Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

Generation Deluxe: How the Super-Rich Spend Their Millions

by Iris Nowell

As neat as it is to learn that pro basketball players, upon signing their first contracts, go to a particular Atlanta shoe boutique to be shod, or that Posh Spice and David Beckham pay handsomely for their bulletproof limousines, or that British castles are de rigueur for celebrity weddings, Generation Deluxe will likely find the competition in the crowded market of decadence-spotting stiffer than trying to book a “botox and safari” adventure in South Africa.

The problem is that consumers of media – that is to say, you and I – are inundated with features about celebrities and business superstars and their millions on a 24-7 basis. Many new magazines are thinly veiled product catalogues; television shows purporting to give viewers the straight goods often are infomercials bought and paid for by the product or tourist destination being “profiled.”

But one expects more context and insight from a book on the subject. There is some earnest and worthy discussion here about the human and environmental cost of monster homes, monster cars, exotic food, and the general one-upmanship of the absurdly rich, but Generation Deluxe is dominated by bite-sized items about waiting lists for cars and watches and the gilded opulence of celebrity royalty, not to mention actual royalty. The Sultan of Brunei is mad for Ferraris, but who cares?

The book’s final chapters focus on how the super-rich occasionally do good work, such as saving ecologically sensitive land by buying it before other super-rich people have a chance to develop it. It’s truly good that Bill and Melinda Gates support many charitable causes, and that Ted Turner gave a cool $1-billion to the United Nations, but, without sounding too churlish, it’s easy to be generous when one has, as the saying goes, “more money than God.”

In the end, Generation Deluxe can’t decide if it’s a cheeky exposé of the spending foibles of the extremely wealthy or a cautionary tale of a society in the death throes of affluenza.