Barbara Ehrenreich - Going To Extremes: Notes From a Divided Nation (4 stars)

Barbara Ehrenreich

POLITICAL NON-FICTION

(Granta)

Although any balanced reader might browse the political essays and features of left-wing American commentator Barbara Ehrenreich and get a vague sense of agitprop being deployed, perhaps that’s just the author’s bold and sometimes sarcastic style. Perhaps, but most pieces are three pages long, obviously produced previously as periodical columns (the author writes or has written for The Progressive, The New York Times, Time magazine), and so must be punchy and attention-grabbing. Some sample titles: ‘Banish the Bloated Overclass’, ‘Minimum Wage Rises, Sky Does Not Fall’.

By this basis, the collection – originally published as This Land is Their Land: Reports From a Divided Nation in the US – is a coffee table read, a work to be nibbled at rather than devoured. On these terms it’s excellent, with Ehrenreich examining America’s widening financial divisions by bringing leftfield insight to the representations of Michael Mann’s Miami Vice film, or whether greasy food is seen as a sign of affluence or poverty. Beware, though, the writer’s good-natured cynicism can be infectious if devoured all at once.

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