Twenty years ago, I made a brief study of the Acknowledgments sections of cook books. Even the great and otherwise restrained Elizabeth David could not resist thanking “countless” other cookery writers for their help in one book. And so does practically every other cookery writer. After “countless,” the next most frequent word in such acknowledgments is “secrets.” The author thanks the countless other cooks for sharing their secrets though, after this mass and repeated orgy of dissemination, “secrets” seems an odd word to use. Authors also thank their families too in hyperbolic terms and, do you know, not a single cookbook would have been possible without the Herculean labors of the typist.

The puzzle is why intelligent people in a rich, healthy America have so many “discontents.” Why do they hate their own, very good, society so much?

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