With a tone that is more evocative than provocative, Busch meaningfully celebrates value where it goes unseen by others.

HOW TO DISAPPEAR

NOTES ON INVISIBILITY IN A TIME OF TRANSPARENCY

The joys of hiding from a cyberculture seeking to monitor your every move.

Despite the subtitle, these are by no means “notes” but rather fully formed and often powerful explorations of the many realms and levels of invisibility to which one might aspire or withdraw. Busch (Design Research/School of Visual Arts; The Incidental Steward, 2013, etc.) starts in the woods, the narrative beginning like a meditation on going “off the grid.” Yet she veers in less predictable directions, abandoning Alexa and the like for an inquiry into children’s literature, the persistence of invisibility within it, and the value of having an imaginary friend—which, it turns out, may not be that different than the digital friendships adults cultivate. This analysis inevitably leads to social media and the persistent pressure to be noticed by others, to risk “Facebook depression, one result of this ceaseless exposure…the anxiety induced by social comparisons and the feeling of being less attractive or accomplished than other users.” The author expounds on her suspicion that we’re doing things wrong, overemphasizing visibility and self-promotion and undervaluing the opposite, and she surveys the invisible in nature, the arts, identity, and soul. It “is not the equivalent of being nonexistent,” she writes, and subsequently elaborates, “it is nuanced, creative, sensitive, discerning.” Busch examines how erasure has functioned in art, from “erasure books” that add to the texts by subtracting words, to the ability of the flamboyant David Bowie to appear invisible as a public persona while walking the streets of New York and the refusal of the popular, pseudonymous Italian novelist Elena Ferrante to use identity, biography, and personality to market her novels. Where the assertion of one’s identity is concerned, Busch argues that less is more: “The measure of our humanity may be derived not from how we stand out in the world, but from the grace and concord with which we find our place in it.”

With a tone that is more evocative than provocative, Busch meaningfully celebrates value where it goes unseen by others.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-98041-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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