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The New Gilded Age: The New Yorker Looks at the Culture of Affluence Hardcover – November 7, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

The New Yorker caters to America's upper classes; it's the kind of magazine meant to be accompanied by a glass of pricey Merlot. Over the years its elitism has waxed and waned. Ex-editor Tina Brown worked valiantly to inject a dose of pop-cultural crassness into its ivory-tower sensibilities: profiling celebrities and publishing fashion issues where models stared out from every page, looking chilly. When David Remnick took over in the late '90s, the magazine shifted, grew quieter and more circumspect, and the old guard breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The New Gilded Age collects essays and profiles from 1999 and 2000 and reveals Remnick's New Yorker to be obsessed with money and business--arguably less interesting than celebrity, but also deeper ways of looking at America and power. The title refers to the period of technological revolution symbolized by the rise of Microsoft, the booming of Silicon Valley, and the end of the belief that an Ivy League education will get you anywhere.

What's admirable about this New Yorker is its timeliness; the way, without seeming like a panicked "edge" magazine, it managed to document and acknowledge the shifting sands of the millennial moment. Standouts in this regard: William Finnegan on the protesters behind the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle; Ken Auletta following Bill Gates through various meltdowns as he comes to terms with the federal government's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. These are painstakingly reported pieces in which style is submerged. The more audacious writers tend to be women. In "," Joan Didion describes Martha Stewart in a flood of rapt lyricism:

This is not a story about a woman who made the best of traditional skills. This is a story about a woman who did her own I.P.O. This is the "woman's pluck" story, the dust-bowl story, the burying-your-child-on-the-trail story, the I-will-never-go-hungry-again story, the Mildred Pierce story, the story about how the sheer nerve of even professionally unskilled women can prevail, show the men; the story that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men.
In "Landing from the Sky," Adrian Nicole LeBlanc creates a portrait of a young Puerto Rican woman with too many kids and too much trouble. The writing here is exquisite and passionate: "Jessica created an aura of intimacy wherever she went. You could be talking to her in the middle of Tremont and feel as if a confidence were being exchanged beneath a tent of sheets."

Jessica's story seems far from the world of The New Yorker's target audience. When in "My Misspent Youth" Meghan Daum laments her poverty and credit card debt, then reveals she lives alone in a $1,500-a-month apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side, you have to wonder: Did the poor thing ever hear of roommates? As both a document and celebration of such rarefied and privileged attitudes, The New Gilded Age is a rich, informative glimpse into America at the turn of the millennium--before the NASDAQ crashed and the dot-com kids went home to count their losses. --Emily White

From Publishers Weekly

These essays, all of which were written during this time of unprecedented American prosperity, and culled by Remnick from the New Yorker, give readers the opportunity to viewAup close and personalAthe current economic boom's effect on the average and not-so-average among us. Notables profiled (in a section entitled "The Barons") include ?ber-developer Donald Trump and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who give readers the opportunity to ponder the different ways people define what, exactly, constitutes "rich." For Gates, money is very much a by-product of his desire to create hegemony. For Trump, it's a fulfillment of the adage that he who dies with the mostAand most ostentatiousAtoys, wins. Sections entitled "The Web" and "The Life" give the newly rich the skinny on how and where to spend a fortune while not looking as if they've done so. Remnick doesn't exclude those not blessed by the boom economy. He presents the recently paroled Jessica, a Hispanic woman whose looks and vulnerability were her ticket to a brutal stint as the girlfriend of a Bronx drug lord; and we also see James Wilcox, whose widely acclaimed comic novels have failed to bring in enough money to keep him very far from eating in the soup kitchen where he regularly volunteers. Readers don't need to be rich to enjoy this volume, but they need a healthy curiosity about the impact of moneyAand its absence. (Nov. )
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (November 7, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505416
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,899,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elaine R. Meyer on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
As indicated in the review's title, the composite of this book is a useful and quite accurate historical view of the late-nineties. In light of this, the fact that these essays were written at the time is mostly negligible because the writers seem to have a sense of how the attitudes, fads, and people of the late-90s fit in to the broader themes that will come to define the period when it is transcribed by historians. This book is at its best when editor Remnick is mindful of this historical purpose. For example, the inclusion of two David Brooks essays offers perspectives on the social networks and the yuppie consumerism of the nineties that is both humorous and culturally relevant. The insclusion of Malcom Gladwell's "Six Degrees of Lois Weissberg," on the other hand, is somewhat self-indulgent: there is no justifiable reason that it should be included in a book about the late nineties, nothwithstanding the quality of the essay. Overall, the essays are of interest, though one would have liked to see less space devoted to essays about the internet and more space devoted to other areas of interest. On the other hand, I would much sooner have David Remnick's edited version of the late nineties than Tina Brown's!
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By D. Hamilton on September 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The material in this book has grown more interesting over time, viewed now in the rear-view mirror of economic crash and recession. Watch for the telling references to "The Great Gatsby" and consider this connection: "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." Now that the new gilded age party is over, and the mess remains, it's good to retrospectively recall how the party was planned -- and who carelessly planned it.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. The writing is great. What an amzing journey through the depths, heights and depths of affluence. I recommend it.
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3 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The pieces in this collection are a cut above the pieces you find in other weeklies, like New York magazine, but they suffer in comparison to "fact" pieces published during the Shawn administration. A lot of these pieces were obviously written in a hurry, and the haste is evident. David Remnick is a capable editor, but he's not a genius. Shawn was a genius.
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