A fascinating though ultimately unpersuasive argument for deep societal reform.




A historically panoramic examination of human playfulness as a naturally healthy and politically subversive force. 

According to debut author Siegel, the predilection to play is universally distributed throughout the animal kingdom, humans being no exception. Our original experience of play is both animated by wonder and love, a deeply spiritual act not reducible to a rational formula or sense of purposeful utility. However, a child’s unencumbered sense of play is exchanged for a more culturally conditioned version, which encourages a child to rehearse adult roles in anticipation of a life of work and productivity. While that societally governed sense of play is both salutary and necessary, so is the primordial iteration that gets lost. In fact, that first, elementary sense of play promotes social harmony, accepts and appreciates the irrational nature of the world, is inherently uncompetitive and anti-war, and serves as the impetus for authentic artistic expression. The author raises two connected questions about the human inclination to playfulness: Is there a way its primary permutation can be effectively renewed? And if so, can a reformation of society, a mass movement of sorts, be based upon it? In order to answer these queries—both in the affirmative—Siegel furnishes a sweeping and eclectic history of play, focusing on its artistic manifestations. He assesses the birth of impressionism and its passage through Dadaism to surrealism, pranksters like Andy Kaufman and Abbie Hoffman, Beat generation writers and hippie activists, as well as the role of the fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear and the critique of capitalism performed by Banksy.  Siegel’s thesis is philosophically provocative and original. He makes a somewhat paradoxical case for the serious uses of playfulness, especially the political value of its “disruptive” varieties. He’s well-aware that the analytical treatment of playfulness is inherently limited and even potentially counterproductive given its subrational character. Siegel combines intellectual rigor with a bracing optimism—he believes the history of disruptive playfulness provides empirical reasons to believe in its sociopolitical power: “This idea of embracing irrationality through play, of reevaluating the spiritual contribution and the political implications of childhood is neither far-fetched nor without precedent.” However, Siegel’s historical analysis can also be idiosyncratic and insufficiently demonstrated; it’s not at all obvious, nor a matter of scholarly consensus, that Dadaism ultimately withered under the weight of capitalist opposition. In fact, it’s just as possible if not more so that Dadaism perished from its own incoherence. Still, the central difficulty of the work is its insistence on an unyielding separation between genuine artistic creativity and commerce: “The energies of art/play and capitalism ultimately cannot coexist.” The author provides numerous examples to the contrary—many of his artistic revolutionaries were also wildly successful financially. Furthermore, he cites the Burning Man festival as a model for the societal spread of playfulness, but that seems more suitable as a model for the corporate co-optation of it. 

A fascinating though ultimately unpersuasive argument for deep societal reform.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2018


Page Count: 327

Publisher: Wakdjunkaga Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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