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Class: A Guide Through the American Status System Paperback – October 1, 1992
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although I was born in South America, I have lived and studied in the US, and I have studied and worked in France and the UK. My experience in all these geographies supports Fussell's conclusions. It is true that the higher the social class, the taller and slimmer people tend to be. It is true that the traditional lower (rather than the underclass) and the higher classes have many things in common, among them a deeply ingrained conservatism and a fierce pride in their way of being. In the UK, working class men's clubs are fighting the same fight which was lost a few years ago by the gentlemen's clubs: the right to keep women away from at least some parts of their premises. Many working class people all over the world deride attempts by others of a similar origin to "pass themselves out" as middle class, and regard middle class dress, speech patterns and social habits as feminine and unsound. There is probably no significant difference in the prejudiced, deeply uncurious mindset of Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh and that of a pensioner his age living in Yorkshire. It is true that strident religious opinions, big hair of unnatural colour and painted nails, or toupees and poorly-fitting jackets are usually the predictor of lower-to lower middle class background, or that high professional qualifications, gym memberships, affiliation with environmental organizations and career ambitions normaly denote urban middle class.
It might be seen as cruel, even evil, to remark on it, but don't the following terms clearly conjure a mental image of a particular order of things?Read more ›
Yes, there is an American aristocracy, but they aren't driving around in Ferraris or living in Beverly Hills. There is even a sort of aristocracy amongst the working class people whom Fussell generally refers to as proles. Fussell's sharp eye has found and catalogued an amazing array of signs that indicate class in America. Try to spot these signs at your next social gathering, or even subject your own living room to the survey at the end of the book (frighteningly accurate way to determine one's class)!
This is a book based on pigeon-holing people, and that is probably what most annoyed readers can't stand about Fussell. But class distinctions do exist, like 'em or not. The middle class hope to rise in class by sending their kids to Harvard or Yale, the Proles hope to do the same by getting more money. Lucky "X Class" people don't give a hoot about such climbing, and fortunately more of us are just veering sideways into that final category which Fussell charts as a kind of class alternative.
Actually, the book could also be a helpful guide to those with a need to temporarily masquerade as a member of a given class... Unfortunate but true that you will get better service at a jeweler's or other tony shop if you dress not so much "up" but into the highest class you can accurately manage. And if you want to blend in at the truck stop, there are plenty of hot tips to be gleaned from this book.
Yes, yes, we should best judge each other only by virtues like honesty and willingness to help, but the book is about class, that dazzling (and now not so mysterious) thing.
Not without the odd mistake (I argue that books piled around the living room are not so much a sign of the upper class as an intellect), it is an excellent, juicy little book that will make you either laugh or curse at Fussell and his incisive wit.
This small book provides a good overview of the rules of the American class game. Paul Fussell delineates the choices people make that cause others to judge and categorize them (since people don't choose their race that subject doesn't appear). Everything from clothes, cars, diction, consumption (conspicuous or inconspicuous), education, housing styles, and physique to pets, reading material, jewelry, food, words, sports, interior decorating, grammar, and entertainment receive brutally honest coverage. These characteristics get evaluated through an objective eye and not through the filter of a specific class. For Fussell has nasty things to say about all of the classes, even the uppers. Though the middle class receives the majority of his invective, being the class of snobbery (due to class insecurity). Regardless, none of the classes come out ahead, and none are ranked as "better" or "superior". The book doesn't aim to judge in the way the classes furtively judge each other. It more delineates while it attempts to expose the rules. And in this it excels.
While the tabulating of pros and cons continues through the first seven chapters, it slowly becomes clear that Fussell isn't condoning class climbing. "Class" won't help anyone "go up".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An entertaining read on social classes in America. defiantly upped my perception of the different classes I observe everyday. He is spot on about the education system. Read morePublished 1 month ago by WN
This book struck me as an interesting magazine article bulked up with just enough fatuous nonsense to make into a dull
book. Read more
A long time ago I read Paul Fussell's "The Great War in Modern Memory", this book had always stuck with me, unlike many other books that I have read and forgot. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jeffrey M. Welch
A book so honest you couldn't write it any more. Fussel is hilarious and his observations ring true from anyone who enjoys observing the patterns and has known a variety of people... Read morePublished 2 months ago by A. C.
Happy Shopper, pleasant experience with the overall services & goods. Thanks!!Published 3 months ago by Lee
First read this 30 years ago and still relevant 30 years later!Published 4 months ago by Linda Epner
I know this book was written tongue in cheek, yet, it provides a vocabulary to describe observable America (and Americans around us). Read morePublished 4 months ago by E. Cook
I read this book for the first time back in 2012 and then re-read it this Summer. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I have thus far read about American culture. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Anagha Kumar