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Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life Hardcover – January 22, 2013

2.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

In Missing Out, Phillips seeks to render the self-punishing rigors of envisioning alternate lives—denied lives, better lives, more outrageous lives—into a normal-ish study in badly managed life expectations. While our lives are a seesaw of frustration and fulfillment, the eventual satisfaction never quite measures up. Because of its wild ranginess, its unwillingness to be American and tell me what to think, Missing Out brought me a strange and maybe obvious kind of comfort. —Choire Sicha

Review

“A wonderfully concise appeal for presentness...Elegantly stated.” ―The Boston Globe

Missing Out is [Adam Phillips's] most poetic, paradoxical, repetitive, and punning yet; he doesn't argue in a linear fashion but nestles ideas within ideas, like Russian dolls.” ―Sheila Heti, The New York Times Book Review

“[Adam Phillips] has an elegant prose style...with a talent for turning a phrase, a knack for epigrams” ―Los Angeles Review of Books

“Extraordinary...Always humane, never reductive, Phillips is one of those writers whom it is a pleasure simply to hear think.” ―The Sunday Telegraph (London)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (January 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780374281113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374281113
  • ASIN: 0374281114
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"In Praise of the Unlived Life," the subtitle of Adam Phillips' new book, his seventeenth, hooked me. Not so surprising since Stephen Vizinczey's classic "In Praise of Older Women - The Amorous Reflections of A.V." sits next to "Thy Neighbor's Wife" by Gay Talese in my bookcase. So what, I wanted Phillips to tell me, am I missing out on?

Quite a lot, it turns out. Paradoxically, he asserts, we have become experts in what we don't know and know-little's about what we think we do know. When the going gets tough at work or at home, as our frustration builds with the knots we tie ourselves up in, we develop "omniscience" about what awaits us in our unlived lives. It's not until we leave the job or abandon the family that the green pastures we projected turn out to be less nourishing than the life we confidently expected awaited us.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Not only is it impossible to fully know ourselves, more importantly, we can never know what goes on with anyone else, not our children, not our parents, not our wives or sweethearts. So we can't l know how things will turn out if we stay put and try to work out solutions to our frustrations, and we certainly can't know how we will feel with the new job or partner in the unlived life we opted for. To that degree, the book's subtitle title is, if not misleading, disingenuous. Since we can't know the unlived life - we never reach it -- the praise we cloak it in is a mirage.

Phillips, a psychoanalyst with years of practice under his belt, has extensive experience to support his conclusions. Moreover, he is sharp as a tack, extremely well read in his field and out, and a writer the New York Times described as "poetic, paradoxical, repetitive and punning.
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Format: Hardcover
My head is still spinning from this book. And, unfortunately, not in a productive way.

Similar to the experience of other reviewers, I had expectations that this book would offer a useful exploration of how looking at the yet-unlived aspects of our lives can help guide us towards more meaningful lives. Perhaps I was lured by the subtitle of "In praise of the unlived life" and the reviews on the back, which, in retrospect, were more about the undelivered promises found in the prologue of the book. (I'm kind of thinking these reviewers never actually made it through the remainder of the book.)

To me, the book (following the promising prologue) was a series of mental ramblings thrown together that provided a tour of the author's own personal intellectual pet projects. Much of the book consisted of the author's exploring ad nauseam the concepts and definitions of the words and phrases of "frustration," "not getting it," "getting away with it," "getting out of it," "satisfaction," and "madness" with a dizzying array of citations from Freud and Shakespeare. Maybe I was missing out (subtitle pun intended) on something, but I did not find these mental wanderings to be interesting or useful. It felt like the author was not writing for an audience, but for himself.

Some readers may love the content, style, and impressive attempts to marry psychoanalysis and Shakespeare, but, it just didn't work so well for me.

On the bright side, I need not wonder if I was missing out by not reading _Missing Out_.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading Adam Phillips' "Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life" is like driving in New York City traffic - at first it's unnerving, confusing and one isn't quite sure what to make of it; but after a while, if you steel your will, continue the effort and don't pull off to the side of the road, you fall into its own particular rhythms, go with the flow, and it all begins to make intoxicating sense. I found this book to be one of the most powerful and, at the same time, one of the most difficult books I've ever read. But I arrived at my destination exhilarated, with few dents and scratches, and feeling as though it had been well worth the effort to stay focused on where this book can take you.
1 Comment 38 of 41 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle version of this book because I believed the author's basic premise was an important one and I wanted to read more about how I can spend less time regretting what didn't happen in my life and more time focusing on living the life I have. I was disappointed to discover that although the author had a good idea for a book, he had no idea what to write about it. The author does a fair job of explaining the premise of the book in the prologue, which I believe can be summarized in one sentence: You are devoted to ruining the life you have by fretting over the life or lives that you didn't have. I expected that the author would follow up the prologue with some suggestions that would help people realize the importance of enjoying and appreciating the life they are living, while at the same time avoiding regret and sadness over what they perceive to be unfulfilled potential, bad luck, mistakes, wrong turns, and so on. Instead, it seems the author conceived of this book as a philosophical treatise on the meaning of frustration and satisfaction. I could accept this if it were meaningful and well-written, but it is not. The author writes long, wordy, and pretentious sentences that seemed designed to impress us with the profundity of his thought and the erudition of his learning. In addition, he has the annoying habit of interrupting his own sentences with hyphenated clauses, as well as randomly inserting the phrase, "whatever it is" throughout the book. Here is a sample of his so-called sentences:

"What experiences are made possible by not getting it, and what getting it, whatever it is, might protect us from.
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