Report on the HillBilly Elegy by JD Vance
Reporting back on our discussions I reflect that Hillbilly Elegy was not badly received, so first off thanks to Mike and Fergal for that coalition recommendation – again escaping the dreaded penalty round of drinks. Thanks to Joe for his round of drinks to allow for a brief visit.
The Elegy did have mixed reviews and the general pronouncement seemed to be that it did not actually tell us anything we did not already know – but they we are such and erudite and well informed group ;-)
There was some comment that it had a somewhat repetitive tendency which I felt was simply the author’s rhythm but that irritated some readers. There was also a very interesting hypocrisy (or possibly just a strange conundrum) identified where the author seeks to diminutive the effectiveness of government programmes to actually allow any hand up to those in the less privileged class, yet calls for people to help themselves, when he in fact seemed to emphasise how dependent he was on others helping him throughout his own life.
We note of course that this has been a very short life just yet and Vance is in fact still a rather young 32. An interesting character in himself he is now being courted as a Senate hopeful in the next set of elections in the US. Was the book merely a setup to put him in this position?
I think (and hope) that all did in fact it was worth the read. I (obviously) quite enjoyed and felt that was in fact such that I learned from the tales. They were anecdotal as was noted repeatedly by our group and yet presented and promised to be something more. I think there was some promise that it would not be simply a story of his own life and that there might have been more suggestions of possible solutions and in that many readers felt somewhat shortchanged.
I think Mike’s statement that in reading it it made him feel fortunate is a very valuable takeaway in itself. Moreover the observation that there was a real shift in impactful role models in Vance’s life from being male at the outset (part of the Hillbilly mentality) to largely being females by the end.
I leave with the question raised during our discussion – is all poverty either cultural or economic?
The tabulation resulted in acceptable aggregate of 6.71 with the voting:
Joe – 6.5
Jim – 5.0
Brian M – 7.5
Fergal – 6.5
Mike – 7.0
Brian C – 6.5
Shawn – 8.0
We then moved on to finding our next read. Three titles were tabled and promoted:
Fergal/Joe – Quality Time at St Chinian – Paddy Masterson
Brian M – Company K – William March
Shawn – Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
Our voting was tight and involved all being able, for the first time, to cast votes for all the choices and making the tabulator’s task far too difficult after a couple pints ;-) But … after verifying (and having his math corrected) the results the read for June is:
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (available for Kindle and also Audible for those so inclined).