<b>America's new gilded age</b>Size really matters here: the square footage of your mansion; the length of your yacht; the number of seats on your private plane; and most importantly, the breadth of your bank account. Welcome to <b>Richistan</b>, where the nouveau riche flaunt their wealth through increasingly ostentatious gestures. <b>Richistan</b> is a work of nonfiction, but when author Robert Frank relates the outrageous stories of the wealthy people he encounters, it reads like fiction. And why not? These people, with incomes ranging from $100 million to $1 billion, are living in an unreal world.
These aren't the stories of the dignified old rich. They are tales of new money, made through conventional means, such as technology and hedge fund management, and some unconventional ways, like those who became billionaires selling tiny ceramic villages and pool toys. They aren't modest about their newfound wealth, either, they're anxious to be acknowledged and accepted.
Frank discovered these newly rich while researching an article for the <i>Wall Street Journal</i>, and turned this tiny niche of the population into his full-time focus. He discovered that today's rich had built a self-contained world unto themselves, complete with their own health-care system (concierge doctors), travel network (Net Jets, destination clubs), separate economy (double-digit income gains and double-digit inflation) and language (Who's your household manager?'). <b>Richistan</b> offers an insightful and often humorous glimpse of life in Beverly Hills and Palm Beach. It is a fun, lively book that allows readers to vicariously experience the glamorous lives of the members of America's new gilded age.
<i>John T. Slania is a journalism professor at Loyola University in Chicago.</i>