Paul Fussell is the author of, among other works, Class and The Great War and Modern Memory, which won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named by the Modern Library as one of the twentieth century's one hundred best nonfiction books. He lives in Philadelphia.
Right from the start of this examination of the personal and cultural meanings of the wearing of uniforms, celebrated author Fussell (Class; The Great War and Modern Memory) creates a light, humorous tone by disclosing his almost fetishistic interest in his subject: "All my life, I have had a thing about uniforms." Peppering his historical data with campy asides, the author goes on to fondly-and obsessively-analyze the roles that uniforms play in all walks of life: the military, the church, hospitals, restaurants, sports and even everyday civilian life. In each of these contexts, Fussell explores the symbolism of every aspect of uniforms-fabrics, buttons, badges, bows. Readers will learn, for instance, that Italian troops in WWII were considered "dandies and losers" by the Allies, mostly because they wore headgear accessorized with such vain flourishes as feathers and horsehair tails. Although his view of people's sartorial proclivities can be a bit jaundiced-Nazi Hermann Gring's love of furs makes him a "heterosexual Liberace," Ernest Hemingway is a "semi-weirdo" because of his lifelong soldier fantasies-Fussell's funny, touching insights spring from an unmistakable compassion for people's need to feel "the comfort and vanity of belonging." Whether its wearer is striving for power, virtue, courage or cleanliness, the purpose of a uniform, the author concludes, is to intimately and symbolically connect him or her to a specific community with a common purpose-thus repeating the experience of home. 8 pages of photos. (Nov. 12) Forecast: Fussell, a winner of both a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award, is guaranteed review coverage, and the appeal of his subject should translate into sales.
In his cursory study of uniforms, Fussell attempts to uncover the meaning of these special, emotionally laden garments. A prolific writer, Fussell won a National Book Award for The Great War and Modern Memory, which was included on Modern Library's list of "Best 100 Nonfiction Books of the 20th Century." His latest work, however, falls short. Presenting mostly examples from the previous century, Fussell sets out to show how uniforms shape and define a person. In a chatty, informal tone, he discusses a wide range of uniforms. From Nazi military attire to "sexy" UPS garb, Fussell points out the lore and lure of these habiliments. The chapters "Blue Jeans" and "Deliverers" are more amusing and thoughtful than the rest of the work. Most chapters offer only a superficial treatment of the topic, but Fussell is a popular writer who may generate some demand. Because the book lacks both a bibliography and an index, scholars can pass. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/02.]-Donna Marie Smith, Main Lib., Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Uniforms is "revelatory, ribald. and irresistible"