal. And run for cover, Uncle Sam: Paul Fussell, the nation's newest world-class curmudgeon, is taking aim at The American Experiment.
Wilfrid Sheed The Atlantic A fine prickly pear of a book....Anyone who reads it will automatically move up a class.
Alison Lurie The New York Times Book Review A shrewd and entertaining commentary on American mores today. Frighteningly acute.
About the Author
Paul Fussell, critic, essayist, and cultural commentator, has recently won the H. L. Mencken Award of the Free Press Association. Among his books are The Great War and Modem Memory, which in 1976 won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award; Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars; Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War; and, most recently, BAD or, The Dumbing of America. His essays have been collected in The Boy Scout Handbook and Other Observations and Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays. He lives in Philadelphia, where he teaches English at the University of Pennsylvania.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Although most Americans sense that they live within an extremely complicated system of social classes and suspect that much of what is thought and done here is prompted by considerations of status, the subject has remained murky. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
Fussell's meticulous, razor-sharp, and frequently hilarious dissection of American class distinctions (and the tortured ways in which we all struggle with those distinctions) brought into focus what had previously been -- to my eyes -- a hidden language, or, perhaps, an invisible hierarchy.
Although slightly dated in its references, I can't recommend this book more highly.
Remember when you were a kid, how crazy the adult world seemed? How myopic and insane grown-ups were? How strange and inpenetrable their customs and culture? Did you ever wish someone would just sit down and explain to you what the heck was going on?
Here's a book that explains it all -- with insight, humor, and an acid-tipped sense of irony.
Fussell is no snob -- if anything, he skewers the upper classes as gleefully as he mocks the lumpen bourgeoisie. He also provides an escape hatch from the claustrophobic world of status accumulation -- his newly minted X-Class (the inspiration, btw, for Douglas Coupland's Generation X).
Very few books change the way you see the world, or, perhaps, allow you to see the world more clearly. This -- for me -- was one.
My main caveat is that you should not treat this book as a sociological treatise on the class system in America. While it is well written, organized, and offers Fussell's curmudgeonly witticism, it fails to address any major sociological issue or question. Fussell is (was?) a Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, and thus I am emphasizing the entertainment value of book in my review. If you would like to examine the sociological implications of class more thoroughly (especially the upper classes), I would suggest that you read the works of Fussell's colleague Prof. E. Digby Baltzell.
Overall, I still rate the book 5 stars because it is rare to see a book this well-written.
It does show its age and could use at least a new chapter outlining the effects of social trends of the last twenty years on our class system such as the pervasiveness of personal computers and the internet, immigration, "political correctness", downsizing, etc. Fussell's description at the end of Class X sounds like an early incarnation of the Bobo class
described in David Brooks' recent book, which shows that no one ultimately escapes classification, so use the information presented in this book to at least pretend to be a class higher than you actually are.
That said, I do have some reservations about this book.
First, I can't exactly call it insightful. With the exception of maybe a tidbit or two here and there (I confess the true value of parquet flooring as a status symbol had hitherto been lost on me) it won't tell you much that you don't know already. There are also one or two places in the book where the listing of class features starts to degenerate into... well, a list. And lists don't exactly make for entertaining reading. That said, in all fairness such moments are few and far between.
A more pervasive problem is that the author comes across as just a little too pleased with his own upper middle class status. Possibly even mildly delusional. I say that because he repeatedly groups his own claimed class as one of "the top three classes", implicitly including it among the uppers. I'm sorry Prof Fussell, but it's "upper middle", not "lower upper". Every good Marxist knows you have to look at the class's relationship to the means of production.
Part and parcel of the author's obvious pleasure in his own status (real and perhaps imagined) is that there are times where the writing verges on being smug, or even supercilious. I first came to this author via his son, who wrote Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder. On a technical level both are very talented writers. But the son has mastered one trick that the father has not: He lays bare his own secret fears and shames, his own moments of truth.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
For the most part this is a well written, witty and engaging guided tour through the American class system - and all its many accoutrements. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Theo
I agree with both the positive and negative comments addressed in these reviews; it's funny, observant, mean-spirited, and haphazardly written. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2004 by Daniel Ho
Class is a studied, hilarious, yet tongue-in-cheek dissection of the American social class system. It exposes such fundamentally American (and hence, germane) misconceptions on... Read morePublished on March 14 2004 by Yan Timanovsky
The greatest irony of this admittedly meanspirited but smart little satirical study might seem initially that, in the intervening twenty years since it was published, it has become... Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2004 by Jay Dickson
Fussell himself admitted that this book was possibly too mean-spirited, and his title points out that it really isn't about class but status. Read morePublished on Dec 29 2003 by Drunken Orangetree
Author Paul Fussell swings from contempt to sympathy as he observes the behavior of different classes. Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2003 by southpaw68
Yes. Buy and read this book. Yes, it is over 20 years old, but it remains maddeningly correct, indeed the blueprint for Brooks's Bobos. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2003 by E. M Massanet
Interesting little book. Its not definitive in any sort of way but it still made me think about thing. Outdated though, quite shame he can't write another. Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2003
The first thing that readers should know about this book is that it should be regarded as a book of humor, not a serious book about class or status in America. Read morePublished on Aug. 7 2003
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