Sex and the sociologist

The Observer today has a feature about a ‘zeitgeisty’ new US TV series that’s gaining critical acclaim, Girls. It’s being billed as the Sex and the City de nos jours. To give a serious patina to an article that’s really about how much sex there is in the show, the NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone is quoted. He obviously appreciates the programme for its serious analysis of the dilemmas of modern urban life:

“My book is about the re-organisation of our personal and family lives and so is the show. Compared to Sex and the City it feels more deep and honest.”

I’ve not read Going Solo, but absolutely loved Klinenberg’s earlier book, Heatwave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. It analyses ‘excess death rates’ in different wards in Chicago during a blistering heatwave in July 1995. The overall death toll was more than 700, among the old, young and ill, and above all among those on low incomes. But the truly striking finding was that the death rate was significantly higher in mainly African-American areas than in mainly Hispanic areas. While factors such as an unresponsive city government and inadequate public services were common to all low income wards, a supportive family and social structure also accounted for large differences between them. One of the chapters is titled ‘Dying Alone’. Maybe the “surprising appeal” of ‘Living Alone’ has its limits.

I read on his website that Klinenberg is working on “an ongoing ethnographic investigation of news production in a digital age,” among other projects. Sounds interesting.

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