A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I loved and appreciated this book more than the four stars might suggest. I loved the way it was formated. I loved revisiting essays I had read previously in New York TImes, Salon, the Atlantic, BAE 2007. I loved the ability to again be surprised by DFW's wit, charm, inteligence, and in the last couple essays anger. Having recently lost a loved one in a rather dramatic fashion, I was also taken back those ordurous emotions I felt on September 12/13, 2008 when I heard that DFW killed himself. In the middle of this enormous banking/economic collapse, losing DFW (to others) might have seemed small. But almost 4.5 years later my 401(k) has recovered but I have yet to get over DFW killing himself. A tad dramatic? I'm sure. Anyway, back to my review of Both Flesh and Not. Part of what I loved about this series of essays was how the publisher used his definitions and usage notes as paragraph breaks. It was brilliant and insightful and actually VERY intimate.
Both Robert Petkoff and Katherine Kellgren^1 did a fantastic job with narration.
1. It does make me wonder how Katherine will put this on her resume. Does she say she was a narrator for Both Flesh and Not or a footnote narrator? Anyway, the narration worked well and showed how Hachette could have addressed the narration debacle that was Infinite Jest.
Thomas Paine is one of those writers who seemed to have been dropped by a deist God 200 years before the world was really ready for him. His energy, honesty and political bravery was intense. By his voice alone he helped transform the West. Common Sense, the Rights of Man, and finally the Age of Reason have all thrown the gauntlet down and caused people to either cheer him (Common Sense) or hiss his name (Age of Reason).
The Rights of Man was visionary in its call for intellectual republicanism and social justice. Paine was and is a prophetic voice for individual freedom and moral equality. He is my favorite founder to quote whenever I find myself in a debate where someone wants to lump the 'Founders' together in some giant Libertarian Christianity pudding. He was a true radical and a true American.
A solid survey of behavioral economics literature related to the premise that the wide range of choices we have (what to read, how to read it, what rating to give it, where to post our review) actually ends up making us unhappier (tyranny of small decisions). Schwartz's summary is similar to a lot of those pop-economic books that seem to pop up regularly and sell quite well because they both tell us something we kinda already suspected, but also gently surprise us with counter-intuitive ideas at the same time. We are surprised, we are also a little validated: just little bit of supply with a very light touch demand.
This book belongs snug on the bookshelf next to: anything by Malcolm Gladwell, Freakonomics, Predictably Irrational, Nudge, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), etc. All interesting, all worth the time (as long as the time is < 5 hrs), but none of them are brilliant. They are all Gladwell-like in their reductionism (this is why they all sell so well to the business community and are pimped heavily by Forbes to TED). I am both attracted and repelled by the form. They seem to span the fissure between academic and pop, between economics and self-help. I read them and I end up feeling like I know a bit more about myself, and NOW I'm just disappointed in that bastard for a couple more rational reasons.