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May 26, 1991|Charles Solomon

CULTURE SHOCK: USA by Esther Wanning (Graphic Arts Center Publishing: $10.95, illustrated). This agreeably silly book, designed to help foreigners understand the curious social customs of Americans, is filled with the sorts of superficial characterizations readers are accustomed to seeing in guidebooks to other countries. Instead of stating that Parisiens are chic and Gascons hot-tempered, Wanning tells her audience that New Englanders are taciturn, Californians casual, and New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. Hidden among these cliches are a few preceptive insights into the materially overburdened but spiritually empty life in the United States. A pleasantly topsy-turvy view from abroad.

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