Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Lost Art of Wit and Sarcasm

PZ Myers on Salon reviews a book that I'm never going to read [David Brooks' dream world for the trust-fund set]. Unfortunately he uses language and style that's probably far above the heads of those who need convincing. But it's loads of fun.
I made it almost a third of the way through the arid wasteland of David Brooks' didactic novel, "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement," before I succumbed. I had begun reading it determined to be dispassionate and analytic and fair, but I couldn't bear it for long: I learned to loathe Harold and Erica, the two upscale avatars of upper-middle-class values that Brooks marches through life in the story. And then I began to resent the omniscient narrator who narrates this exercise in unthinking consumption and privilege that is, supposedly, the ideal of happiness; it's like watching a creepy middle-aged man fuss over his Barbie and Ken dolls, posing them in their expensive accessories and cars and houses and occasionally wiggling them in simulated carnal relations (have no worries, though: Like Barbie and Ken, no genitals appear anywhere in the book), while periodically pausing to tell his audience how cool it all is, and what is going on inside his dolls' soft plastic heads.

I did manage to work my way through the whole book, however, by an expediency that I recommend to anyone else who must suffer through it. I simply chanted to myself, "Die, yuppie scum, die," when I reached the end of each page, and it made the time fly by marvelously well. In addition, there is a blissful moment of catharsis when you reach the last page and one of the characters does die, although it isn't in a tragic explosion involving a tennis racket, an overdose of organic fair-trade coffee, and an assassination squad of rogue economists at Davos, as I was hoping. That's not a spoiler, by the way; the book is supposed to be all about the happy, productive life histories of Harold and Erica, from birth to death, so it's no surprise that at least one dies. It is incomplete, in that the other one survives ... an unsatisfying ending that I could happily resolve with one more bloody page, and that represents the only case I can imagine in which I'd ever ask David Brooks to write another word.


  1. I couldn't tell - did PZ Myers like the book or not?

  2. Many people grow out of the juvenile sarcastic stage.

  3. If you liked this book, you should look up Brooks' article (NY Times) wherein he blame Haitians for the earthquake that struck underneath Port au Prince. The fault somehow lies in their being black, poor and practicing voodoo. It is, needless to say, a real classic.

  4. Here is the link for the David Brooks article:

    People can judge for themselves.

  5. I am getting really annoyed by PZ being so snarky all the time. He is quickly becoming an empty shock jock, a type of Howard Stern of the egghead blogosphere.

  6. _The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement_is a novel? I'm already exhausted by the title, which, with the extension after the colon, sounds like an academic paper, not a piece of fiction or conversely chick lit.

    However, a different style of review of Brooks book can be found at

    You will find that Douglas Bell's review is focused on Brooks’ novel and not on the reviewer, which is the correct focus of a review.