Monday, July 14, 2008

American Nerd: the story of my people

by Benjamin Nugent

While the author makes no pretense of this being a scholarly approach to the history of nerd-dom, it does begin with what seems to be a reasonably comprehensive survey of the origin and early uses of not only the word but the very concept itself. It starts out literary-historical, but when the explication arrives at the recent past it gets a bit bogged down in the minutiae of certain pop culture instances of nerdiness.

The next phase is more philosophical and looks at contemporary cultures of nerditude; I particularly enjoyed the chapter that discusses the way hipsters co-opt aspects of nerd culture.

There's a thread of the author's personal life as a nerd throughout the book, and it continues to grow stronger, eventually forming the central theme of the final third of the book. While the personal stories (the author interviews some of his friends back in his D&D days) are, in a way, less interesting, they're also more poignant and come closest to a critique of the injustice of nerd persecution. It's touched upon in several instances, and any more wouldn't really fit within the scope of this book, but the day-to-day suffering of school-age nerds is a serious problem in contemporary American society.

Good flow, easy and relatively quick to read. Didn't blow my mind, but it was good enough and short enough that it didn't need to do so.

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