Sunday, April 05, 2009

while reading paul fussell on class in america...

On the working class and unicorns:
"One feature of prole catalogs is the frequency with which the unicorn, of all things, appears. We find plush unicorns, pewter unicorns, brass unicorns, 'Porcelain Revolving Musical Unicorns' -- every conceivable avatar of unicorn. As one catalog announces, 'Unicorns are all the rage these days.' I've spent six months trying to find out exactly why, and I'm finally stumped." (123)

On personalizing:
"There's hardly anything you get from a catalog that can't be personalized... Or how about a navy blue flameproof hearthrug with your family name in Gothic letters beneath seven spaced gold stars and above a golden eagle, in 'Federal' style? That will certainly straighten out visitors puzzled about whose living room they've wandered into." (125)

On the upper class buying cars:
"Class understatement describes the technique: if your money and freedom and carelessness of censure allow you to buy any kind of car, you provide yourself with the meanest and most common to indicate that you're not taking seriously so easily purchasable and thus vulgar a class totem. You have a Chevy, Ford, Plymouth, or Dodge, and in the least interesting style and color. It may be clean, although slightly dirty is best. But it should be boring. The next best thing is to have a 'good' car, like a Jaguar or BMW, but to be sure it's old and beat-up. You may not have a Rolls, a Cadillac, or a Mercedes. Especially a Mercedes, a car, Joseph Epstein reports in The American Scholar (Winter 1981-2), which the intelligent young in West Germany regard, quite correctly, as 'a sign of high vulgarity, a car of the kind owned by Beverly Hills dentists or African cabinet ministers.' The worst kind of upper-middle-class types own Mercedes..." (84-5)

And an appropriate Vonnegut allusion:
"Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops."

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