Anger is chic. Anger is empowering. Anger shows self-confidence. Since October 13, 1955, when Allen Ginsberg stood in a San Francisco gallery and read his poem “Howl,” while Jack Kerouac slapped time with an empty wine bottle, anger has become the all-purpose merit badge of authenticity. Today, we have “grrrl power,” designed to teach preteens the importance of cultivating their inner Fury, and Internet blogs that, like Old Faithful, burst with scalding steam on the hour.
With a flair for storytelling, Peter Wood illuminates a profound shift in the American psyche. His serious but witty account of the rise of the “angri-culture” draws the sting from our increasingly common bouts of public and private fury. Will the red-hot thread of anger be woven indelibly into the new American character?
In this wryly observant book, Dr. Wood explains how Americans traded their older habits of civility and emotional restraint for the chancy excitements of anger and outrage. On the way to alpine skier Bode Miller’s contempt-to-spare style, he recalls the Revolutionary firebrand James Otis, literally struck dead by a lightning bolt. How is Eleanor Porter’s 1913 children’s story Pollyanna connected to fellow Vermonter Howard Dean’s 2004 Iowa campaign scream? What’s the difference between Bing Crosby crooning “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” in 1932 and Wu-Tang Clan rapping “C.R.E.A.M.” in 1993?
New Anger is everywhere, from talk show takedowns to enraged athletes, from anger-anthem music to vein-popping tirades. Above all, we have angry politics. Is Hillary Clinton too angry for a presidential hopeful? Or are Republicans the real hot coals in the national rotisserie?
This fascinating book sweeps the reader into America’s new emotional maelstrom, where work, politics, music, sports, therapists, the media, families, and friends are drowned out in the roar of egocentric rage. Dr. Wood cleverly shows us the sane way back to the shores of self-control.