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Michael Kinsley nails David Brooks

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Cocoa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:00 AM
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Michael Kinsley nails David Brooks
my favorite pundit mercilessly exposes my least favorite one, and does it with a smile on his face.


At the very least, Brooks does not let the sociology get in the way of the shtick, and he wields a mean shoehorn when he needs the theory to fit the joke. Among some of the formerly young, ''the energy that once went into sex and raving now goes into salads.'' O.K., that's funny. So is essentially the same joke a few pages later, when Brooks writes that ''bathroom tile is their cocaine.'' Except that now he's referring to a different one of his demographic slices, which undermines the claim to sociology. And when another joke surfaces three times, it undermines the shtick as well. The ''16-foot refrigerators with the through-the-door goat cheese and guacamole delivery systems''? Ha ha. A large Home Depot salesman ''looking like an S.U.V. in human form''? Ha ha ha. S.U.V.'s ''so big they look like the Louisiana Superdome on wheels''? Enough already.

''In America, it is acceptable to cut off any driver in a vehicle that costs a third more than yours. That's called democracy.'' True? Funny? Wouldn't the joke work just as well the other way? ''. . . a third less than yours. That's called capitalism.'' And if it works both ways as a joke, it must not work at all as a sociological insight.


The term ''Bobos'' (short for ''bourgeois bohemians'') almost joined Tom Wolfe classics like ''the right stuff'' and ''radical chic'' in the Coinage Hall of Fame. The test of a successful coinage (I state with Brooksian bluff-authority) is whether many people use the term without knowing where it came from. If ''Bobos'' ultimately fell short, keep in mind that the challenge was daunting. It would have had to displace a beloved and long-established incumbent -- ''yuppies'' -- describing roughly the same phenomenon. The near miss must have hurt. In his new book, Brooks flings coinage after coinage up against the zeitgeist, hoping that one will stick. Among the more promising contenders are the ''crunchy zone'' (one of his suburban slices), the ''meatloaf line'' (between distant suburbs, where they allegedly don't eat meatloaf, and real rural America, where they do), ''Patio Man'' (from an already famous Brooksian epic about purchasing a barbecue at Home Depot) and ''conquest shopping'' (from the same saga).


The Brooks thesis, if I've got it right, is a lovely, sweet thesis, as genial as the author himself. But a better answer to the question of why, if Americans are so diverse, we get along so much better than those foreigners, might be, ''What in the world are you talking about?'' It certainly is not obvious that the spirit of live-and-let-live is stronger in America than elsewhere. The citizens of other countries at our economic level, like those in the old nations of Europe, seem generally better than we are, not worse, at not rubbing one another raw. Maybe that is because they know they will be rubbing up against one another in any case.

Brooks almost makes this point himself a while later: ''America is not only the nation where you can get a supersize tub of French fries to go with our 32-ounce double cheeseburger, it is also just about the only nation where people blow up abortion clinics.'' But this comes while he is riffing about Americans' inclination toward excess, rather than our mystical ability to get along. So that's different.

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Name removed Donating Member (0 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:03 AM
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Kolesar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:07 AM
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2. Yeah, Kinsley is brilliant
I think he is quite insightful when analyzing politics. Having him skewer Brooks is good fun, though.
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blm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 09:20 AM
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3. Hey Cocoa...Kinsley is MY man.
That is, I've had a crush on him for only about 15 years.

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skypilot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 10:54 AM
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4. Do people actually read David Brooks??
That review made him sound completely pretentious and unreadable.
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KoKo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-25-04 08:04 PM
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5. I agree...It was a "Barf Alert" but music to ears of "Elitist Americans."
:puke: Writing to a sophisticated audience? That's good...I'm not in danger with credit cards or any of that...but it sounds "offensive."
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