I was amazed, throughout, at how strongly I connected with his stories and thoughts. This is the anarcho-Buddhist answer to Fight Club. --Kaolin Fire, GUD magazine
From the Inside Flap
I love the way Lain seamlessly weds the personal, the memoir, the ideas, the story, and the politics of the book. It's a great and difficult genre he's inventing and playing with. - Daniel Coffeen, UC Berkeley Rhetoric 10 iTunes U, founder ArtandCulture.com, 10plums.com, mix-widget.org
Douglas Lain's work has appeared in literary and genre magazines since 1999. His first short story collection, "Last Week's Apocalypse", was published by Night Shade Books in 2006.
Lain's non-fiction book "Pick Your Battle", a quasi-memoir/surrealist self-help book, will be published in 2011, with the help of Kickstarter funding, and a second short-story collection. His second short story collection "Fall Into Time," will be published by Fantastic Planet Press in May, 2011.
His first novel, "Billy Moon: 1968", is due out from Tor Books in 2012. It tells the story of Christopher Robin Milne's fictional involvement with the French general strike of May, 1968.
Doug is also the host of the weekly philosophy podcast Diet Soap. Recent subjects covered include Henri Lefebvre's concept of the Production of Space, Theodor Adorno's concept of the Ideological State Apparatus, and how to find an exit when stuck in Plato's cave.
A mouthful, the title largely describes this Kickstarter-funded book; though with Douglas Lain's philosophical bent it might more accurately be referred to as a discourse than a guide. It did use the guide conceit to good effect several times through its self-discovery, but other than the memoir foundation, the most consistent element of this book was its philosophical exploration of an individual's reality, and his community.
Douglas Lain is the editor and publisher of the philosophically-oriented Diet Soap Zine and Diet Soap Podcast, and seems to have been wrestling with philosophy his whole life. In "Pick Your Battle", he makes an effort to introduce you to some of the philosophers that he wrestles with most often in his every day life, and I felt that he did a decent job, given my lack of solid knowledge of these people and their work: Guy Debord, Immanuel Kant, Slavoj Zizek, and Henri Lefebvre, among others. Lain has a great and readable presentation style, which I was thankful for when I had to go back and re-read chunks for comprehension. The philosophy isn't just there for show. Making you think, knocking you out of your assumptions, seems to be the major purpose of this book.
But where can you go when you've examined your assumptions and found them wanting? Lain wrestles with this through two major arcs: one, his job with Comcast; and two, his attempts to forage in an urban environment through a season. He doesn't have answers, so much as Koans. This is his life, what he's thinking and doing, but if you've worked a thankless, beaurocratic 9-5, and told yourself that that didn't define you, then this might be your life as well. I was amazed, throughout, at how strongly I connected with his stories and thoughts.Read more ›
What I enjoyed most about Douglas Lain's book was his honesty in describing the never ending battles and questions that swarm about us every day. Whether detailing the carefully crafted humiliations of working life at Comcast in "The Limbo of a Firing", or handling his son's rebellion at low quality, urban scavenged blackberries ("They taste like dirt.") in "Foraging with Simon", Lain tackles it all with humor and understanding. Sprinkle in some Vonnegut, Carlos Castaneda, and the odd encounter with an urban witch, and you have a deeply enjoyable and accessible read.
Don't let the abstract cover art scare you away, or the heavy-duty philosophy or cultural criticism inherent in this book - it's an interesting and stimulating read. Lain's prose shines in autobiographical passages, when he describes life with his family, or scenes from his past. (The section where our narrator achieves satori in a call center cubicle is a personal favorite.) Even when deeper philosophical concepts threaten to weigh down the text, Lain's wry sense of humor lurks in the background. Others might call the varied material a collage, but it seems more like a study in philosophical intersectionality: this is the crossroads of Lain's experience, where theory, pop culture, and personal life meet.
As a longtime listener of Lain's podcast, I thought I knew what to expect from this slim volume, but I was pleasantly surprised. I gave up trying to classify it when recommending it to others, though Lain's phrase "surrealist self-help book" comes close. At turns outlandish and mundane, and filled with both philosophy and meditations on pop culture, this is a book that strives to find deeper meaning in everyday life...and, for the most part, succeeds.
Doug Lain's crowd-funded demi-tome is as it says it is - both challenging an absorbing but not a struggle. It's polemic but then again so was the bible which was also about foraging for new ideas and pretty much getting nowhere other than coming to the idea that not enjoying the ride is pretty much the same as not enjoying the ride, when it all comes down to it.
Lain's aphorisms amidst easy lyricism are well found and thoroughly political. This is a book for those that think they are unable to be converted - basically because they are happy to realise that they got the questions wrong in the first place and are therefore are in a position to wonder about their wandering.
Consume it and suffer delightfully and dreadfully.
I enjoyed the eclectic direction of the thoughts and philosophies as much as the anecdotes. It was a cover-to-cover-read-without-stopping book for me, and I will pick it up and read it again someday. It spurred much pondering and made me laugh. I easily related to the tales and found the book to be both insightful and entertaining.
Self help today means one of two things: pop psychology or Hermetic magick for dummies. Self help teaches us magickal thinking or nigh psychopathic techniques for patronizing and using our fellow man. Where's the help? In Pick Your Battle, Douglas Lain doesn't tell you how to live your life, doesn't give you easy answers and doesn't candycoat life. Pick Your Battle is a book about foraging and all that it means. Using anecdotes from his own quirky but not impossible life, Lain shows you how he learned to live in today's world of corporate culture and Postmodern numbness. He doesn't make himself or modern man out to be a helpless victim, but at the same time he does not outright tell us everything's going to be okay, and yet, when meditating upon and contemplating Lain's reflections on everything from working at a Cable Company to the noble intent of Mister Rogers you'll feel hopeful and adequately equipped. That's true help, that's foraging and that's a way you can discover survival in every sense of the word. Buy this book and find its treasures for yourself.