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Scenes from Suburban Life

by David Bouchier
MidAtlantic Productions, Shoreham, NY ISBN 0-9652475-2-X


The Song of SuburbiaDavid Bouchier’s book, The Song of Suburbia, is hilariously funny. Composed of 150 essays originally broadcast on National Public Radio Stations WSHU & WSUF in Long Island and Connecticut, it brings to light through the eyes of David Bouchier what really is going on in suburbia–and what better suburban environment to satire than that of Long Island. Bouchier titled his book, The Song of Suburbia, as a tribute to Walt Whitman who couldn’t have imagined what suburbia would be like now.

Bouchier divides his book into four sections–Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter–corresponding to the seasons of the year. Within each season, he places essays about activities that usually take place during that time of year. Beginning with topics such as tax time, road rage, catered weddings, SUVs, and gardening in the backyard, he moves on to vacations, New Age in the Hamptons, jukeboxes, and car washes. Autumn brings with it Labor Day, garage sales, and supermarket shopping, while Winter unfolds the mysteries of home improvement, Spam (the meat), and winter cruises.

He refers to country life magazines as a "kind of nostalgic pornography for suburbanites." According to him, eight out of ten Americans live in the suburbs. These lucky 80 percent have opted for the luxurious suburban lifestyle complete with all the chores necessary to maintain it.

He begins with an inciteful essay on the sounds of Springtime. No, not the birds and the bees but the whirring of two-cycle gas engines with an excruciatingly high pitch. Then there’s the roar of power boats and jet skis, and, of course, the ever-present all-terrain vehicle–mostly used for navigating speed bumps in supermarket parking lots.

Bouchier tackles such topics as vegetable stands, daylight savings time, and common sense, all with a wry sense of British humor. Yep, that’s right, British humor. It seems that Bouchier was born on the other side of the pond, so his view is somewhat different than born-and-bred Americans. However, he’s one of us now and lives amid the suburban malls and superhighways of eastern Long Island.

Road rage is an inherent problem on the highways of suburbia. But on the roads of Long Island, it has risen to a new level, according to Bouchier. The freedom of the open road is what got everyone to the suburbs in the first place, and, according to Bouchier, people spend a lot of money on their cars because "it’s the only guarantee of not being stuck in the suburbs."

One of the author’s funniest essays si entitled "Wild America, " in which he expounds on the challenges and subsequent joys of creating a garden irresistible to small wild creatures. He and his wife created a "sort of Holiday Inn for wildlife, complete with a 24-hour restaurant and swimming pool. Sure, they attracted wildlife but they also had to feed them. He goes on to say that he and his wife have created a land of Milk and Honey in their backyard. The Bouchier house is, as he says, "a Noah’s Ark in the green sea of suburbia." At night, he adds,"it’s like being on a safari." Another essay, entitled, "Fish Under Trouble Water," discusses the hazards of putting in a garden pond.

And on Bouchier goes satirizing just about everything held sacred by the descendants of the first suburbia–Levittown. He even pays special homage to Martha Stewart, who singlehandedly has managed to undo all that Betty Friedan did for the feminist movement.

Although the book is funny even if for readers who haven't ever seen Long Island. For those who have been there and know it well, it’s even more so. I think everyone should read this book, especially if they live in the suburbs and are too blinded to see some of the things Bouchier points out.


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