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We Learn Nothing: Essays Paperback – April 9, 2013
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"A remarkable collection . . . I found myself nodding in agreement and wondering how [Tim Kreider] could so consistently express my feelings, and express them so much better than I ever could." (Nancy Pearl NPR.org)
“In a political atmosphere as angry as this, [Kreider's] oblique, self-deprecating commentary may be the only angle to which party loyalists on either side are likely to respond. We Learn Nothing should be their required reading.” (Willamette Week (Portland, Ore.))
“Kreider is as compelling a writer as he is a visual satirist. His essays tend toward the ‘elegiac,’ as he puts it—something that cannot be said of his cartoons—but the same delightfully brutal honesty underlies both. Kreider’s descriptions are often simultaneously surprising and resonant . . . self-effacing and funny.” (City Paper (Baltimore))
“Amazing . . . Any thinking person with a sense of humor will find We Learn Nothing provocative and delightful, reminiscent, in varying ways, of David Foster Wallace, James Thurber, David Sedaris, and Susan Sontag.” (Jennifer Finney Boylan author of She’s Not There)
“Kreider is a superb essayist, a funny and fluent storyteller who wears his cultural literacy lightly . . . To read “The Creature Walks Among Us,” “The Czar’s Daughter,” “Escape from Pony Island,” or “An Insult to the Brain” is to appreciate a mordant but affectionate observer of life’s rich pageant, and a craftsman who almost never puts a word wrong.” (Johns Hopkins Magazine)
“Kreider locates the right simile and the pith of situations as he carefully catalogues humanity’s inventive and manifold ways of failing.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Tim Kreider may be the most subversive soul in America and his subversions—by turns public and intimate, political and cultural—are just what our weary, mixed-up nation needs. The essays in We Learn Nothing are for anybody who believes it's high time for some answers, damn it." (Richard Russo Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls)
"Whether he is expressing himself in highly original cartoons that are hilarious visual poems, or in prose that exposes our self-delusions by the way he probes his own experience with candor, Tim Kreider is a writer-artist who brilliantly understands that every humorist at his best is a liberator. Because he is irreverent, makes us laugh, ruffles the feathers of the pretentious and the pompous, and keeps us honest, We Learn Nothing is a pleasure from its first page to the last." (Charles Johnson bestselling author of Middle Passage)
“We Learn Nothing articulated, for me, more human truths than any book in recent memory. When you’re done with it, it almost feels like finishing a textbook: you actually feel like you understand how things work a little better.” (PublishersWeekly.com)
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Top Customer Reviews
I was a little hesitant because it became clear after a bit of research that Kreider's politics and mine were pretty far out of sync. (Not that I mind competing viewpoints, I just don't like the whole bashing thing.) I need not have worried. Unlike much of Kreider's work of the George W. Bush era, which consistently savaged all things Republican, We Learn Nothing is not overtly political. Each essay is unique, highly original, wistful, soul-baring, poignant, and achingly human. Although a naturally passionate lefty partisan, Kreider is, to his immense credit, rigorously intellectually honest and reflexively fair throughout this latest collection. He is unsparingly critical of himself and those with whom he aligns, and gracious and empathetic to his philosophical opposites. It feels a little like an act of atonement, as though Kreider is saying: Sorry I got a little carried away there. See, I'm much better now.
I cannot recall ever having read an author so preternaturally incisive, so aware, so adept at performing what amounts to a full monty of the soul without seeming self-indulgent. Kreider is relentlessly introspective and profoundly self-aware. Yet this is no act of mere navel-gazing. Above all, We Learn Nothing is the work of a sensitive, piercing intelligence trying to make sense of the world by first making sense of itself. This book should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with this messy, confusing, brutal, beautiful, tragic, hilarious, stupid, fragile thing we call life. Scratch that: This book should be required reading, period.
After reading this book I thought, I would love to spend an afternoon with this guy over beers, discussing anything and everything.
The stories themselves cover a lot of terrain: dysfunctional family members, transgendered friends, near death experiences, relationships; but always from the perspective of someone who's madly in love with his friends and family, warts and all. Kreider exposes the ugly/beautiful truth of what it means to be human in the most honest, thoughtful, endearing and entertaining way.
Highly, highly recommended.
In his writing, Kreider comes off as intense, intelligent, and witty with a slightly unbalanced edge that makes for some brutally honest - almost cringe-inducing -- reading moments. Kreider is an interesting guy with an interesting life. Not many of us can write essays about a mentally ill uncle incarcerated for attempted murder by arson ("His visits were like a whiff of cigarette smoke in church."), getting stabbed, a transitioning transgender friend, discovering in middle age that we've been adopted, or a best friend who becomes obsessed with peak-oil. But what makes We Learn Nothing a really worthwhile read, beyond the fun and inherent interest, is the way Kreider widens the scope.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was well worth it, although I didn't get much out of the cartoons which are a bit small for my old eyes. Read morePublished 3 days ago by W. Hayes
Kreider's a real person leading a real life, though it's not a mainstream life.
He does a very good job of describing the various situations he finds himself in, and... Read more
"We Learn Nothing" by Tim Kreider is a series of essays on random topics. Some are funny, some are not, but all are insightful into life and all the silly things that... Read morePublished 2 months ago by K. Kennedy
These essays are amazing and have so much to say about life, particularly about friendship.Published 2 months ago by Yitzhak B.
Loved the writing, narration, humor. I wasn't always enamored of the topic of each essay, but that didn't take away from enjoying the prose and underlying reflections. Read morePublished 2 months ago by TERRI SCHNEIDER
If you haven't read Tim Kreider's essays in the New York Times, you might want to check out "The Feast of Pain" (April 26, 2014) or "The Summer That Never Was"... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Michael Kaliher
Good, insightful book about the life and times of Time Kreider. I don't always agree with him and I don't care for his cartoons at all, but he's always entertaining in a melancholy... Read morePublished 4 months ago by ChrisCiolli