by Eric G. Wilson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 5, 2015
An elliptical, provocative meditation that reads as much like a catharsis as a manifesto.
The counterargument to the cliché of “keep it real.”
Wilson (English/Wake Forest Univ.) extends his contrarian streak (Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, 2008, etc.) with an inquiry into what is really real and whether it really matters. As he crosses disciplines—philosophy, psychology, literary and film criticism, pop-culture analysis—and genres (alternating discussions of Barthes and Nietzsche with revelatory reveries of memoir), Wilson has ultimately written a deeply personal book, almost a lifeline, though readers might find it a challenge to connect the dots between the short chapters. The author explores a central paradox: “to believe you’re authentic in a world where nothing is authentic but performed is inauthentic; to know that you’re inauthentic in a world in which nothing is not performed is authentic. So if you believe as if you’re actually authentic, then you’re a liar, and if you comport yourself with an awareness of your inauthenticity, you are as real as it gets.” The academic in Wilson draws from semiotics and Dadaist aesthetics; the pop-culture maven revels in the glories of Bill Murray’s work (particularly in Meatballs) and almost everything by David Lynch (particularly Blue Velvet). However, it’s his chronicles of the author’s personal experiences as a suicidal depressive where the work transcends postmodern irony and wordplay. In a world of media bombardment and technological rewiring, where death and gravity are real and everything else is up for grabs, Wilson discovered through therapy that he could construct a new narrative rather than accept the ones handed down to him or the ones that weighted him down. “Depression whipped me into grace,” he writes, bringing his book to a close with the conclusion that fakery is relative, that some serves a greater morality and higher purpose than others, and that some might, in a sense, be true.An elliptical, provocative meditation that reads as much like a catharsis as a manifesto.
Pub Date: May 5, 2015
Page Count: 240
Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
Share your opinion of this book
Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.
It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
Share your opinion of this book
More About This Book
SEEN & HEARD
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!