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"The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium"

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Downstairs from New York's offices, there's a surveillance boutique that captures passing pedestrians on video camera. It doesn't bother any of us particularly. But author Mark Dery makes note of such things, and they upset him very much. In The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium (Grove Press; $25) -- a scholarly text that reads less like cultural-crit than like a medieval apocalyptic screed -- Dery posits that the "insanitarium" we live in could blow at any moment, and it would be our fault for abiding a culture in which we live to watch others and to make others watch us. But what obsesses Dery most are nightmarish aberrations like the Republic of Cuervo Gold, the town of Celebration, the profession of trend-spotting, and the bestial Jim Carrey, who "returns us to that glorious moment when naked apes emoted with their hindquarters."


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