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For Common Things: Irony, Trust and Commitment in America Today Paperback – September 12, 2000
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For Common Things is quick to make pronouncements along the lines of "Today's young people are adept with phrases that reduce personality to symptoms," without mentioning that it was their therapy-happy baby boomer parents who introduced words like passive-aggressive and repressed into their vocabulary--and without broaching the possibility that it was the combined failure of the '60s counterculture movement and the loss of faith in government attendant to the Watergate scandal that nurtured cynicism and ironic detachment within the boomers. (Well, perhaps solving the problem is more important than assigning the blame.) At times, the Harvard-educated author's erudition gets the best of him, and his prose takes on a certain academic stiffness. (One wonders, at such moments, if perhaps the book has its roots in a senior thesis.) But when Purdy focuses on personal matters related to his homeschooled West Virginia upbringing, one can detect traces of a passion and intensity that would be well worth developing in future writings. Which is not to say that Purdy doesn't feel strongly about the restoration of civic commitment; this book stands as proof that he does. But anybody can--and many people do--make impersonal assessments of the state of the world; there is a story, however, that only Jedediah Purdy can tell us about community and responsibility. The traces of that story in For Common Things may leave many readers clamoring for more details. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Essays nos. 1-3 and 6 are abstruse and interrelated, nos. 4 and 5 are more specific, dealing with environmental politics and genetic engineering. Purdy puts the blame on "irony" for most of our current ills. He can get away with this because he never defines irony and so it can mean almost anything bad--not just the tragedy of unintended consequences but cynicism, narcissism, despair, political apathy, that jaundiced feeling, hard-heartedness, and so on. He makes a pretty good case for giving up on all this irony and becoming more emotional, more risk-taking, even taking a chance on politics--but then, it has to be HIS type of politics, as we find out in chapters 4 and 5.
Purdy's prose style is so beautiful I had almost forgotten he is only 25 until he veered into "political correctness"--that and the fact he is forever reminding us of how interconnected the human species is (honestly, he does everything but quote John Donne's "No man is an island").
I wish I could have given "For Common Things" four stars and I would have if the argument had flowed a little more smoothly and if the author had been a little less self-absorbed. But he will undoubtedly mellow with age. Most of what I've seen written about him is unfair in the extreme: refusal to argue the merits of his book, shallow ad hominem attacks on his West Va. background and Ivy League education (some even want to pillory him for being a hick AND an East Coast snob--doubly unfair and doubly irrelevant). The book is worth reading, but don't push anyone out of the way to do so.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Well-written innovative, insightful ideas expressed by a deep thinker. A pleasure to read and interesting thoughts to explore.Published 17 months ago by booklover
Need a dictionary to read though, this guy really packs a vocabularyPublished 19 months ago by Sergio Campbell
Ramblings of television shows, authors, philosophers, media of the 1990's, et al with no offering of beneficial enlightenment at all. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Shep
Purdy is a national treasure~! A great critical thinker~! Wonderful food-for-thought book. Buy it, read it, think~!
Although I am a conservative and probably disagree with some of Purdy's specific policy recommendations, I appreciate and agree with his tone and his conception of the nature of... Read morePublished on July 18, 2014 by Michael Lucchese
This book's purpose is to be a wake-up call for all of us who grew complacent to what happens with our society. Read morePublished on April 12, 2014 by Amazon Customer
As I read this book I think that it does not hold up well after September, 2001 when so many aspects of our country changed. Read morePublished on October 17, 2013 by Juneva Kate
An enjoyable book. The writer, Purdy, this fabulous hayseed (coming from one), is about as credulous as it gets. Read morePublished on October 7, 2013 by Dan Crytser