I’ve carried around Paul Fussel’s book, Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, for years and through several moves. I recently re-read the book for somewhere around the 10th time, and was as amused and intrigued as the first time I read it when I was just out of college.
Class is an entertaining expose of how the truly “out-of-sight wealthy” (this means those royalty in places like Greece, not wealthy “debutantes” like Paris Hilton–according to this book, she’d merely be rich, not upper class) live as opposed to how those of us in the mundane middle classes live. But…which “middle class” are you? There are, according to Fussel, several levels of middle class–upper-middle, middle-middle, and lower-middle. He goes into detail about these and also the “proletariat” or lower classes.
You’ll like this book if you “get” why a worn, threadbare rug is higher class than a brand spanking new rug. Or, that a dusty room messy with books and newspapers is higher class than a sparkling clean living room with the latest t.v. set. What bespeaks “really old money”–an old chevy that’s been kept up or the flashy Ferrari?
It’s fun to take a glimpse at the snobbery of the upper classes and the sometimes sad yearning and pretensions of the middle classes. A caveat: this book was written years ago, so some of the standards have changed…some of the upper class trappings are far more attainable than they used to be, so some folks can pretend to the upper classes. Still, a very fun read.
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One thought on “How classy are you?”
I read a couple of books by Fussell a few years ago, The Great War and Modern Memory and Wartime. Both excellent reads (although the argument in the first one is a bit of a stretch). Thanks for the recommendation. I had never heard of this one. I work, periodically, in fundraising, and I find it very helpful to know something about what’s going on in the heads of the wealthy. Another really good resource in this regard, and an extremely funny book as well, is A Natural History of the Rich (I forget the author’s name, but he takes the insights of anthropology and applies them to the very wealthy).
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