Bloom's Morning: Coffee, Comforters, and the Secret Meaning of Everyday Life

Overview

In a series of short vignettes endearingly illustrated by the author, Arthur Asa Berger gives Americans a profound way to understand their morning rituals. Have you ever considered, for instance, that the digital clock, by producing free-floating liquid numerals disconnecting us from both time past and time future, could be interpreted as a metaphor for the alienation many people feel in contemporary society? Or consider our nightclothes: The pajama is the most immediate witness to our sexual activities; thus, we...
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Overview

In a series of short vignettes endearingly illustrated by the author, Arthur Asa Berger gives Americans a profound way to understand their morning rituals. Have you ever considered, for instance, that the digital clock, by producing free-floating liquid numerals disconnecting us from both time past and time future, could be interpreted as a metaphor for the alienation many people feel in contemporary society? Or consider our nightclothes: The pajama is the most immediate witness to our sexual activities; thus, we cover our pajamas with a bathrobe to guard against the anxiety of being revealed to other family members. The pajama is intricately connected to human shame. Bloom's Morning with thirty-six short chapters bracketed by brief essays on the nature of semiotic analysis, is a perfect book for the inquisitive mind.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a witty, down-to-earth collection of 38 brief essays, Berger, a San Francisco State University communication professor, applies semiotic analysis, in the manner of Roland Barthes, to tease social, cultural, mythic and attitudinal meanings out of everyday objects and rituals, such as breakfast, shoes, ties, mail, king-sized beds, the morning newspaper and bath soap. Though he is sometimes silly (the electric hair dryer is "a mechanical phallus.... the pistol/phallic type... would be popular with more modern, assertive women"), he is more often on target, as when he deconstructs the digital clock radio's liquid-crystal display as a metaphor for pervasive alienation in our electronic culture. Illustrated with his own quirky, fetching, black-and-white drawings, his book opens with a day in the life of an American everyman named Leopold Bloom after the hero of James Joyce's Ulysses. Using toasters and supermarkets as springboards, Berger mounts a devastating critique of the increasingly impersonal, dehumanized quality of our lives. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
An admittedly irreverent stab at leveling the distinction between elite and popular culture by transmogrifying the ho-hum (the master bedroom, the garbage disposal) into the "mythic" in the semiological tradition of Roland Barthes.

Berger (Communications/San Francisco State Univ.) maintains a decidedly casual posture in his extended introduction ("On the Theory of Everyday Life") and conclusion, as though to filter out the usual academic snobbery. His case for "sociosemiotics" is convincing enough: "Culture is no longer . . . just frosting on the cake of life"; the activities and artifacts of, say, a representative man's morning (Bloom's, pace Joyce) are the legitimate business of postmodern anthropology and, as such, the new cultural studies. The less convincing centerpiece here—a "microminimalist" narrative that takes Bloom from wake-up through ablutions to receipt of his mail, followed by 35 explications de texte—reads too often like an overwrought effort to decode what first must be proved to be in code. The digital clock, which "atomizes" time into discrete, unrelated moments, is an emblem of alienation; the down comforter goes beyond man-made science to "natural technology." "I confess to some tricks—exaggeration, irony, absurdity, wild analogies . . . whatever it takes," Berger winks at the end, and while that revelation of a sense of humor about himself vitiates some unwonted solemnity, it doesn't cover all of it, like the notion that breakfast is overarchingly "a study in transformations" or the too-serious claim that the king- size bed is an oedipal symbol because king = father and Everyman can make it in (to) the father's bed.

Berger can't be taken to account for the whole discipline of belaboring the banal—Barthes found "signification" in detergent, to cite just one of his respectable reference points—so to the extent that this reads like a parody of itself, he's only partly responsible. The rest (the theory) is responsible, if cavalier.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780595167500
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/15/2001
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xiii
Part 1 Introduction: On the Theory of Everyday Life 3
Part 2 Ulysses Sociologica
1 Bloom's Morning 39
2 Digital Clock Radios 41
3 King-Sized Beds 45
4 Sheets 49
5 Comforters 53
6 The Master Bedroom 57
7 Closets 61
8 Jogging 65
9 The Bathrobe 69
10 Bathrooms 73
11 The Water Pik Shower 77
12 Bath Soap 81
13 Shampoos 84
14 Gel Toothpaste 88
15 Pajamas 91
16 Broadloom Carpets 94
17 Slippers 97
18 Electric Hair Dryers 101
19 Electric Toothbrushes 104
20 Razors 108
21 Underwear 111
22 Stockings 115
23 Shirts 119
24 Ties 122
25 Suits 126
26 Shoes 130
27 Kitchens 134
28 The Refrigerator 138
29 Supermarkets 142
30 The Morning Newspaper 146
31 Breakfast 150
32 The Toaster 155
33 Garbage Disposals 159
34 Dishwashers 163
35 Trash Compactors 167
36 Mail 171
Part 3 Conclusion: Myth, Culture, and Everyday Life 177
References 193
About the Book and Author 197
Index 199
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