Picks and Pans Review: Going, Going, Gone: Vanishing Americana
Remember eyeglasses? Microwave ovens? Fax machines? Sure, since they're all still part of modern life, but for how much longer? How soon before they join girdles, slide rules and leisure suits on the junk pile of America's 20th century? Social change and its debris is the subject of this breezy collection of essays and black-and-white photos, which wisely opts for a playful approach to commemorating 71 items that may not make it to the year 2000.
The fun here is not only in marveling at how innocent and clunky life seemed only a short while back (was it really just three decades ago that TV antennas had to be adjusted every time you changed the channel?) but in pinpointing the sociological and technological forces that wiped out certain American staples. Men's garters were as common as ties until the hosiery industry created socks with elasticized tops. Fast-food franchises killed off soda fountains, Barbie shredded paper dolls. Gone, too, are milkmen (supermarkets), drive-in movies (home videos), even teenage "dating" (the sexual revolution).
Along with these anachronisms Going, Going, Gone earmarks a few everyday items destined to disappear—typewriters, vinyl records, hotel keys—and gives them a last, loving look. Anybody who is a little dazed by today's relentless digital revolution will appreciate this book's nostalgic pull; reading it feels like pausing a scary movie on your soon-to-be-obsolete VCR. (Chronicle, $18.95)