Cover image for Elements of Taste [electronic resource] : Understanding What We Like and Why
Title:
Elements of Taste [electronic resource] : Understanding What We Like and Why
Author:
Errett, Benjamin.
Description:
-- Star Wars In this smart, funny, and well-researched book, Benjamin Errett brings together the latest findings from the worlds of psychology, criticism, neuroscience, market research, and more to examine what taste really means—and what it can teach us about ourselves. Covering kitsch, nostalgia, snobbery, bad taste, George Michael, and what it means to be “basic,” this is the ultimate read for anyone who devours popular and not-so-popular culture.
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group,
Date:
2017
Digital Format:
cloudLibrary EPUB
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

From My Little Pony to the Sex Pistols: An engaging exploration of why we love what we love

Katy Perry. Wes Anderson. Coldplay. Star Wars . Hamilton. Gilmore Girls . We all have our most and least favorite things. But why?

In this smart, funny, and well-researched book, Benjamin Errett brings together the latest findings from the worlds of psychology, criticism, neuroscience, market research, and more to examine what taste really means--and what it can teach us about ourselves.

Covering kitsch, nostalgia, snobbery, bad taste, George Michael, and what it means to be "basic," this is the ultimate read for anyone who devours popular and not-so-popular culture.


Author Notes

Benjamin Errett spent a decade editing the arts pages of the National Post . Once they were finally edited, he wrote this book. Recommended pairings include his previous book ( Elements of Wit) and a dry white wine. Maybe a Sémillon? He dips his fries in mayonnaise and lives in Toronto.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

This witty, fast-paced survey from National Post features editor Errett (Elements of Wit) combines the terminology of tastes detectable by the human tongue-sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami-with a social-psychology framework to explain entertainment preferences. The sitcom Friends, for example, is classified as "sweet," whereas Kanye West is "bitter." Then there are the rare cultural phenomena that hit all categories on the taste spectrum-Errett terms them "cultural ketchup"-such as Star Wars. Marvel superhero films and Katy Perry are explored for the secret to their popularity (Errett claims that the secret of the latter's popularity is "sexuality just wholesome enough to be sold at Walmart"), but it is Errett's dissection of cultural oddities such as cozy mystery novels about cold-blooded murder or "futurist cooking" that are truly fascinating. Fans of obscure delights will enjoy the book's discussion of a Canadian slush-drink manufacturer (with flavor names such as "Crushed Smurf" and "Wild Tar") and of "slow" Norwegian television programming featuring, for example, "134 hours of a cruise ship sailing along the coastline." The book also contains plenty of interesting trivia, with blurbs on the history of punk rock, "supertasters," and the discovery of umami. Ideally, understanding the elements of taste will help readers better understand what appeals to them and thus decide what to pursue next. The droll sketches peppered throughout and Errett's amusing commentary ensure a read as fun as it is informative. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Sour and Salty: The Taste of Punk   Who among us hasn't, at one time or another, wanted to be sedated? And in that desire, we see the eternal appeal of punk rock.   What made the Sex Pistols so amazing? the rock critic Greil Marcus asked in Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century . His answer came in book form, but to sum it up, it was their embodiment of the deeply suppressed desire to kick over the coffee table of polite society, possibly set it on fire, and perhaps proceed to urinate upon it. It is sourness in its most rebellious form, and Marcus sees it as a hidden thread through the 1900s, linking the Dadaists, sound poetry, the Lettrists, the Situationists, and other anarchists in highly improbable ways.   It's fitting, then, that in this most defiant art form we have to defy the researchers who inspired this system. They found that punk rock was almost entirely dark, ranking above even horror films or heavy metal. In our version, that makes it salty: intense, edgy, and hedonistic. And while all those elements are certainly there, it's no coincidence that teenagers are the most susceptible listeners to the atonal yawp of Mr. Rotten.   Johnny Rotten's aim, Greil Marcus writes, was "to take all the rage, intelligence, and strength in his being and then fling them at the world; to make the world doubt its most cherished and unexamined beliefs; to make the world pay for its crimes in the coin of nightmare, and then to end the world-- symbolically, if no other way was open."   The band's biggest hit was timed to be its most notorious moment: "God Save the Queen" was released right before Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee in 1977. Linking Her Royal Highness to a fascist regime and singing that she wasn't a human being hit all the soft spots: Factories refused to print the album, radio stations refused to play it, stores refused to sell it, and the charts refused to list it. The Kingdom was United against the Sex Pistols, and in spite (or because) of that, the song was enormously popular.   "God Save the Queen" ends with the words "no future, no future, no future," and if you look at the time and place in which it was released, it's quite clear what fans had to feel nihilistic about. Britain of the 1970s was a country of rolling strikes, lost empire, epic inflation, constant labor strife, and a sense that liberal democracies in general and this one in particular had run out of gas. (Oh, and there was the OPEC crisis.) When Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives came to power in 1979, they did so on the clever slogan "Labour Isn't Working." The greater sentiment was that nothing was quite working, and anyone who believed that was a prime candidate for the message of the Sex Pistols.   Contrast that with the Silver Jubilee celebrations. If everything was falling apart, why was everyone putting on a happy face to celebrate the twenty- fifth anniversary of the queen's accession to the throne? Such a commemoration was the epitome of sweetness: people coming together to engage in pleasant, lighthearted celebration. It was perfectly countered with something sour: a rude, rebellious, and adolescent finger in the eye of anyone who cared to gawk. It turned salty from there-- hedonistic, dark, aggressive-- but the initial shock was the thrill of seeing Her Royal Highness's face with a safety pin through the royal lips.   Teenage rebellion is generally rooted in the realization that adult society is full of lies and propaganda, that it doesn't make any sense. The world of the 1970s was one in which nothing seemed to work, where all governments seemed out of ideas. In the West, they called it malaise; in the Soviet Union, they invaded Afghanistan. To call the whole thing a fraud wasn't exactly illogical.   And boredom: it's hard to underestimate the importance of boredom in adolescence. How much creation, destruction, and rock music has been birthed simply because there was nothing else for teenagers to do?   When the punk moment of the late 1970s passed, the aesthetic lived on as the uniform of teenage rebellion. Leather jackets, skinny jeans, Doc Martens, piercings-- even clean- cut rebel Ferris Bueller fashioned his hair into a Mohawk. The howling rejection of the modern world is rarely part of the look. The punks were salty back in the days of the Sex Pistols, but time has washed most of that away. What's left is a distinctly sour aftertaste. Excerpted from Elements of Taste: Understanding What We Like and Why by Benjamin Errett All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.