In A Bee in the Mouth, PETER WOOD charts the rise in American life of "new anger" – the replacement of an older ethic of self-control with a new sense that public and private displays of anger are empowering and a legitimate way to pursue one's goals. This new anger is not only conspicuous in our politics, across the spectrum of ideology, but it is also a force in nearly every other domain of our lives: the family, the workplace, sports, entertainment, popular music, the Internet, and even fashion.
The book, which was published in 2007, was ahead of its time. Wood predicted that the norms governing how we relate to one another as citizens, neighbors, friends, and family members were trending toward even further verbal escalation and erosion of self-control. He reminds us that we have a choice about these matters, and proposes that we re-examine whether we really want to make the cult of angry "authenticity" a guiding principle of American culture.
This conversation was recorded in New York City on February 23, 2011.