Next book

KEEP IT FAKE

INVENTING AN AUTHENTIC LIFE

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

ISBN: 978-0-374-18102-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

Next book

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Next book

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 21


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Close Quickview