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Rich People Things: Real-Life Secrets of the Predator Class Paperback – October 18, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review


“This book made me laugh and cry. And wish I were a plutocrat. Chris Lehmann is an amazing writer. I will read his books until I die.”
—Gary Shteyngart

“What a delight it is to have—finally!—an entire book in which Lehmann gives the plutocrats of this world the drubbing they deserve—in delicious detail. His scoffing is a tonic.”
—Thomas Frank

“I am always searching for books that can educate my six grown-up children, not to mention certain recidivist friends, about how this country came to be seduced, pushed, and betrayed into its present state by the money power and its Wall Street–Washington nerve center. When I read Chris Lehmann’s Rich People Things, I was so impressed by its wit, wisdom, and acuity on this matter, by the variety, aptness, and richness of its perceptions and examples, that I bought ten copies to give to family and friends. With my own money. Hard cash. Can I say more? Well, yes, I can. I wish I had written it.”
—Michael C. Thomas, author, Love and Money

“Scathing, scintillating chapters on Malcolm Gladwell; on the Times, and on its ‘chirpy’ and delusional columnist David Brooks; on Wired magazine’s breathless paeans to new media’s broken promises; and on other ventures and adventurers who, often unwittingly, work hard to suppress or deflect their own and their audiences’ understandings of what consumer and casino-finance capitalism are doing to us.”
Talking Points Memo

“Lehmann began his economic blog inspired by ‘the omission of real economic conditions from the accounting of the republic’s collective life.’ Now in book form . . . Lehmann illustrates the ideas, institutions, and individuals he sees as tools for the rich to keep themselves rich—or make themselves richer. The list of offenders includes the US Constitution, the iPad, Reality TV, and the New York Times (in particular, columnist David Brooks). The author explores meritocracy, class warfare, the ‘powerful intellectual opiate’ called the free market, and other ‘hoary American myths.’ Chapters include a description of Atlas Shrugged as a ‘doorstop-sized digest of ideological boilerplate disguised as fictional dialogue, plotting, and character development’ and memoirs, or ‘memoirs,’ (James Frey makes the list) that allow affluent readers to ‘cast one’s fellow citizens as monolithically soulful, suffering, and exoticized others.’ Lehmann concludes his wholly entertaining effort with a particularly astute explanation of how the myth of the middle class has left Americans with an inadequate vocabulary to discuss economic woes; instead, ‘we are committed to the dogmatic belief that we are all affluent entrepreneurs waiting to happen.’ Brutal.”
Publishers Weekly

“Perusing Mr. Lehmann’s volume I found myself wondering, again and again, what exactly is the target psychographic of this veritable wardrobe montage of proletarian resentments? I visualized: employees of used bookstores and/or independent coffee shops, people who don’t own televisions, people who do own televisions on which they occasionally watch Portlandia and other shows they are capable of enjoying with substantial reservations, people who commute to their titular jobs on bicycles they have owned for more than five years, bartenders with a higher than average propensity to reward ‘regular’ customers with complimentary beverages (thus cheating their bosses, which they excuse by some deluded ethical calculus by which the right to steal is a just reward for being sufficiently overeducated to command the loyalty of ‘like-minded’ freeloaders), titular business owners foolish enough to employ such mediocrities, people at once eminently capable of constructing formidable and eloquent arguments making the case for socialized health care on the basis of a litany of broad-based macroeconomic factors and yet chronically incapable of holding down jobs that provide health insurance, childish people who know nothing of money and yet ceaselessly attempt to provoke class warfare by plugging loaded terms like rich and millionaire into otherwise civilized conversations about aspirational luxury, tastemaking lifestyles, the urgent need for deficit reduction by way of entitlement reform, etc . . . . ‘parasites,’ in other words. Given that the authorship of a nonfiction book is widely understood to be an undertaking aimed primarily at marketing one’s services as a paid motivational speaker, it’s hard to imagine why Mr. Lehmann would squander 256 pages addressing such a fragmented and under-capitalized audience. Having read Rich People Things in its entirety, however, it occurred to me that the parasite class does, at least, have time to read books, and that Mr. Lehmann would be an abysmal
motivational speaker.”
—Moe Tkacik, unemployed leftist

