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This Is Running for Your Life: Essays Paperback – February 12, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the opening essay in this engrossing collection, a book that restores one’s hope for the future of intelligent life on earth, Orange introduces “the theory of receptivity,” a phrase that neatly describes the source of her fathoming inquiries. In this extended thought piece, written, as is every selection, with an ensnaring mix of intense curiosity, personal disclosures, buoyant wit, and harpooning precision, Orange considers the ways technology has altered time and asks why nostalgia is “now such an integral part of American culture.” Film is critic, journalist, and writer Orange’s great passion, and her inquiry into permutations of the cinematic “dream girl,” from Marilyn Monroe to today’s “approachably edgy, adorably frantic,” but damaged pixies, unveils crucial aspects of our “collective imagination.” Incisive analysis of the impact of social media is matched by a poignant dispatch on her nervy 2008 sojourn in Beirut and a startlingly profound report on what was actually at stake at an American Psychiatric Association conference. Orange’s receptivity is acute, her mastery of language thrilling, and her interpretations of the forces transforming our lives invigorating. --Donna Seaman

Review

[A] well-assembled essay book can be as charismatic as a new rock album, especially if it introduces you to a youngish author whose work you'd previously missed. This was the case, for me, with Michelle Orange's first collection: an assembly of ten stylish, rangy, slightly weird essays that cover topics from the city of Beirut to digital photography. Orange's style is at once narrowly personal and intellectually ambitious, and offered more surprises than I'd expected. (Nathan Heller, NewYorker.com)

Considering the remarkably strong voice -- one that's sardonic enough to laugh at the darkness just a bit -- and sharp mind Orange brings to This Is Running for Your Life, you might assume that the author is an old hand at this sort of thing, with plenty of essay collections to her name. In fact, this is her first. Especially in a year when so many writers were trying to say "Goodbye to All That," Michelle Orange was more subtly earning her place as of one of Joan Didion's heirs. All we can do is sit back and hope she keeps running with it. (Jason Diamond, Flavorwire)

What a marvelous--really, a marvel--journalist and thinker Michelle Orange is. I am so engrossed in these culturally astute essays about everything from Canadian retirement homes to Manic Pixie Dream Girls. (Sloane Crosley, NPR.org)

A brave, new, and sometimes thrillingly difficult collection of essays . . . [This Is Running for Your Life] jolted me sideways with ideas that were both immediately accessible and weirdly deep . . . [It's] it's a joy to come across someone who has so much to say and who says it with such force and originality. From persistence of vision to persistence of image, Orange embraces such a wide range of concerns that while reading This is Running for Your Life I had the feeling I had when I was in university: that there is more to the world than I thought, and that it was worth the time to pause and consider it. (Michael Redhill, The National Post)

There's a wonderful balance between high and low art in this book, and a terrific streak of irreverence . . . In [one] stand out piece Orange recalls her time in Honolulu at the 2011 conference of the American Psychiatric Association--a hilarious and fascinating essay that approaches David Foster Wallace at his best . . . Orange tackles disparate elements with ease, and her essay col lection is smart, funny and fiercely original. (Carmela Ciuraru, San Francisco Chronicle)

The book's diverse subject matter is unified by [Orange's] keen critical eye, acerbic sense of humor, and a writing style that crackles with wit and insight. Each piece braids multiple narrative and thematic threads to create almost an impressionistic interpretation of how we experience, negotiate and document the times in which we live. (Pasha Malla, The Believer)

Michelle Orange has made a name for herself as a social and aesthetic observer who eschews bromides and empty sentiment. Droll, honest, and incisive, her writing glides effortlessly between artistic criticism and per sonal anecdote. (Harper's)

Orange's insights share their probing, persuasive rhythms with those of Susan Sontag . . . [An] unfailingly X-ray-like inquiry into the peculiarities of our ultra-mediated world unites Orange's 10 absorbing essays. (M. Allen Cunningham, Portland Oregonian)

Reading Michelle Orange is like having a moving, one-sided conversation with your best friend if your best friend was feeling particularly astute that day. (The Village Voice)

This essay collection cuts through cultural preconceptions and offers insight into our changing world with clarity, intelligence, and a truly original voice. (Largehearted Boy)

[Michelle Orange] writes generously and thoughtfully about the way mass culture molds the human heart . . . bighearted, unsentimental, and very smart. (Eugenia Williamson, Bookforum)

A brilliant collection of essays on modern life, and ways that technology and connectivity are changing how we interact with the world . . . The title of a new collection of essays from critic Michelle Orange, This Is Running For Your Life, is so striking in part because it is such an unspoken but recognizable feeling about the way we currently spend our time on earth. As Orange brilliantly breaks down the state of modern life and how it stands in relation to technology and the commoditized image, she tells us much of what we already have intuited, but might have been afraid to admit to ourselves . . . This book is not only a comprehensive cultural portrait of our relationship with technology but also time itself, in the changing ways that we mediate it and consume it. (Nicholas Mancusi, The Daily Beast)

