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Bad, or the Dumbing of America

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  276 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
With characteristic wit, Fussell zeroes in on the decline of good taste in America. Bad is a hilarious look at how Americans can be persuaded that almost anything that's bad is good. With hints on how to recognize just what's BAD these days, Fussell provides an amusing and illuminating look at the current state of taste in America.
Paperback, 201 pages
Published October 1st 1992 by Touchstone Books (first published October 1st 1991)
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Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
This has been on my 'want to read' list for quite a few years. I was somewhat fascinated by Fussell's book, "Class" (and still have a hardcover copy on one of my home shelves), so how could I possibly resist another that was subtitled 'the dumbing of America'? And the book is twenty years old exactly (written in post-Reagan 1991), so of course I was curious. Would Fussell turn out to be a prophet? Or, would this turn out to be like the other books I've read recently from the early 90's--just a q ...more
East Bay J
Fussell’s definition of BAD (as opposed to just plain bad) is, “something phony, clumsy, witless, untalented, vacant, or boring that many Americans can be persuaded is genuine, graceful, bright, or fascinating.” And, oh boy, is there a truckload of BAD in this country! Fussell covers everything from movies to books to restaurants and more. The entire chapter on BAD conversation should be sent en masse to everyone in this country.

On television: “Although now and then it tries to cover its shame a
D.M. Dutcher
Apr 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is bad, but not BAD. The premise of it is that America specifically has become BAD-when standard badness or crappiness gets promoted as good usually through pretention, laziness, or other factors. He lists brief snapshots of BAD thinking, BAD movies, etc. Some more or less are repeated from his book Class, some are new.

However without the structure of Class, this book comes across as random whining about things he doesn't like. It's more snobbery about America, with some of it being qu
Nov 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Considering the author's disdain of fancy words for pretentious purposes, I have to wonder why he chose to use the word "emplaced" instead of placed or "descanted" instead of commented, remarked, or criticized. Hmm.

Fussel is on a rant and offers little to no argument to back up his opinions. Even though I agree with some of his opinions I can't recommend this book. Try Class if the topic interests you.
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Americans
Fussell is a cranky man. But what our culture needs is more cranks, and Fussell is one of our greatest.

So what is the difference between 'bad' and 'BAD'? You'll have to read to find out. But if you want a funny, witty look at American 'culture' that spares nothing, you need this book. It's a book that our country, which boasts a populace that is poor, morbidly obese and yet somehow malnourished, needs.
Jul 14, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing after CLASS - A throwaway, sometimes funny, sometimes savage, but sadly never consistently either. It's not enough to list a few bad things and a few BAD things - you need a big theory of why dumb crap is taking over and what can be done. Otherwise it's just sniffy noises from behind the curtains.
Keith Davis
Two and a Half Men is bad television, but Downton Abbey is BAD television. The difference as explained by Fussell is that "bad" is just poorly executed while "BAD" is also pretentious. A dinner at Burger King might be bad, but a dinner at a pompous bistro where more effort is put into the creative writing in the menu than the actual cooking is definitely BAD.

The twenty years that have passed since the publication of this book make some of Fussell's complaints almost quaint, for example he compla
Frank Inserra
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the author's "Class" somewhat more than this book, but that should not detract from this book's unique contribution to the explanation of how American culture becomes more jaded and retrograde with each passing day. His catalog of "bad things" could equally be called "getting worse without compunction." As usual, the professor keeps it lively with sharp wit and clean writing. His take on the American educational system and its increasing hucksterism will leave you paralyzed with laught ...more
I think of this book every time a waiter tells me how an item is 'presented.' Fussell's theory is that there's bad (things that are not good) and then there's BAD (things that are overly pretentious and bad). The book is a series of funny and curmudgeonly essays on particular instances of BAD in American culture, and language (the 'presentation' of a meal, calling a townhouse a 'townhome') is one of his favorite topics.
Nov 05, 2016 rated it did not like it
For someone who claims to dislike pomposity so much, he sure writes with a lot of it...

Part of the problem is that the book is dated now, but part of the problem is also the author's own self-righteous airs in making criticisms.
Leonard Pierce
May 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
Fussell's book is really just a collection of short, cranky essays on prole drift and the increasingly frustrating character of life in America, but his insightful observations and cool, deadly prose make this work reading.
Aug 02, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, media, philosophy
Paul Fussell is a critic and english professor who has an acerbic and keen eye for the absurd, the contentious and the meaningful. This is a screed against modernity and a funny, witty and perceptive one.
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Did you like the movie idiocracy? This book explains how we are on the road to that future.
John Roberson
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Fussell pretty much just whines about one thing or another, two pages at a time. The problem is that there's not often anything particularly insightful about his whining, at least not in 2011.
May 03, 2007 added it
Recommends it for: Adults
Here, we find Fussell as hilarious, cranky, grumpy, and insightful as ever.
Oct 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
A sort of sequel to the far superior Class but still insightful and funny. Fussell is a wonderful curmudgeon.
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
It appealed to my angry, snobby side. Now, I can't stop noticing things in America that are BAD. .
Aug 31, 2011 rated it did not like it
I think one of the other reviewers said it best: this book is for unapologetic elitists. It completely turned me off from the first chapter.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished
Meaningful, hilarious, witty and grumpy notes about mankind's stupidity. I enjoyed it.
Jan 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Elitist whining about why/how people are stupid. Does not age well.
Apr 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The opinion of a grumpy aging white man that everything is going to hell in a handbasket. Which is worse: those who say everything is getting worse, or those who say everything is getting better?
Joel Chapman
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fabulous laseration of America's worst foibles! I couldn't stop laughing!
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Total letdown after the brilliant, sardonic "Class". Also, very dated.
Robert Budzul
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone that hates America
Superb read. Makes many great observations about modern society especially in America.
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
How can something be so depressing, but so fun to read? It's like being in the Magic Teacups on Valium...look, everything's going down the toilet...giggle...
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Dec 16, 2008
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Book entitled "Bad" with a subtitle [s] 6 46 Jul 31, 2014 04:37PM  
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Paul Fussell was an American cultural and literary historian, author and university professor. His writings covered a variety of topics, from scholarly works on eighteenth-century English literature to commentary on America’s class system. He was an U.S. Army Infantry officer in the European theater during World War II (103rd U.S. Infantry Division) and was awarded both the Bronze Star and the Pur ...more
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