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Isabel Lyman Book Reviews by Izzy Lyman

For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today For Common Things
by Jedediah Purdy

Meet Jedediah Purdy.

To the media elite, he's the John McCain of home-schoolers. They can't stop gushing about the lad with the impress-a-liberal credentials.

Raised on 100 acres in rural West Virginia, Jedediah wasn't burdened with lesson plans by his homesteading parents. Rather, he dug potatoes, herded milk cows, listened to adult conversations, played in the mud with his sister and read constantly. Purdy, 24, graduated from Harvard and is studying law at Yale.

The purpose of Purdy's little tome, For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today, is two-pronged: He shares vignettes from his upbringing (beautifully written) while explaining what's wrong with the country (pretentious-sounding). Sample: “Irony, it must be said, raises the bar for anyone who would maintain conviction.”

Purdy thinks Americans are self-absorbed types, enamored of wealth and celebrity. He calls for a renewed interest in common things -- the environment, education and government -- and a dedication to improve civic life and public discourse. “Be like Thoreau, not Seinfeld” could be his motto.

There's an irony in Purdy's noble sentiments: They would most likely vanish into a black hole without the big-gun publisher that's aggressively promoting his book to us shallow Americans.

This article appeared in The Oklahoman on April 30, 2000.

Isabel Lyman lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. A former editorial columnist for the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, her views have appeared in various national publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily. She may be contacted via e-mail by clicking here.
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