PEOPLE WHO LUNCH

ON WORK, LEISURE, AND LOOSE LIVING

A set of challenging, intermittently illuminating essays on the nature of work and relationships.

A manifesto in defense of polyamory.

Readers who hate their jobs and have reservations about capitalism will sympathize with the perspective in this collection of essays. Melbourne-based writer Olds began these pieces on an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship. Her main interest was in “post-work polyamory,” an idea that’s “premised on and committed to anti-capitalism” and seeks to “abolish the need to work within exploited waged (and unwaged) relations in order to survive.” In the introduction to this U.S. edition, the author writes “about how people get money (an incomplete list from the book: cryptocurrency, sex work, welfare, property, arts grants, café jobs, truck driving).” After a brief history of polyamorous groups and her attempts at polyamorous relationships, Olds presents a manifesto for post-work polyamory, which she describes as “building anti-capitalist strategies into the ongoing practice of equitably distributing labor within relationships”; relates the founding in 19th-century London of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes and similar clubs that “insulated workers from the worst excesses of capitalist modernity” (and documents her visit to one such club); expounds on the hybrid essay form, “both a memoir and a review”; and details the allure of cryptocurrency. Sometimes, the author tries too hard to sound academic—as in writing that polyamory is “the dissemination of reproductive labor into a technocapitalist infrastructure”; “polyamory often tries to banalify itself.” Fortunately, much of the writing isn’t that stuffy, and Olds has a talent for well-phrased witticisms, as when she says that Michel de Montaigne, thought to have originated the hybrid form, “retired from public life to a tower in his family’s castle in Bordeaux (like all good freelancers, Montaigne worked from home)”; or when she writes of a crypto dabbler who writes poetry while working at a brothel: “Guess which one earns them a living?”

A set of challenging, intermittently illuminating essays on the nature of work and relationships.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780316565714

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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

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