The great fun of Michelle Orange's This Is Running for Your Life is in watching an essayist build associations between seemingly unconnected topics--James Dean and Michael Jackson, air travel and old age, Hawaii and DSM-5--with all the ease and agility of a master craftsman . . . it would it would be difficult to name another cultural critic who brings such a high level of intellectual rigor to her subject. Her essays are funny, but not frivolous; sharp, but not brittle. This Is Running for Your Life is thoughtful, heartfelt, witty and deeply impressive . . . In Orange's writing, the individual gives way to the art (and vice versa), each illuminating the other . . . An abiding intelligence guides readers through the pages, and it's gratifying to encounter a writer with such a strong ability to balance the personal and the critical . . . It's a good book for readers who like to think as they read, and an excellent corrective for those of us who may have fallen out of the habit. (S. J. Culver, Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Orange offers glimpses of the emo­tional root struc­ture of her own asso­cia­tive ten­den­cies, demon­strat­ing how exca­vat­ing analo­gies every­where is a form of gen­eros­ity but also a symp­tom of hunger: for sense, for con­nec­tion, for accumulation . . . At the cen­ter of her book is a stub­born fas­ci­na­tion with how imper­fectly we know one another and our own col­lec­tive past. But there is a deep ten­der­ness in how she picks apart our imperfection--a beat­ing heart deliv­er­ing oxy­gen to her acro­batic intellect--and it's this qual­ity of intel­li­gent ten­der­ness that con­nects her voice most pal­pa­bly to [that of Rebecca Sol­nit]. (Leslie Jamison, The New Republic)

In the opening essay in this engrossing collection, a book that restores one's hope for the future of intelligent life on earth, Orange introduces 'the theory of receptivity,' a phrase that neatly describes the source of her fathoming inquiries. In this extended thought piece, written, as is every selection, with an ensnaring mix of intense curiosity, personal disclosures, buoyant wit, and harpooning precision, Orange considers the ways technology has altered time and asks why nostalgia is 'now such an integral part of American culture.' Film critic, journalist, and writer Orange's great passion, and her inquiry into permutations of the cinematic 'dream girl,' from Marilyn Monroe to today's 'approachably edgy, adorably frantic,' but damaged pixies, unveils crucial aspects of our 'collective imagination.' Incisive analysis of the impact of social media is matched by a poignant dispatch on her nervy 2008 sojourn in Beirut and a startlingly profound report on what was actually at stake at an American Psychiatric Association conference. Orange's receptivity is acute, her mastery of language thrilling, and her interpretations of the forces transforming our lives invigorating. (Donna Seaman, Booklist)

In this whip-smart, achingly funny collection, film critic Orange (The Sicily Papers) trains her lens on aging, self-image, and the ascendancy of the marketing demographic, among other puzzles of the Facebook generation . . . [this is] a collection whose voice feels at once fresh and inevitable. (Publishers Weekly)

Michelle Orange's mind and her work are splendid, original, absolutely thrilling. (Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers)

Michelle Orange is a crystal clear thinker--funny, lucid, warm and enthusiastic. And This Is Running For Your Life is an important treasure trove of irresistible ideas, information and memories. I found it a delight. (Jami Attenberg, author of The Middlesteins)

Reading Michelle Orange is like getting swept up in a long, stimulating conversation. Orange is fearlessly brainy and forthcoming, and she unstitches cultural assumptions with dexterity and wit. This Is Running for Your Life is a collection of argument, observation, and personal revelation that left me thoughtful and entertained. (Leanne Shapton, author of Swimming Studies)

Smart, sophisticated, and quirky, these essays showcase an original voice that uncannily captures the broodings and shadings of a generation. (Philip Lopate)

A sprawling, maximalist journey into the existential and cultural dramas of late twentieth-/early twenty-first-century North American life. Michelle Orange gives us the contents of her very interesting mind along with a healthy dose of her very good soul. (Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House)

With profound clarity and sly, pointed humor, Michelle Orange peels back the skin of our modern world. I love this damn book! (Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart Is an Idiot)

I haven't read anyone who writes more incisively and provocatively about the way we live now than Michelle Orange. She's a master essayist and our very best modern critic. (Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Originals (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374533326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374533328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michelle Orange was born and raised in London, Ontario. A graduate of the University of Toronto, in 2003 she moved to New York City to join the graduate film studies program at New York University.

Michelle's essays, features, fiction, and criticism have appeared in McSweeney's, The Nation, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the New York Times, the Village Voice, Movieline and other publications. She is the author of The Sicily Papers, published in 2006, and the editor of From the Notebook: The Unwrit­ten Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, a collection published in issue 22 of McSweeney's.

