Oh, misanthropy and sourness.
Gary wanted to enjoy being a man of wealth and leisure, but the country was making it none too easy. All around him, millions of newly minted American millionaires were engaged in the identical pursuit of feeling extraordinary - of buying the perfect Victorian, of skiing the virgin slope, of knowing the chef personally, of locating the beach that had no footprints. There were further tens of millions of young Americans who didn’t have money but were nonetheless chasing the Perfect Cool. And meanwhile the sad truth was that not everyone could be extraordinary, not everyone could be extremely cool; because whom would this leave to be ordinary? Who would perform the thankless work of being comparatively uncool?
Well, there was still the citizenry of America’s heartland: St. Judean minivan drivers thirty and forty pounds overweight and sporting pastel sweats, pro-life bumper stickers, Prussian hair. But Gary in recent years had observed, with plate-tectonically cumulative anxiety, that population was continuing to flow out of the Midwest and toward the cooler coasts. (He was part of this exodus himself, of course, but he’d made his escape early, and, frankly, priority had its privileges.) At the same time, all the restaurants in St. Jude were suddenly coming up to European speed (suddenly cleaning ladies knew from sun-dried tomatoes, suddenly hog farmers knew from crème brûlée), and shoppers at the mall near his parents’ house had an air of entitlement offputtingly similar to his own, and the electronic consumer goods for sale in St. Jude were every bit as powerful and cool as those in Chestnut Hill. Gary wished that all further migration to the coasts could be banned and all midwesterners encouraged to revert to eating pasty foods and wearing dowdy clothes and playing board games, in order that a strategic national reserve of cluelessness might be maintained, a wilderness of taste which would enable people of privilege, like himself, to feel extremely civilized in perpetuity —
But enough, he told himself. A too-annihilating will to specialness, a wish to reign supreme in his superiority, was yet another Warning Sign of clinical D.
Jonathan Franzen / The Corrections>