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Essays Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
More About the Author
"Wallace Shawn's essays are both powerful and riveting. How rare to encounter someone willing to question the assumptions of class and the disparity of wealth that grows wider every year in this country. To have such a gentle and incisive soul willing to say what others may be afraid to is considerably refreshing."--Michael Moore
"Wallace Shawn's career as a playwright has been uncompromisingly devoted to proving that theater is an ideal medium for exploring difficult matters of great consequence. The qualities that make his dramatic work so challenging, sensual, mind-and-soul expanding, so indispensible, are equally in evidence in the marvelous political and theatrical essays collected here."--Tony Kushner
"Wallace Shawn writes in a style which is deceptively simple, profoundly thoughtful, fiercely honest. His vocabulary is pungent, his wit delightful, his ideas provocative."--Howard Zinn
WITH A BOLD and broad-ranging set of essays, Wallace Shawn takes us on a revelatory journey through high art, war, culture, politics, and privilege. With his distinctive humor and insight, Shawn invites us to look at the world with new eyes, the better to understand and change it.
WALLACE SHAWN is an Obie Award-winning playwright and a noted stage and screen actor. His plays The Designated Mourner and The Fever have recently been produced as films, and his translation of Threepenny Opera was recently performed on Broadway. He is co-author of My Dinner with Andre and the author of The Fever and Aunt Dan and Lemon, among other works. His friends call him Wally.
"I've written plays and a few screenplays, in each one of which a person who isn't me speaks, and then another person who isn't me replies, and then a third one enters or the first one speaks again, and so it goes until the end of the piece. I've even worked as a professional actor, speaking out loud as if I were someone not myself.
Every once in a while, though, I like to take a break from fantasy land, and I go off to the place called Reality for a brief vacation. It's happened a dozen or so times in the course of my life. I've looked at the world from my own point of view, and I've written these essays. I've written essays about reality, the world, and I've even written a few essays about the dream-world of 'art' in which I normally dwell. In a bold mood I've brooded once or twice on the question, Where do the dreams go, and what do they do, in the world of the real?"--From Essays by Wallace Shawn
You can preview the book at Harper's, where an excerpt, "Is Sex Interesting?," of Essays has been published.
Wallace Shawn will be available for select interviews with national media September-October. To request an interview or review copy of Essays, please contact Sarah Macaraeg firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-583-7884 (office), or 312-315-8476 (cell). Select Advance Reader's copies
Top Customer Reviews
The first part, "Reality," is more explicitly centered around the 'political' side of Wallace Shawn. Never losing his uniquely poetic voice, Shawn describes the evolution and development of his worldview as a child of privilege who comes to feel restlessly uncomfortable with the accepted absurdities and inequalities of his world.
Self-consciously torn between feeling a duty to exalt the hierarchy that has blessed him so, yet abhorring the war, misery, and national aggression that it necessarily produces, Shawn reveals to the reader a man genuinely struggling to "live morally" in a world wrought with obstacles, traps, and incongruities.
From the Vietnam war to Israel's attack on Gaza in 2008, this section is somewhat free-wheeling and informal, but nonetheless poignant.
The second section, "Dream-World," focuses more on Shawn's 'aesthetic' side. He talks about how it was that he came to be drawn towards the theater--and writing plays in particular; what he sees as the role of art in 'softening the human soul;' and his views on the special niche that poetry fills in the world of letters.
The most interesting piece in this section I found to be the one addressing Shawn's obsession with writing about sex. Clearly sex is a topic of contradictory standing in our society: on the one hand, it's used to sell hamburgers, but on the other hand, it's deemed as something really not appropriate for 'polite conversation.Read more ›
Wally Shawn's essays employ a similar combination of probing questions, but this time we, the reader, are at the table. The first set of essays, titled "Reality",explores how to live, both as privileged individuals and as a powerful country, in a world of poverty and oppression. The second set of essays explores art, especially theater and poetry, in terms of their purpose and their role in making the world a better place.
His essays on Reality are deeply moving in one very specific way: they expose his own unbearable pain trying to have fun and a good life, in a world that is inescapably terrible and sad. He returns to this dilemma several times, and each time, he spoke for me and thousands of others who wake up each day trying to figure this out. The rest of his Reality essays offer familiar information and analysis about Iraq, Israel, etc, but written in a deft and fresh and concise way. It is the underlying emotion - how we are to live with all this - that is truly unique.Read more ›
In this version Wagner dubbed Shawn "the reluctant mystic." The discussion that ensued that evening was an appropriate preface to reading (or rereading since most have been previously published) Shawn's outstanding collection of essays. These show Shawn to be a "reluctant mystic," a man of faith.
Shawn writes about art, theater, politics, family, and sex. Noam Chomsky basically sums up Shawn's thesis in their interview when he states, "It's simply very easy to subordinate oneself to a worldview that's supportive of one's own interests." How to un-subordinate, or figure out how to live ethically in subordination, is Shawn's dilemma and our own. "Well," Shawn claims, "the first thing we have to do is face it."
I am very comfortable with the way Shawn faces the world. It's an elegant stance of thought and noble ideals. As Shawn notes in his one-person performance, "The Fever," many are well acquainted with interior identity, intentions. "We're prisoners of self-love." It is the exterior identity, what we actually do, which is less familiar. It is also less interesting and lovable. "We understand the crimes of others but can't understand our own." Even if we understand them we can't endure the correction.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Now here is a man who can write. Not only the plays, and My Dinner with Andre, but also some good essays. To the point and with good points.Published 15 months ago by Roland
Got this on a whim - one of those who loved "My Dinner With Andre" and more recently, "Vanya on 42nd Street. Read morePublished 20 months ago by A. Pak
While these are all fairly short essays, there's not a wasted word in them. Wallace Shawn has plenty to say, which he does in what at first seems to be an almost faux naif style --... Read morePublished on July 29, 2012 by William Timothy Lukeman
The moment most useful in this book is the flicker of self-awareness when Shawn identifies himself as a protected bourgeois. Read morePublished on July 13, 2011 by Interrobang
Shawn's essays are designed to make the reader question his own assumptions. They are to the point and honest observations by an author who thinks well ahead of the herd.Published on May 21, 2011 by Sims McCutchan
Wallace Shawn, who plays ubiquitous characters in films, is a writer that stands alone in the literary and art world. Read morePublished on March 4, 2011 by Patrick R. Saunders
Shawn's essays are a spatter of thoroughly enjoyable commentaries and completely generalized drivel. Read morePublished on October 2, 2010 by Wood_Is_Good
In a recent reading by Wallace Shawn, he admitted outright that he is not the most politically informed or socially-entrenched person out there. Read morePublished on July 5, 2010 by HalfAndHalf
I was looking forward to this being amusing and original. Instead within the first ten pages he suggests that he a man of many talents, a renaissance man, that his deep well of... Read morePublished on November 7, 2009 by Seneca