- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (January 22, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780374281113
- ISBN-13: 978-0374281113
- ASIN: 0374281114
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life Hardcover – January 22, 2013
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In Missing Out, Phillips seeks to render the self-punishing rigors of envisioning alternate lives—denied lives, better lives, more outrageous lives—into a normal-ish study in badly managed life expectations. While our lives are a seesaw of frustration and fulfillment, the eventual satisfaction never quite measures up. Because of its wild ranginess, its unwillingness to be American and tell me what to think, Missing Out brought me a strange and maybe obvious kind of comfort. —Choire Sicha
“A wonderfully concise appeal for presentness...Elegantly stated.” ―The Boston Globe
“Missing Out is [Adam Phillips's] most poetic, paradoxical, repetitive, and punning yet; he doesn't argue in a linear fashion but nestles ideas within ideas, like Russian dolls.” ―Sheila Heti, The New York Times Book Review
“[Adam Phillips] has an elegant prose style...with a talent for turning a phrase, a knack for epigrams” ―Los Angeles Review of Books
“Extraordinary...Always humane, never reductive, Phillips is one of those writers whom it is a pleasure simply to hear think.” ―The Sunday Telegraph (London)
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I suggest you read the book the same way that Adam suggested we listen and talk during the day we got to be with him in person: let yourself free associate. If you do, you will find your mind wandering in very useful directions. What I got out of it was the permission to live in all parts of my mind: the 'real' life I have now, and the 'lost' life that I had thought I'd have and didn't, and the 'imagined' life: what I can still hope for for myself in the future. Its a worthy book! if it does have its dry moments.
Quite a lot, it turns out. Paradoxically, he asserts, we have become experts in what we don't know and know-little's about what we think we do know. When the going gets tough at work or at home, as our frustration builds with the knots we tie ourselves up in, we develop "omniscience" about what awaits us in our unlived lives. It's not until we leave the job or abandon the family that the green pastures we projected turn out to be less nourishing than the life we confidently expected awaited us.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Not only is it impossible to fully know ourselves, more importantly, we can never know what goes on with anyone else, not our children, not our parents, not our wives or sweethearts. So we can't l know how things will turn out if we stay put and try to work out solutions to our frustrations, and we certainly can't know how we will feel with the new job or partner in the unlived life we opted for. To that degree, the book's subtitle title is, if not misleading, disingenuous. Since we can't know the unlived life - we never reach it -- the praise we cloak it in is a mirage.
Phillips, a psychoanalyst with years of practice under his belt, has extensive experience to support his conclusions. Moreover, he is sharp as a tack, extremely well read in his field and out, and a writer the New York Times described as "poetic, paradoxical, repetitive and punning." (Shelia Heit's review "Second Selves" appeared in the January 20, 2013 Sunday Book Review.) What more could you ask for?
End note. In fact, there is more: the book's appendix titled "On Acting Madness." It tackles what it means to actor, audience and to our understanding of the terrors of madness to perform the role of a madman on stage. Phillips discusses "MacBeth", "King Lear" and David Holman's dramatization of Gogol's "Diary of a Madman." What makes Phillips' essay so telling is that it assumes that madness "represents one of our unlived lives, something that might have happened to us..."