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Pick Your Battle: Your Guide to Urban Foraging, Hollywood Movies, Late Capitalism, and the Communist Alternative (a memoir) Paperback – May 11, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Douglas Lain (May 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615487335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615487335
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,776,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kaolin Fire on June 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If there ever was a guide out of lifestyle rebellion and into systematic critique by means of memoir, Douglas Lain has attempted it. The supposed category errors in that description of Lain's ambition are part of its appeal and its fugue-quality. While the book describes itself "Your Guide to Urban Foraging, Hollywood Movies, Late Capitalism, and the Communist Alternative," it is more akin to Doug's guide to how he went from an urban forager to some form of communist from moving from an inchoate leftist writer in a cubicle job at Comcast to a thinker wrestling with Althusser, Zizek, Debort, and Lefebvre.

Critical theory is often divorced from the core of our experience, yet it describes the experiences at the core. In my experience, often people study it as grist for the mill of academic population as merely a rubric for papers in the Ideological Academic Apparatus. Lain does not do this: Instead we get his dealing with his future wife, his cubicle job, losing that job, and dealing with children to foreground the way ideology works. Often Lain does with collage elements of theory cut in and of out the text.

There are some surprising human movements in which theory weaves in and out: the way desire is defined by lack is seen through Lain's interaction with his wife, the way ideological conceptions define space, the way many of us move through periods of conspiracy thinking and frustration, through thinking we can hack it through survivalism, and then to grappling with the theory many of us were exposed to tangentially in college.

Indeed, I feel a kinship to Lain in this book as many of the developments in his life and their reflections in theory. I have also covered conspiracy thinking, post-left anarchism, and all the surrounding dross.
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