Martin Walker

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Are Americans really just unrealistic whiners?

WORKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ESSAY: Michael Elliott, The Day Before Yesterday: Reconsidering America's Past, Rediscovering the Present (Simon & Schuster, 1996). Jeffrey Madrick, The End of Affluence: The Causes and Consequences of America's Economic Dilemma (Random House, 1995). Robert J. Samuelson, The Good Life and Its Discontents: The American Dream in the Age of Entitlement, 1945-1995 (Times Books, 1995). D emographically, it had to happen. America's baby boomers were bound to be hit by nostalgia for their childhoods at some time, and the great transition from their 40s into their 50s seems to have been the trigger for an entire generation to feel a collective lump in the throat. Three recent books by Michael Elliott, Jeffrey Madrick, and Robert J. Samuelson are the literary and socioeconomic equivalent of the sudden fashion for Nick at Nite, the Nickelodeon cable feature where boomers can rediscover the television and the comforting texture of their childhoods. For behind Sergeant...