By Lee Siegel
Harper, $24.99, 212 pages

It is author Lee Siegel’s belief that when “serious” and “seriously” became intensifiers seriousness went by the wayside in America. In his book Are You Serious? he explores how cultural changes like the information explosion and reality television have eroded our ability to separate fluff from substance. Using his own definition of three characteristics of seriousness (attention, purpose, continuity) he looks at examples in modern culture, politics and business and how this trend has impacted us all. He discusses the interesting phenomena of our shift from ideas (which engender discussion) to the new political/news favorite- issues (which actually discourages ideas and polarizes people).

The economic crisis has forced a massive layoff of the intellectuals.

For readers used to the sound bytes and loud voices that increasingly confront us in our everyday information sources, a methodical, thoughtful look at any subject may feel uncomfortable. This book is not filled with glib solutions but it is well written and Siegel has a dry wit that keeps the reader engaged.

Bottom line? If you’re someone interested in America’s cultural shift from serious to silly and wondering where you fall into the spectrum then this is well worth reading. If you get your news from TMZ, probably not.


Reviewed by Catherine Gilmore,