February 13, 2004

Drinking, Smoking & Screwing:
Great Writers on Good Times

Edited by Sara Nickles

The Last Taboo -- It's not easy being a writer these days: All of the really good taboos have been broken. Of course, you could argue that writers have grappled with the same challenge for a long time, that so many of the taboos featured here were broken years before Brautigan, Miller, Mencken and Twain came along. Read Shakespeare. Read scripture. Read Homer. Indeed, great storytellers have explored the "good times" since before writing began; yet, this anthology underscores a strong (and necessary) point about the particularly puritanical pretense that is America. Americans cling to prudish values as a way to mask the guilt that arises from our relentless embrace of capitalism. In other words, puritan ethics are merely a smoke screen to conceal the real trouble: the inherent (and criminal) inequities of an economic system that requires a broad base of invisible, illiterate people to serve as poorly paid labor. But rather than talk about that, Americans prefer to debate and legislate lifestyle. After nearly 230 years, we are the World's Greatest Democracy and the World's Greatest Hypocrisy -- a Never-Never Land in which Americans cherish nostalgia and disdain history, covet real estate and detest geography, crave fairness and thrive on ruthless selfishness, venerate entertainment and vilify culture, embrace superstitious faith and spurn spiritual inquiry, relish gossip and shun conversation, revere healthy consumers and ridicule good citizens. Writing about our Great Hypocrisy remains the final -- and most revolutionary -- taboo.


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