She is currently a contributing editor at The Rumpus and a regular contributor to Capital New York. This Is Running For Your Life, an essay collection, will be published by FSG in February, 2013.

For more info please check out www.michelleorange.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A. Reid VINE VOICE on November 14, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are three things I like in an essay: humor, information, and reflection. Michelle Orange solidly delivers on two of the three in this collection, with a deft hand at weaving facts with prime introspection. Orange evaluates history, society and herself, drawing no firm conclusions but offering plenty of food for thought.

As with any book of essays, they are likely to vary in their appeal to individual readers. For instance, I was not particularly drawn to the introductory essay, "The Uses of Nostalgia and Some Thoughts on Ethan Hawke's Face" - which focuses on the ways that human beings become fixed within their concept of culture, identifying with certain times and iconic music or figures or feelings associated with them - but was enthralled by "War and Well-Being, 21° 19'N., 157° 52'W". The latter, which discusses a trip to Hawaii to attend a conference of the American Psychiatric Association on the upcoming iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (last edition as of this writing here) and brings in all kinds of information and thoughts on war, still seems the best example of Orange's strongest appeal for me - she seems to be quite good at mingling personal narrative with history in a way that intensifies the effect of both.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dorothea Brooke on February 13, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michelle Orange is a fearless and perspicacious thinker who balances erudition with wit, original thought with careful, fair-minded observation and introspection with an unwillingness to tune out the outside world. Whether she is dissecting pop culture or visiting her depressed and fading grandmother, Orange uses language that is as precise and original as her thinking. She is also a great wit: many of her most trenchant observations about modern life are also poignantly, wryly funny, thanks in part to the freshness of her language, which mixes the erudite with the colloquial to wonderful effect.

Each essay is a self-contained whole, some more heavily weighted toward the personal than others, but all contain glimpses into the author's life and her upbringing in London, Ontario, as well as reflections on movies, movie stars, gender, technology, modern psychiatry and much more. The collection is carefully arranged so that the final essay, ostensibly about running and depression, echoes, ever so subtly, some of the themes of the first, about time and mortality and Ethan Hawke, an effect that is both satisfying and melancholy, in the way that novels often are at their close. By this point, the reader has accompanied Orange on a tremendously exhilarating intellectual and personal journey, a journey that will alter the way we perceive our own culture--and make us think twice before we pull out our iPhones and begin snapping photos or taking videos--as well as our inner lives. Even when she discusses her own struggles with loneliness, anomie and depression, Orange resists lazy therapeutic thinking and offers instead something both valuable and rare: an example of a person amassing every bit of her fierce intellect to forge her own way of being in the world.

"This is Running for Your Life" is an exciting and ambitious book by a brilliant writer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra Henshel VINE VOICE on March 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A singularly talented voice.
Michelle Orange's propulsively readable essays take the reader across the globe, and through time, but always returning to define here and now.
Her writing offers insights both into pop culture, as in her beautiful and grateful piece on "The Uses of Nostalgia and Some thoughts on Ethan Hawke's Face", and into her own background, but always with a wider perspective. The melancholy and elegiacal "One Senior, Please", about her grandmother's fading days is both intensely personal and a wider view of how geriatric people are viewed and treated in our society, and Orange uses film to frame her experiences.
This is the kind of writing that makes one's hair stand on end.
Brilliant, thought-provoking, and memorable.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on December 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This compilation of essays, like many other books of the type, had both extremely appealing pieces and ones which I found less accessible - but isn't this often true of essay collections? Overall, there is much to commend in This is Running for Your Life.

What I consider a "must read" is the detailed coverage of the debates at the annual conference of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), debates centered around the development of the APA's latest diagnostic manual (DSM-V for short) The DSM is considered a benchmark for diagnosing mental health conditions, from autism to binge eating. Author Michelle Orange focused on various arguments: how long should grief last? Should Asperger be integrated into Autism Spectrum Disorders? Anyone who wants a deeper understanding of mental health diagnosis and treatment should read that piece. She also includes a history of the DSM, adding a deeper perspective.

Less appealing? The first essay in the book, "The Uses of Nostalgia and Some Thoughts on Ethan Hawke's Face." I found it hard to follow the author's train of thought and focus. Lengthy, dense, an effort to read- that sums that it up for me. I think it was primarily about nostalgia, time and technology but even though I reread the piece, it didn't gel for me.

There are very few stumbles in Orange's book, however. Most of the essays are informative, intriguing, and original. This isn't a light, quick or easy read but one for tackling when you want fresh perspectives or to explore new topics and ideas. Whether writing about her work as a film critic, traveling through Beirut or her family history, Orange rarely fails to be engaging.
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