"Diners, Bowling Alleys, and Trailer Parks: Chasing the...

Editor's Choice

March 11, 2001|By Michael Pakenham

"Diners, Bowling Alleys, and Trailer Parks: Chasing the American Dream in the Postwar Consumer Culture," by Andrew Hurley (Basic Books, 390 pages, $27).

This is serious business: The cultural evolution in the United States in the generation that flowered immediately after World War II. Replete with scholarly endnotes and learned references, it could easily have been soporific or impenetrable. Instead, it is an enchanting, respectful yet clear-eyed exploration of the explosion of what now is called consumerism and the development of a prosperous working-class culture, unleashed by the end of a hideous war that had followed a ghastly depression. Marvelous illustrations, wonderful detail.

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