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Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck: Why We Can't Look Away Hardcover – February 14, 2012
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Wilson, a professor of English literature and author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy (2008), certainly has an unusual way of looking at things. Admitting his own fascination for the macabre and the tragic, he asks why we, as a society, are drawn to things that you’d think should repel us. Why do we have morbid curiosity, and what does that say about us? Exploring the question through consideration of a variety of phenomena—our fascination with the 9/11 footage of the towers coming down, our enjoyment of other people’s failures, our fondness for Hollywood tearjerkers and horror flicks, the popularity of serial killers, real and fictional—he develops the theme that we need this element of ourselves, that it’s essential to us. In essence, he argues that we need darkness in order to understand light. Not, perhaps, a blindingly original theme, but Wilson explores it with zeal and a great deal of wit. It’s hard, as one reads this fascinating book, not to see quite a bit of ourselves. --David Pitt
Eric G. Wilson's smart, probing new book . . . sets out to explain what lies beneath our collective fascination with death and suffering . . . Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck isn't some holier-than-thou polemic out to cure us of our dark leanings . . . Instead, it simply aims to help readers gain 'a fulfilling response to two of life's greatest, most pressing and persistent questions. What is the meaning of suffering? What is the significance of death? . . . The book's slim, peripatetic chapters cover an awful lot of erudite territory, as Wilson draws ideas and research from a delightful grab bag of academics, artists and thinkers. Aristotle, Freud, Kant, Goya and Hardy all make appearances, alongside an assortment of sociopaths and serial murderers. (John Wilwol, NPR.org)
Wilson is provocative, entertaining and above all honest. (Chris Tucker, The Dallas Morning News)
A leisurely, light-footed overview of our cultural obsession with doom, gloom, and gore. (Josh Rothman, The Boston Globe)
Compelling . . . Wilson keeps hearing a voice within that tells him to 'look.' He follows this instinct, energized by the idea that his thoughtful connoisseurship of the world's darkness is good--noble, even. Wilson draws on philosophers, poets, psychologists, filmmakers and more to build a case that 'an eager, open-minded interest in the macabre' provides 'a special invitation to think about life's meanings' . . . Wilson's guidance is personal, engaging, and convincing . . . The book offers heaps of terribly tantalizing topics. (Chris Jozefowicz, Rue Morgue)
Mixing anecdotes, arguments and his own quirky persona, the author of Against Happiness delivers a provocative meditation on morbid curiosity and the pleasure of seeing others suffer. (The Times-Picayune (New Orleans))
Wilson explores [his theme] with zeal and a great deal of wit. It's hard, as one reads this fascinating book, not to see quite a bit of ourselves. (David Pitt, Booklist)
[Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck] reassures: enjoying grotesque, horrible, frightening images is a natural impulse. From fairy tales to crime dramas, they hit us where we are most human. (Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe)
Ruminations of an exceptionally intelligent academic on why people--himself among the guilty parties--seem to search out and enjoy instances of human pain and suffering . . . [Wilson] does a thorough job of examining the people who can't look away. (Nona Nelson, The Roanoke Times)
[Wilson is] fluent and comfortable, whether he is poking for clues in the bewildering complexity of Edmund Burke's sublime, as experienced in the stomach-dropping irresistibilty of, say, a tornado; the Jungian shadow, that archive of everything we hate about ourselves, those destructive crazes and unadmitted tendencies without recognition of which we would not be whole; or the simple, malicious pleasure of another's misfortunes. (Peter Lewis, The Barnes & Noble Review)
Invoking everything from horror movies and television news footage of the Sept. 11 attacks to Dante's tormented verse and Goya's paintings of cannibals, Wilson makes a strong case that humans are natural-born rubberneckers . . . A hybrid of memoir, journalim and theory, [Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck] investigates what this impulse tells us about ourselves and how it might inspire constructive reactions like compassion . . . Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck necessarily deals with a host of grim subjects, yet there are also instances of unqualified beauty. (Kevin Canfield, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis))
In the teeming ranks of the American Professoriat, you could argue that Eric G. Wilson is among those most palpably needed by the world at large . . . Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck is a personal book that touches on 'death tourism,' Hannibal Lecter, Maurice Sendak, Tipper Gore, Francisco Goya, serial killers (a handwritten note by Jeffrey Dahmer can fetch $1,700, he cheerfully informs us), Tiger Woods sex scandals, and Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, all embedded in an Alexandrian library of literary allusions that can be encompassed in less than 200 pages. (Jeff Simon, Buffalo News)
Top customer reviews
I felt like I was at a Hollywood party where the person I was speaking with spent the entire conversation listing every famous person he knew. He didn't work it into the conversation, he just listed them so that I would be very impressed. Except in the book, Wilson lists every book he has read and quotes anyone and anything that may appear intellectual. The references did little to enhance the reading and in many cases detracted or misdirected away from the point or conclusion. His prose was extremely verbose and unnecessarily poetic. He chose to find complicated ways to make simple statements.
Though Wilson appeared open-minded to many theories and concepts on violence in society, he has chosen to be have very strong and negative opinions regarding religious people. He openly insults Christianity and believes religious people are narrow-minded and self-righteous, yet his comments seem to be a little bit of both as well. Let me be clear, he didn't have anything negative about Muslims, and I am sure he would defend their actions and behaviors to the end, but it is completely acceptable to make these statements about Christians because it conforms with the leftest ideals of our mainstream media and academia. Though generalizations can be helpful and at times useful, he was overly harsh and critical when it did nothing to further his book's theme.
It is a short read that feels like a very long read.
Most recent customer reviews
And, now meet your guide: author Eric G. Wilson, whose book _Everyone Loves a Good Train Wreck_ takes us on an illuminating voyage deep into...Read more