RIP Paul Fussell

Writer, scholar, and critic Paul Fussell, author of such influential works as The Great War and Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, has died at age 88. His New York Times obit is here.

I was assigned Class by some forgotten professor in some forgettable class at university, and although I no longer remember the author of the syllabus or the class for which it was written, I remember Class—it is, in fact, one of the few books acquired at uni that still sits on my shelves.

It is an absolutely scathing (and hilarious) indictment of the (white) US class system, long before anyone talked about Two Americas or The One Percent. Fussell did not lionize the upper class, nor patronizingly ennoble "the proles." He had equal—and abundant—contempt for everyone. And equal affection, too.

Fussell was, in addition to being a great writer, a brutally sardonic asshole. Which I believe he would have received as a compliment.

One of my favorite passages from Class:
X people [members of a creative class who shed many of their class markers] are verbal. … Soliciting no reputation for respectability, X people are freely obscene and profane, but tend to deploy vile language with considerable rhetorical effectiveness… They may be rather fonder than most people of designating someone—usually a public servant or idol of the middle class—an asshole.
Well, I wouldn't know anything about that.

[Note: If there are less flattering things to be said about Fussell, they have been excluded because I am unaware of them, not as the result of any deliberate intent to whitewash his life. Please feel welcome to comment on the entirety of his work and life in this thread.]

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