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Humiliation (BIG IDEAS//small books) Paperback – August 2, 2011

3.1 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“This literary ‘topping from the bottom' is the funniest, smartest, most heartbreaking yet powerful book I've read in a long time.” ―John Waters

“Humiliation runs like a rash over the body of all of Wayne Koestenbaum's work; here, he directly addresses the feeling, and the result is one of my favorite recent books: psychologically astute, verbally pyrotechnic, bottomlessly provocative, surprisingly funny, and immensely sad. An extraordinary meditation on nothing less than--I don't know how else to say it--the human condition.” ―David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

About the Author

WAYNE KOESTENBAUM has published five books of poetry, one novel, and six books of nonfiction. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, he is a distinguished professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center and also a visiting professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

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Product Details

  • Series: BIG IDEAS//small books
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 Original edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312429223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312429225
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #391,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By M. Hyman VINE VOICE on July 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. I primarily decided to read it because of the quote from John Waters who, when I was growing up in Maryland, was a bit of a not-yet-discovered cultural icon. Having said that, midway through the book I still wasn't sure what to expect from the book. It is a quirky set of short paragraphs relating to humiliation, in one form or another, or sexual tendencies and obsessions, or art, or struggle, or all of the above. It is sometimes written with a heavy intellectual tone, with the word play perhaps taking more value than the words, and at other times it is direct or even shocking, and throughout it bounces through various topics roughly organized around themes of humiliation.

It is, thus, a sort of collection of very short essays or musings, and it isn't clear how one would characterize it.

would i recommend it to others? i don't know. it is sometimes hard to read, sometimes endearing, sometimes capturing, sometimes dull, sometimes pompous, sometimes erotic, sometimes... sometimes a little of everything
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wayne Koestenbaum's "Humiliation" is an alternately hilarious and depressing book--his fixation on the term itself translates into a brilliant little novel (certainly not for everybody) which calls to mind a blend of Thomas Bernhard's Gargoyles: A Novel
and Mina Loy's [[ASIN:0876858531 Insel]. The character is subject to, indeed, humiliation after humiliation: feelings of shame, pain, etc are explored to virtually no end. Ultimately, though, Kostenbaum is not a doom sayer--he uses the most uncanny and embarrassing situations to reveal that we most embarassment comes from within, not without. A good novel.
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I am in the midst of reading and 'enjoying' Wayne Koestenbaum's extraordinary little gem and treatise simply entitled HUMILIATION---quite a feat--to expound for 192 pages clarifying penetrating exposing exploring its soaring depths, its weird highs and lows this 'humilation' from all its twisted abject angles : subjective and objective personal and cultural psychological and dare i say clinical, this acutely heightened exploration of a topic one would not want to touch with a 10ft pole let alone admit a personal relationship with it! and the courage to grapple with it---astounding and triumphant accomplishment. And, then also to be humorous in the midst of such unpleasantness, referring to himself as the 'humilation expert', is endearingly honest.

For the life of me, i cannot understand those reviewers who find this work 'confusing' as it is a fluid, intelligent, self assured and well written expose of something which is a grotesque part of our nature and therefore of life as we know it: it both attracts and repels us and permeates our lives as Mr. Koestenbaum so smartly addresses in all its guises. For sure, as this brave and talented writer states: 'humilation cooks the spirit to a fine finish'and then some. . .yes, i always knew humilation to be good for the soul.

upon further examination, tho, experiencing 'humiliation (eventually) leads to a cessation of humiliation' and this stoppage of terror , is experienced as pleasure.'

it is good to face fear in all its ingloriousness and laugh at it and truly mean it
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For many, this may be a painful book. Koestenbaum presents the many faces of humiliation. He exposes the pain, the crises in self confidence, the feelings of shame and isolation that most of us know if we have ever been humbled.

Humiliation is a detailed treatise which attempts to define humiliation in its many aspects. Koestenbaum explores art, current events, literature, film, history, and his personal experiences to give us hundreds of small anecdotes and meditations on mortification and its effect upon people.

Koestenbaum details what he calls the "Jim Crow gaze". The gaze appears on the face of racial bigots, especially in the eyes of people living in a "state of apartheid". It is cold, seems dead, and does not recognize the victim as human. Instead it sees a "scab", a spot of absence." Such people can not see their victim as human without surrendering the negative feelings and often the hatred and fear necessary to maintain their prejudice.

"Humiliation" even explores self humiliation. It is unclear whether it is natural to feel humiliated when no one else is aware of our mistake, or gaff. Maybe we have such feelings because our society has carefully trained us concerning its standards of "decency". What is clear is that sometimes we feel the pain, the emotional embarrassment, even in solitude.

If I ever wanted to be a celebrity, this book discourages me. I would not trade places with Michael Jackson, Alec Baldwin, or other famous people whose experiences are included in the text. One section, called "Disgusting Allegations" details situations I certainly want to avoid.

Humiliation is not the book of comedy sketches I thought it was when I ordered it. Actually it is better. This text opens part of our soul to us. I recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Humiliation is one of the books in Picador's "Big Ideas small books" series of "provocative short books inviting us to rethink our biggest ideas."

Nice idea. The books entitled Violence and Time fit well into this framework. Yes, violence and time are both pretty big ideas. Who decided that humiliation was a Big Idea? Hmm. Maybe an editor who said something like, "Wayne, write about whatever you like." Wayne Koestenbaum likes humiliation, and so it's a Big Idea.

Humiliation (the book) may be provocative, but it is nothing more than that. Koestenbaum wrote the very good "The Queen's Throat," but Humiliation reads like the sleepy self-indulgent musings of a horny voyeur with no action at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. There's some clever turns of phrase, but it's all so much ado about nothing much at all, indeed one very small idea that, at nearly 200 pages, is much too long indeed.

This review, written by a non-writer with a bad toothache, is about as intellectual and well composed as the book. This book deserves no more than that, for frankly, this kind of sloppy, snarky writing is tired. It's also tiring.

Frightening the horses has been done to death. I'm not shocked by this book, for I've read Genet, Dennis Cooper, and DeSade. Our cultural propensity for enjoying both our own and other people's public humiliation and redemption from it is an interesting topic (though is it Big?) It would have been far more interesting, however, and truly provocative, if Koestenbaum actually answered some of the questions he asked, such as why he enjoys reading the desperate pleas for sexual humiliation on Craigslist. But no, he merely observes from a distance, as if languidly exposing himself and others for their transgressions means something. It does not.
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