Zerubavel, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University and author of The Seven-Day Circle and other books maneuvers across politics, popular culture and academic literature to uncover sundry forms of silence and connect these within the greater social universe. He demonstrates that silence is a common subject within music and film, and references abound from Paul Simon to John Lennon, Billy Rose's Dumbo to The Secret Live of Dentists. Shifting his focus to politics, Zerubavel analyzes Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, the Catholic Church's child abuse scandal and Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina. However, while not lacking in captivating anecdotes or titillatingly obscure references, the book fails to offer any previously unknown conclusions about silence. Instead, the reader is left with familiar statements: silence can be deadly; silence in individuals breeds silence in the entire group; people tend to be silent about silence. As is obvious from the 60 pages of references (for 85 pages of text), Zerubavel is well-read and marvelously conversant on the subject. Readers looking for groundbreaking scholarship will be disappointed, though the book excels as a socio-historical account of silence's machinations.
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"Among academic intellectuals, Eviatar Zerubavel--please make that a household name in your household--gleams as a star.... He gathers intriguing ideas for books the way ace foreign correspondents acquire great stories: by reflecting on the obvious, then probing as well as reporting."--Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Eviatar Zerubavel has always had a remarkable facility for examining everyday human life through a different and richer lens than the rest of us. He notes in this compelling essay that when people block something out of their line of vision or rearrange their memories in such a way as to forget something, they are involved in a personal act. But his main point is that those acts of blocking and forgetting and remaining silent are really collective behavior, a form of collusion, a product of the social world. This is a rare mind at work."--Kai Erikson, author of A New Species of Trouble: Explorations in Disaster, Trauma, and Community
"With characteristic zest and insight, Eviatar Zerubavel talks about all those things we are generally reluctant to talk about. The Elephant in the Room
represents the sociological imagination in full flower."--Alan Wolfe, author of Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What It Needs to Do to Recover It
"The Elephant in the Room
is another eye-opening book from Eviatar Zerubavel. Here he gives us a guide to all the many ways in which we fail to see all the elephants in our own living rooms. Brilliant, lucid, and certainly timely."--Arlie Hochschild, author of The Time Bind
and The Commercialization of Intimate Life
"Eviatar Zerubavel possesses one of the most interesting minds in American sociology. In The Elephant in the Room
, he connects insights into how the mind works with a ruthless realism about the functioning of society. The results are not pretty, but they are important, and make for compulsive reading. Zerubavel shows how the sociological imagination can cast a penetrating light on the most important questions of the day."--Jeffrey C. Alexander, author of The Civil Sphere
"This is an interesting, thought-provoking, and delightful book. Reading it is easy and rewarding. The writing style is straightforward, with hardly any jargon, and Zerubavel makes rich and wise use of countless illustratons, connections, and associations....I have absolutely no hesitation to recommend highly and warmly this intelligent book--reading it is both an intellectual adventure and a genuine pleasure."--American Journal of Sociology
"In a brilliantly ironic tour de force, Eviatar Zerubavel has finally talked about a topic that nobody has talked about so well: those topics that people refuse to talk about despite common knowledge. Once again, Zerubavel displays his extraordinary talent for seeing scintillation where others see only clouds."--Viviana Zelizer, author of The Purchase of Intimacy
"Eviatar Zerubavel's masterful work, The Elephant in the Room
, offers a profound education for everyone who has ever held their tongue on matters large and small. His insightful--and riveting--analysis of silence and denial echoes in the mind long after we close the book."-- Neil Gilbert, author of Transformation of the Welfare State: The Silent Surrender of Public Responsibility