16 Jun 2017

nwhiker: (Default)

One sentence summary: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance is basically one long -very long- poorly written, humblebrag.

Just no.


I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, who is, at least, a good reader if a mediocre writer.

Other one sentence summary: Hillbillies are soooper speshul poor people, whose poverty is different from other poverty.

Seriously, though, the generalizations of "hillbilly"/Appalachian culture made me cringe. The hillbilly code of honor made me sick, a glorification of violence (think honor killings, and you're pretty close).

The book is a memoir, nothing more. These is nothing but triviality in the overall picture of the culture, this is not a socio-cultural study with a memoir interwoven, but, as I said above, a long humblebrag of a memoir. The almost breathless "I don't understand how I, a hillbilly from-- could ever have graduated from Yale Law School, but I'm really an outsider, so I'm really better than all those kids who had it easy, even if they are my friends."

And the stereotypical liberal college student who speaks out against the military and the Iraq War in the same class as our patriotic ex-Marine was just fucking yuck. Abu Ghraib happened, and your rosy picture of all the sensitivity the military displayed in Iraq, in the light of that level of torture and abuse? Not convincing.

It was annoying and repetitive. The author's insistence of calling himself, as a twenty-something, a "kid" grated.

It's almost as if... one of my repeated whines is authors writing about romance, adding in a were-creature, and calling it "fantasy". Nope. In the same way, this book is, mostly about a dysfunctional family (J.D. did NOT have the benefit of a decent family life), but he seems to have used a sprinkling of hillbilly speech, and culture to try to turn his story of growing up with a horrible parents into a larger story. And it doesn't work.

I was also bothered by the cultural generalizations. I don't know much about Appalachian culture, and maybe he is spot on, but some of the glorification of of bad behaviour really bothered me. It also bugged me that he clearly blames the problem of the white working class on pretty much everything BUT the white working class. And truly, while they are certainly NOT 100% of blame, he himself recounts stories of their actions that put the blame squarely there.

Just ugh. At least it was a library audiobook and not something I bought.

ETA. A comment from goodreads does a good job of summing it up:

So, take out the "social analysis" and you're left with 200 pages of memoirs from a 31 year-old (lol) ex-marine cishet white male conservative with a Yale law degree. If that's your thing, then you might enjoy the memoirs. It just doesn't jive with what I had in mind to read this year (or ever).

ETA. Also, how many times does he point out, over the course of the book, this his high school had not produced any Ivy League bound students (before him, of course)? Four? More? Nasty little self-centered conservative "I've got mine, I'm better than my people and the advantaged coastal elites" kinda guy.

The more I think about the book, the angrier and more disgusted it makes me. And it really bugs me that the smarmy little shit is making a mint off of it.

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