The Age of Grievance by Frank Bruni [7/10]

Columnist Frank Bruni’s 2022 memoir about vision impairment, The Beauty of Dusk, was gorgeously written, so I snapped up The Age of Grievance as soon as I could. A wide-angled look at the modern phenomenon of grievance politics and culture, this measured, wise everyperson treatise again hums with lovely prose. For example: “The beef that younger generations had with us Boomers was that we’d exploited our turn at the carving station. Now came the divvying-up of gristle and burnt ends.” Bruni emphasizes that grievance per se is a tool for progress, but only if legitimately applied, and he puts the modern, corroding, hate-tinted variety down to this: “There have always been big gaps between how the rich, how the middle class, and how the less fortunate live. Inequality is nothing new. But its present iteration is distinctive, and it’s distinctive in a manner that encourages grievance.” He comes at the subject from myriad angles. A section on the growing presence of dystopian books, movies, and shows, especially zombie-related ones, chimed with me; I had, in my own amateurish fashion, noted how many attractive (for I find myself attracted to them) dystopian items fall into my cultural bucket. He ventures into “cancellation” concerns but with a measured tone: “We’ve let the kind of sensitivity we lacked in the past and very much need in the present morph, in many instances, into a hypersensitivity so strange and even illogical that it’s a kind of insensitivity all its own.” The tumbling of grievance into radicalism hovering on the edge of violence is, naturally, decried: “What’s radicalizing them are grievances puffed up beyond all rationale, swollen by contemporary life and modern politics to the size of a zeppelin.” In two closing chapters, he offers the welcome idea that what is needed is a new humility, humility from politicians, from journalists, from activists, from “ourselves.” Practical suggestions address the U.S. Congress, cities (large and small), employment, education, and social media. The Age of Grievance will, I fear, fail to stand out from the ruck of advice/analysis books currently flooding our bookshops, but it is a superior read of depth and style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *