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07.23.08

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Phaedra

THE ICONOCLAST : Christian Lander mocks the accoutrements of the post-wealth era.

Taste of a New Generation

With 'Stuff White People Like,' Christian Lander skewers the conventional wisdom of the liberal upper-class

By Craig Gawlick


As I sit behind an Apple computer, in an office that would make a feng shui consultant swoon, across the street from an organic coffee shop, I should feel comfortable with my iconoclastic nature. Not according to Christian Lander, author of Stuff White People Like: the Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. To him, these ingredients just add up to an amalgamation of stuff white people love. "Obviously, these are things not only white people can like, but it speaks to a coastal, upper-middle-class mentality," says Lander.

The book jumps right in with the topic of coffee. Everyone loves it, but Lander argues that white people have a special relationship with it. "It's worth noting that where white people buy coffee is almost as important as the drink itself ... best place for white people to drink coffee is at a locally owned coffee shop that offers many types of drinks, free WiFi and some sort of message board that is peppered with notices about rooms for rent and bands looking for bass players." He continues, "White people are given extra points for buying Fair Trade coffee, because paying the extra $2 means they are making a difference while their peers are drinking liquid oppression." Ouch.

The cringe-inducing laughter hits home for many, mostly because the book hews closely to the truth. Lander's anthropological study of white people began as a blog intended for the amusement of him and his friends, but when it grew unexpectedly popular, he was offered a book deal.

Raised in Toronto, Lander says it is a commentary on various influences bearing down on white people living in "post-wealth" era communities like the Bay Area and East Coast. "The status we are after isn't wealth, it's authenticity. People aren't impressed by a Bentley, it's about a biodiesel," says Lander. Along that same vein, there is the need to have a culture all your own, and with mass white culture pervading American society, Landers points to an "envy of bilingualism in America--minorities fit into the greater American makeup, but also have distinct characteristics, for the most part. This book is the guide for white people."

His book is meant to be tongue in cheek, and with Lander himself being white and a willing participant in most, if not all the targets of mockery in the book, he feels he is allowed to poke fun. Lander says reaction has been mostly positive, because most people have found parts of themselves in the book. Comments on his blog have run the gamut. One anonymous poster wrote, "I am simultaneously offended and delighted by this blog. I've never been so confused. ..." Others are more pointed in their comments.

"Just come out and admit what this site is about--it has nothing to do with satirizing white people. This site is about your hatred of political correctness and yuppies," states another. Lander wholeheartedly accepts such comments. The blog wouldn't have been as successful with a title like Stuff Upper Middle Class Liberals Like.

The undercurrent of the book, and what Lander hopes to bring to light, is the "intolerance of other opinions" that the white people he skewers are guilty of. In being so ostensibly progressive, these people become intolerant themselves, never enjoying the thrill of a NASCAR race, or Bud Light in a can--except for during the requisite "white trash" party white people are fond of, which is dissected in his section, "Irony." Also, like he's said all along, he is just as guilty as the other white people he lovingly roasts.

Now, if you will, I am going to turn down Terry Gross on NPR, polish off my spicy tuna roll and zone out to the soothing sound of water bubbling from a nearby fountain. All those things are approved as things white people like, according to Lander, and thankfully, I fit the ethnic bill.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE UNIQUE TASTE OF MILLIONS; Random House; 224 pages; $14.99 paperback


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