About the Author

Chris Lehmann is employed, ever precariously, as an editor for Yahoo! News, Bookforum, and The Baffler. He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, Ana Marie Cox, and a quartet of excellent pets.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books; Updated ed. edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608461521
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608461523
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #597,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Chris Lehman covers a great many topics to show how what he refers to as the "overlords" control the American government and the country's economy, much to the detriment of the working classes. Overall he does a good job of highlighting areas where the 1% with their lack of scruples and integrity have gamed the sociopolitical environment to such a degree that the net effect is truly hopeless.

The problem with this collection of essays is that they provide only a cursory examination of the areas covered and only for a short period of time and often without context. For example he comments on the tax structure in the state of California and blames the two-thirds majority requirements for increasing income taxes and Proposition 13 that has limited property taxes as the source of the problem. He even refers to Proposition 13 as a taxpayer tantrum, clearly not understanding that with the tech boom in California a great deal of real estate suddenly increased in value by 20% or more a year and as a result property taxes also increased greatly. The majority of the people living in Silicon Valley and other hot spots did not have a increase in real income and the increased valuation of their homes meant nothing but they would get a property tax bill for an additional $5,000 and so end up selling their home for years. The problems with Prop 13 were that it was written to apply to both homeowners and businesses with commercial property. Shopping malls and banks and gas stations and super markets were locked in at a low rate and with such property seldom being sold the rate would never increase. Second, the key problem in California is the dependence on property tax in the first place, instead of on income tax.
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Format: Paperback
Chris Lehmann is nothing if not timely publishing Rich People Things, ready to ride the OWS wave. Indeed, if there's an OWS supporter still on your Christmas or Hanukkah list--here's their present. Someday, the author is going to be one of those cranky, curmudgeonly men who chases kids off his lawn with a hose; but for now he is a fired-up lefty who is really pissed off. At whom? Well, pretty much everyone.

In 30 short (I think too short) essays, Lehmann tackles pretty much all the powers that be--elites of every kind. Sometimes shining a light on a topic not thought of enough, sometimes heckling and haranguing the all too familiar. Each huff and every puff is on behalf of the working class and middle class schlub, like you and me. Some of Lehmann's targets are mastedons: Who with half a brain and a smidgeon of soul wouldn't despise the Roberts' Court? The dig at our Founding Fathers is a deserved if pointless jibe (good luck de-sanctifying that crowd) and is used to set up the premise that the monied class has always written the rule book, whether it is the applications we fill out for jobs and college or the very documents that govern us. It's a good point and I think to varying degrees true. Herein lies one of the books problems. Everyone seemingly offends Lehmann equally.

For example, the screed against David Brooks,, who really gets under Lehmann's skin was a big "yeah, so?" for me. I don't know anyone who doesn't think Brooks isn't a mouthpiece for the powerful. On the other hand his piece on The New York Times, which makes some insightful and iconoclastic points is all too brief. Incredibly Brooks gets more ink than his employer which is simply bizarre. Does Lehmann think they are of equal import?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some really great essays here, i.e. Gehry, and then some really obvious ones, like Reality Television. The great essays speak for themselves. The bad ones, usually about more popular cultural topics, hardly speak at all.
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The essays in Rich People Things are filled with sharp wit. The book is the perfect Christmas present. I will be buying it for all of my friends.
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Mr. Lehmann has a few lucid moments in this book but it seems to mostly be a transcript of a conversation he had with himself on numerous contemporary subjects with a major buzz on. He's no Hemingway. Reading this I felt like I was riding a three-legged camel through a field punctuated by foxholes. It wasn't easy and in the end the destination was not worth the trip.
He does the left a huge disservice by putting forth what could have been an interesting and trenchant analysis of our culture and packaging it in a translucent haze, which some may find amusing but I found mostly incoherent. He's young and may someday develop a more accessible style. But this one missed its mark.
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