social commentary

Action Figure! The Life and Times of Doonesbury's Uncle Duke

By G.B. Trudeau

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"...the definitive history of his adventures from 1970 to 1991.The perennial bad boy of American comics has always been a man of action: libelous action, irrational action, covert action, back-street action -- even when comatose, he has a certain flair. Duke is the man of a thousand vices, with almost as many pages to his resume. For 17 years, from Samoa to China to Panama to Kuwait, wherever serious mischief was being dealt, Duke has been a major figure. Action Figure! gives the Toasted One his due -- one vast, staggering flashback that tracks his careening career from Gonzo Journalist to Governor, Ambassador, Coach, Laetrile Farmer, Fugitive, and Zombie. No risk has been too great, no prospect too strange, to sway the man with nerves of steel from his random course."

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Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class

By Jefferson Cowie

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"An epic account of how working class America hit the rocks in the political and economic upheavals of the 1970s, this work is a wide ranging cultural and political history that presents the decade in a whole new light. The author's work, part political intrigue, part labor history, with large doses of American music, film, and TV lore, makes new sense of the 1970s as a crucial and poorly understood transition from the optimism of New Deal America to the widening economic inequalities and dampened expectations of the present. It takes us from the factory floors of Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit to the Washington of Nixon, Ford, and Carter. The author connects politics to culture, showing how the big screen and the jukebox can help us understand how America turned away from the radicalism of the 1960s and toward the patriotic promise of Ronald Reagan."

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Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible 70's

By James Lileks

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"Warning! This book is not to be used in any way, shape, or form as a design manual. Rather, like the documentary about youth crime 'Scared Straight,' it is meant as a caution of sorts, a warning against any lingering nostalgia we may have for the 1970s, a breathtakingly ugly period when even the rats parted their hair down the middle. (Please note that the author and publisher are not responsible for the results of viewing these pictures.) James Lileks came of age in the 1970s, and for him there was no crueler thing you could inflict upon a person. The music: either sluggish metal, cracker-boogie, or wimpy ballads. Television: camp without the pleasure of knowing it's camp. Politics: the sweaty perfidy of Nixon, the damp uselessness of Ford, the sanctimonious impotence of Carter. The world: nasty. Hair: unspeakable. Architecture: metal-shingled mansard roofs on franchise chicken shops. No oil. No fun. Syphilis and Fonzie.

"Interior Desecrations is the author's revenge on the decade. Using an ungodly collection of the worst of 1970s interior design magazines, books, and pamphlets, he proves without a shadow of a doubt that the '70s were a hideously grim period. This is what happens when Dad drinks, Mom floats in a Valium haze, the kids slump down in the den with a bong, and the decorator is left to run amok. It seemed so normal at the time. But this book should cure whatever lingering nostalgia we have. So adjust your sense of style, color, and taste. beware! You've been warned."

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Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture

By Juliet B. Schor

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"Schor, author of 'The Overworked American' and 'The Overspent American,' looks at the broad implications of this strategy. Sophisticated advertising strategies convince kids that products are necessary to their social survival. Ads affect not just what they want to buy, but who they think they are and how they feel about themselves. Based on long-term analysis, Schor reverses the conventional notion of causality: it's not just that problem kids become overly involved in the values of consumerism; it's that kids who are overly involved in the values of consumerism become problem kids. In this revelatory and crucial book, Schor also provides guidelines for parents and teachers. What is at stake is the emotional and social well-being of our children."

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Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There

By David Brooks

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A brilliant description of upscale culture in America. Laugh (and cry) as you read about the information age economy's new dominant class. Marvel at their attitudes toward morality, sex, work, and lifestyle, and at how the members of this new elite have combined the values of the countercultural sixties with those of the achieving eighties. These are the people who set the tone for society today, for you. They are bourgeois bohemians: Bobos. Are you a Bobo?

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Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby will not comfort you, or soothe you, or ease you into a restful slumber. It will most likely disturb and haunt you, though. Palahniuk is a master of modern horror, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that this novel’s title refers to a sweet song which has the power to obliterate humankind.

Lullaby is narrated by Carl Streator, a bitter misanthrope who works as a journalist. When Streator is assigned to investigate a series of crib deaths, he fixates on the minute details associated with each case. This strategy allows Streator to keep thoughts of his deceased wife and child from overwhelming him, but it also brings him closer to a terrible revelation. Each time he visits another stricken home and memorizes another tragic scene, he gets closer to identifying the pattern lurking within these seemingly random deaths.