Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Essays Hardcover – September 1, 2009
|New from||Used from|
See the Best Books of 2017
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Caveat emptor: these witty, ironic, and observant essays by Wallace Shawn are brought to audio in a shoddy production with such poor sound quality that listeners may justifiably demand their money back. The microphone skips in and out so that parts of Shawn's narration are almost completely lost. In a reproduction of the 2004 interview that Shawn conducted with MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, the volume modulation varies so widely in the interview's second half that listening becomes irritating and difficult. (And the narration itself is confusing: Shawn plays Chomsky while Brian Jones plays Shawn, a role reversal that will sound bizarre to listeners who have already spent more than an hour with Shawn reading as himself.) Advice to Shawn's many fans: buy the hardcover of these worthy essays or seek out the pieces online; free versions of some are available on various Web sites or even on youtube.com. A Haymarket hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
From the Back Cover
In these beautiful essays, Wallace Shawn takes us on a revelatory journey in which the personal and political become one.Whether writing about the genesis of his plays, such as Aunt Dan and Lemon; discussing how the privileged world of arts and letters takes for granted the work of the unobtrusives, the people who serve our food and deliver our mail; or describing his upbringing in the sheltered world of Manhattans cultural elite, Shawn reveals a unique ability to step back from the appearance of things to explore their deeper social meanings. He grasps contradictions, even when unpleasant, and challenges us to look, as he does, at our own behavior in a more honest light. He also finds the pathos in the political and personal challenges of everyday life.With a sharp wit, remarkable attention to detail, and the same acumen as a writer of prose as he is a playwright, Shawn invites us to look at the world with new eyes, the better to understandand change it. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
My problem is not with points on which I disagree, but with the overall lack of originality or wit in these essays. As a political writer, Shawn is not a George Orwell or a Gore Vidal. He's nice enough, and if I had run across any of these pieces in a magazine or newspaper, I would have paid attention. Yet, there's nothing special about them and I don't find them worth being collected in a book. They unfortunately lack the drama and nuanced thinking Shawn puts into his acting and his plays.
Vincent Poirier, Quebec City
Wally Shawn's essays employ a similar combination of probing questions, but this time we, the reader, are at the table. The first set of essays, titled "Reality",explores how to live, both as privileged individuals and as a powerful country, in a world of poverty and oppression. The second set of essays explores art, especially theater and poetry, in terms of their purpose and their role in making the world a better place.
His essays on Reality are deeply moving in one very specific way: they expose his own unbearable pain trying to have fun and a good life, in a world that is inescapably terrible and sad. He returns to this dilemma several times, and each time, he spoke for me and thousands of others who wake up each day trying to figure this out. The rest of his Reality essays offer familiar information and analysis about Iraq, Israel, etc, but written in a deft and fresh and concise way. It is the underlying emotion - how we are to live with all this - that is truly unique.
His essays on Dream-World continue with questions, but include a lot of information and speculation on the meaning and purpose of art (especially theater and poetry), and sex (which may be art of another kind, or lead to art, or whatever). It was comforting to hear Wally claim that theater lacks a defined purpose these days, and is going all over the place with abandon. This explains the strange, disconnected experiences I am getting with my season tickets to a local repertory theater! His interview with Mark Strand gets into the whole question of who poets are writing for, whether the casual reader should "get" poetry, and the whole nasty business of analyzing poetry with a million margin notes.
Reading these essays is like having an EXCELLENT conversation with a very smart and humble friend. More people used to write like this, from Montaigne to George Orwell and Bertrand Russell, and it is nice to have a voice like this on the scene again. Sane, funny, forever questioning, getting us to think - on such a wide variety of issues. And - perhaps most important - Wally is not long-winded. He has the good sense and humility to put out a small book, which can be read on a subway (I did) in short segments. Bravo.
Shawn doesn't exempt himself, either. He makes it clear that he likes & craves comfort & security (however illusory it proves in the long run) as much as anyone. Who wouldn't? But he persists in asking those simple but painful questions, and stating brutally obvious but desperately ignored facts -- and in so doing, calls upon us to do the same. His essay "Morality" is especially pointed in this regard, as are his diary notes about the lead-up to & early days of the war on Iraq. He strips away the shiny but empty facade of realpolitik & national interests & supposedly noble ideals to remind us of what is actually happening:
"We are talking about raining death down on human beings, about thousands and thousands of howling wounded human beings, dismembered corpses in pools of blood. Is this one of the 'lessons of Vietnam' that people have learned -- that the immorality of this unspeakable murdering must never be mentioned?"
There's more to be found here, of course. The second half of the collection is about culture & art & the world of the theater. But even here, he asks pressing questions about the worth & value of something that he clearly treasures & cherishes, something that has been his life's work. Ultimately, this is where the two halves of the collection merge: Shawn asks us to consider what we truly find worthwhile & meaningful in life, and how much of our souls we're willing to pay for it. And even more urgently, is the price worth it?
Most recent customer reviews
Notes from the Middle World
Hopes and Prospects
The Pen and the Sword: Conversations with Edward SaidRead more