More insightful than all the remaindered collections of Maureen Dowd's columns, Brooks' book will not be to everybody's tastes. There is indeed a thin line between love and hate, and Brooks nimbly dances along that tightrope, sometimes leaning to to one side or the other, as he views America's suburbs through a rose-colored glass darkly. But he ultimately (and wisely) chooses an optimistic outlook, which infuriates the worryworts of the left to no end.
Brooks may not always get every little factoid right, but who else in cosmo places like New York and Seattle is even bothering to try? They're all too busy staring at their navels to see the rest of our nation. 10 points to Brooks for at least getting off the island and getting out there, into the misty wilds of contemporary suburbia.
As for Michael Kinsley's alleged "evisceration" of Brooks' book, it barely broke Brooks' skin. Kinsley accuses him of -- gasp! -- being a liberal. He also accuses Brooks of not being black-and-white enough in his assessments, i.e., of engaging in -- horror! -- nuance. Excuse me, but since when did these become sins in the eyes of the cosmopolitan set, and how come I never got the memo?
Kinsley's envy of Brooks' success is palpable, but then what do you expect from a dried-up former wunderkind who sold his soul to Microsoft and hasn't had a single interesting idea since he edited the New Republic decades ago? He reminds me of nothing so much as bitter old Mr. Potter in "It's A Wonderful Life," muttering his malice toward that young, energetic whippersnapper George Bailey.
Some call Brooks' book shallow. These are people who believe that repeating exhausted cliches like "the Emperor has no clothes" is an example of depth. You also won't like this book if you believe that calling someone a "right wing propagandist," a "neo-con," or (better yet) "Frodo" is an actual insight.
But I actually burst out laughing when I realized that at least four of the one-starred reviews below were posted by New Yorkers. How many of them do you think are angry NYT reporters who resent Brooks getting a column before they did? And note to "St. Louis" -- Brooks grew up in Pennsylvania, not Manhattan.
Brooks occasionally overrreaches, but he never fails to entertain. Truth is something greater than the sum of facts, and Brooks gets the greater part right. If you have a sense of humor and a modicum of interest in "those people" who dwell in suburban America, then you will love this book. If you don't have a sense of humor, sorry, I can't help you.