The dark side of wealth?

Rebecca Traister at Salon has a review of a new novel about the dark side of that upper-middle class dream land and simultaneous hell hole, Silicon Valley.

Of Jannelle Brown’s “All We Ever Wanted was Everything,” Traister writes,

“In Brown’s fictional Silicon Valley, it’s as if the fountains of money that gushed over warehouse districts and formerly middle-class suburbs had never been staunched by recession or war or reality. But she does not view this glittering stuff-machine nostalgically. The universe she has created has all the warmth and authenticity of the too-brassy dye job its heroine receives: It’s a little too lustrous to be real, too obvious a mask for the gray beneath.”

She goes on to tell us about a marriage in ruins, a meth addict pool boy, a financial rise and fall, and a newly promiscuous teenage daughter who has everyone in the neighborhood talking.

Sounds like good, page-turning summer reading to me. But it’s not like this sort of “dark side of modern suburbia” is anything new. Desperate Housewives is perhaps the most popular example of recent entertainment which seeks to show that the lifestyles of the privileged aren’t as great as they might appear on the surface, that the American dream isn’t what it’s supposed to be. No, these neighborhoods might look like something out of Leave it to Beaver but they have ‘hood drama of their own.

This sort of anti-materialism plot trope has always come across as a consolation prize to the underprivileged to me: “Sorry, we’re rich, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Honestly,” it seems to say. Now obviously I don’t think money buys emotional happiness or functional families. But it’s not like poverty does either. And at least with money we have time and energy to worry about the state of modern marriage and the politics of sexual reputations.