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Hello, I'm Special: How Individuality Became the New Conformity Paperback – April 1, 2006
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" . . . because of mass medias infiltration into all aspects of our lives, everyone thinks theyre Special." -- Bookslut.com
"A blend of cultural analysis, reporting and memoir, Hello, I'm Special is full of sharp and funny observations..." -- Salon.com
"Equal parts Jerry Seinfeld and Thomas Frank... .Niedzviecki... gives us everything that makes his brand of literary genius so... 'special'." -- Tikkun Magazine
"Hal Niedzviecki... is one of the wisest, funniest and most acute cultural critics writing today." -- Naomi Klein, author of No Logo
"Niedzviecki holds a scalpel to this social monster with analytic precision that evokes Malcolm Gladwell . . . " -- Adrienne LaFrance, WBUR Boston, April 2006
"Niedzviecki's examinations yield fertile insights, without sounding overly pretentious." -- Gerry Donaghy, Powells Bookstore, May 2006
"Using case studies... the book links society's emphasis on celebrity to everything from anorexia to exorcisms." -- 7x7 Magazine
"Who will bear the burden of being dazzled by the wondrous presence of our countless wondrous individuals?" -- Paul Reidinger, San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 2006
"Witty and wise, part journalist, part theorist, Niedzviecki takes up two long-running American themes conformity and individuality..." -- San Francisco Chronicle
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Top Customer Reviews
The greatest downside to this book was that Niedzviecki implies throughout that valuing individuality as highly as he believes contemporary culture does is a bad thing, but absolutely fails to convince the reader on this point. Individuals interviewed by the author offer allusions to their "feeling lonely/disconnected/etc.," and this is the sum total of the evidence that the author is willing to supply to prove the negative effects of contemporary trends.
I think that the most effective thing that this book could do to improve itself is bring in empirical evidence and theory from psychology. A great wealth of discussion about the effects of media consumption on behavior, imitation, reward and punishment, etc. exist in psychology, and tying these lines of thought into "Hello, I'm Special" would have made this book better. The book, as it is, is pure journalism pretending to be cultural theory. (Here it is an ideal read if you like to say "hey, I could write this malarkey!" to yourself and close friends).
Up until the last forty or so pages, I was amused and getting a little bored. At about this point in the book, Niedzviecki decides that going without the conveniences of our cushy modern lives and actually "suffering" like real bushmen is the remedy to the problem of modern existence!Read more ›
The thesis of "Hello, I'm Special" isn't entirely clear: there is a vague sense of Niedzviecki complaining about the ubiquity of pop culture and how 'just being yourself' has been commercially appropriated, propped up sloppily by largely irrelevant quotations from academic figures like Foucault. Basically, anybody who tries to do anything 'different' is snidely and rather pettily criticized and scrutinized, from progessive Catholics, to Found Magazine founder Davy Rothbart, and the very people who trustingly gave Niedzviecki feedback. In fact, I am on his list of bumbling bourgeois wannabes simply by virtue of writing a review on Amazon (and no, this is not my attempt at earning 'glory' or 'fame'. I simply don't want anyone else to endure this book.).
Despite protestations in the introduction (following a lengthy retelling of his disaffected wealthy suburban youth, druggie days, various print accomplishments, and so on) that the book is not about him, the book is steeped in the context of Hal Niedzviecki: *I* received an email from so-and-so; participants in an alternative publishing event that *I* coordinated said; *my* friend did this; *I* think; *I* believe, etc.Read more ›
He leaves terms such as pop culture and rebellion ill-defined. However, I gathered that main stream culture is something that the reader does not be a part of. Once he lays out his argument that the main stream has co-opted rebellion, his arguments loop endlessly between the wish to get away from pop culture and the inability to do anything that does not lead back to being pop culture. Instead of trying to find a third path out of his binary sorting of "pop vs rebel", his definitions broaden until his narrative becomes diffused and nearly directionless at points.
At several points, he touches on historical writing on individuality and masses, but fails to capitalize on these opportunities to deepen his argumnt or break the loop that he has built.
Unfortunately, he then goes off the deep end, insisting that (1) you are just a phony if you try to express your sense of individualism the same way others express theirs, and (2) that the only true individualist is the person who escapes social conformity overkill by living in a small town or out in the hinterlands. Both assertions are bunk.
Yes, one has to chuckle about people who claim to thrive on following their own vibe...then wear the same style clothing, drive the same cars, or visit the same websites as other "non-conformists." But that doesn't make them phonies or fakes, that makes them spirited people who may be a bit misguided as to how they define "individuality." The bigger offense is the self-satisfied, condescending attitude that Niedzviecki takes toward such people in this book. No, owning an iPod or driving a Mini Cooper or trying out for a pre-packaged "reality" show doesn't make you smart, hip, OR a true non-conformist. But neither does beating up on those who are just trying to find a way to feel comfortable in their own skin while the rest of the world wants them to be something else.
Likewise, if the author thinks he will escape pressures to conform by moving to a small town, he clearly hasn't lived in a small town, or lived their long enough. Frying pan, meet the fire.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As popular culture critique this is an intriguing narrative. However, it's so hipster and kitschy in the attitude I found it hard to relate, despite my sympathies that lean towards... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ogg-the-Bear
First of all, let me just say that I read this book several years ago, so it's not fresh in my memory, but when looking at some of the one star reviews here, I couldn't help but... Read morePublished on April 17, 2011 by pen name
The major line of thought in this book trace back to the 1960's and 1970's, including Tom Wolfe's "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby", Chris Lasch's "Culture of... Read morePublished on June 10, 2009 by Paul A. Houle
This book is a broad look at individuality in 2007. Everything that we hold dear that we think makes us "special" and individual in fact makes us conform to widely accepted norms. Read morePublished on October 3, 2007 by Gillian Zylka
In the spirit of "I'm Special," I would suggest that people take the reviews (positive and negative) with a grain of salt, read the book, and draw your own conclusions. Read morePublished on December 31, 2006 by NZee
This book is someone's very personal and narcissistic attempt at going public with how 'done' he is being counterculture, probably because it was a huge effort to keep up in the... Read morePublished on December 8, 2006 by Mrs. Flubbard
Though "Hello, I'm Special" has good ideas and a good premise, it features very long winded examples that alone could be theses. Read morePublished on July 31, 2006 by Jeremy
At one point in your life you have wanted to be a rock star/celebrity. Don't lie, I know this. This is the book for you - this is the book to try to figure out what is wrong with... Read morePublished on July 11, 2006 by E. C. David
i would suggest that everyone read this book. niedzviecki's book gets to the heart of contemporary society. Read morePublished on June 2, 2006 by alec eiffel