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For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today
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For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  186 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
Arguing for renewed attention to "common things, " Purdy gives a ringing and heartfelt plea for commitment to--and faith in--American civic and political life.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 31st 1999 by Knopf (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 499)
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Matt Evans
Earnest and almost kind of pushy, with a dash of self-righteousness. This book made me hate irony and then, slowly, I began to hate Mr. Purdy for making me hate irony. Now, older and wiser (I read the book back in 2000), I remember only that this book introduced me to The Captive Mind, by Czeslaw Milosz. Mr. Milosz's novel book is required reading for anyone who seeks to understand communism (outside of the Reagan-era Evil-Empire propoganda).
Nov 03, 2014 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a charming little mess of a book that took me approximately forever to finish. It's meandering, and dated, and not as good as the things it's heavily cribbing from (Purdy does at least acknowledge his debts to Tocqueville, Thoreau, and Wendell Berry - I suspect he should add Robert Putnam and possibly some of DFW's essays to that list), but there's something to it that still matters 15 years later. It's a book that has attracted a lot of negative attention, and I think unfairly so - the ...more
Robert Corbett
Jul 18, 2013 Robert Corbett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Good ole dim american calvinism. Imagine he studied with Harvey Mansfield at Harvard and got a book contract that way. And eventually became a lawyer. Yes, this is a young man's book, and there should some leeway because of that, but to be so self-puffed that one can't see how one has simply mistaken an effect for a cause. For dear reader, no well, if there is anything that is common in America, it is irony and humor and back handed pragmatic overcoming of fear that keeps the country together--t ...more
J. Dunn
I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about irony, its pervasive effect on the way we think and communicate, and what the implications of that are for our personal, social, and political prospects. This isn’t incredibly sophisticated or original from a theory or analysis standpoint, but what it’s saying is nonetheless important and worth saying, especially on the part of someone of my own generation who has grown up in an irony-saturated society. Seems like a good bridge between Foster Wallace’s ...more
Feb 07, 2015 booklover rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-written innovative, insightful ideas expressed by a deep thinker. A pleasure to read and interesting thoughts to explore.
D. George
I dearly wish that I could give this book five stars, and encourage everyone to read it, because the world (or at least the U.S.) would be a better place if more people shared Purdy's convictions. But unfortunately, as much as I love the sentiment, I'm afraid I just hate its delivery -- to say that I'm not a fan of Purdy's writing voice would be a gross understatement. Again, though, the ideas in this book need to be spread as widely as possible, and I hope that most people don't share my aversi ...more
Greg Whaley
May 08, 2012 Greg Whaley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really great book. I had not considered the vicissitudes of the rise of societal ironicism and its virulent effect on the public square. It caused me to wonder if the current disingenuous political landscape is not a repercussion of the culture's praise and adulation of the ironist. The book was a powerful call to understanding how the things (people and freedoms) we love are dependent on the common systems and institutions inherent in our democracy.
Ann Rothschild
As this was originally published in 1999, I thought I was a little late to the party on this one. The content inspires hope and weariness. I remember being in high school in 1974 and have a mixture of hope and disillusionment. This writer was born in 1974 and deconstructs the irony and the sarcasm he experiences. There is hope and there is fear. The thread here is hope, and that makes this book worth the read.
Mar 06, 2011 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love you, please change. Jed's love letter to humanity is a passionate plea to sensibility and responsibility. We must all live with a clear sense of who we are and act with conviction upon our beliefs. We must recognize the limitations of our laws and governments and leverage our individual creativity and collective might to help make the world a better place for all. I couldn't agree more.
Mar 15, 2015 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well written book that echoes some of my thoughts but also seems a little long winded in some areas.
Jan 16, 2011 Lee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes unable to resist the urge to skim sections about Central European politics or West Virginian mountaintop removal. Engaged through first 100 pages. Classically steady prose, mostly persuasive, respectful, insightful, but also often outdated, especially a lot of the apolitical bits. I wonder what he thinks of ironic political shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report?
Jody Hultman
Nov 21, 2008 Jody Hultman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All of you!
Jedediah brings back faith in my generation. We're not all slack-jawed, lazy, no-good bums after all. There are the rare few of us who still see past the outer layers and seek to better the world one person at a time. Thank you Jedediah!
I liked all the talk about strip mining. That's the most I remember about the book. However, I have kept it for ten years so there must be some good reason why I never sold it.
Mar 31, 2008 Tyler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good insight into our culture and what may be wrong. Jedediah Purdy is a little too smart for me and I had to reread a lot of pages to understand what he was talking about.
Apr 03, 2010 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-argued treatise on behalf of the common good... nice antidote to the selfish, libertarian perspective that undergirds much of today's politics.
Aug 31, 2008 Bonnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe a little bit dry in spots, but relevant and thought provoking. Good read all in all. Too bad more people don't think like this.
Heather C.
Feb 15, 2008 Heather C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book--lots of cool insights on our society. A very good read. I would like chat with this guy over lunch.
Oct 24, 2007 Penny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Looking at today's lack of community through our use of "ironic avoidance."
Oct 20, 2011 Brock rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Trade cynicism and irony for a little righteous indignation.
Jared marked it as to-read
May 23, 2016
Eileen marked it as to-read
May 21, 2016
Jack Keaton
Jack Keaton marked it as to-read
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Kris Underwood marked it as to-read
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Steve DuBois
Steve DuBois rated it it was amazing
May 01, 2016
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