By Mike Flaherty
Updated June 02, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Disaffected hipsters, crunchy flea marketers, and kitsch addicts beware: Daniel Harris has got your number. With bubble-bursting cynicism, Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic: The Aesthetics of Consumerism skewers the way consumers, by acquiring everything from ripped blue jeans to distressed furniture, strive for personal authenticity in the face of our relentlessly commercial culture but end up validating it. What’s worse, he argues, manufacturers — armed with focus groups, test marketing, and statistical profiling — will always be a step ahead of would-be nonconformists. It’s too bad that Harris brings such a stilted style to the table: He could have had a lot more fun with his damningly ironic thesis. B-

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