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I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams Hardcover – April 6, 2012
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"More relevant than Mythologies, funnier than Travels in Hyperreality, more readable than Simulacra, less gloomy than Living in the End Times, smarter than Hitchens and without the pomposity, Dery's dazzling collection will, I unhesitatingly predict, become a classic of cultural criticism." - Jim Lawrence, Words, Noises and Other Stuff
"Whether writing about a severed head, toy gun lust, Lady Gaga, the Pope, Facebook, or Madonna's big toe, Dery indefatigably explores those dark corners of our collective, subconscious thoughts. [...] [A] masterful mash-up of personal history, literary study, and philosophical rumination..." - Kate Walker, Notes for Headstones
"Dery wants to turn society over and shine some light on the dark, crawly things growing underneath it---and us."
[T]hese short, sharp, well-turned pieces...will make you look at the world in a whole new and rewardingly disturbing way."
- Deborah Sussman, Phoenix New Times
"Do not turn squeamish from the many considerations of death that lurk within—vampires, tombs, disease, corruption of many varieties. Mark Dery’s restless and stylish essay is concerned with one thing only—what it means to be alive in America." —Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
About the Author
Mark Dery is a cultural critic and journalist whose writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Wired, Cabinet, Bookforum, and Boing Boing, among other publications. His books include Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture; The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink; and the widely republished pamphlet Culture Jamming. He is writing a biography of Edward Gorey.
Bruce Sterling is a science fiction author whose novels include Distraction, Zeitgeist, Holy Fire, and The Caryatids.
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Top customer reviews
I have assigned this book for every class I've ever taught as an adjunct, or at least 3-4 essays from it. They have invaluable perspective, a wit which endemic to late 19th century and early 20th century essayists (Chesterton, Wilson, Wilde, Mencken), an occasionally melancholy lyricism, and a thoroughly modern and unquestionably necessary approach to things which we all-too-often overlook in our culture—or should I say, ignore. This book pokes around in our culture's abandoned houses, as it were, and surprises us with the discomfiting realization that they have not been "abandoned" at all, but rather that we are still living within them, as if it were a mirror capable of showing us that we are in fact ghosts, haunting ourselves.
And what of the contents of these electronic-disinformation-sea-bobbing vessels? Well, if bemused and fascinating musings on subjects as diverse as the homoeroticism of George W. Bush, how Lady Gaga stands up in comparison to previous gender-and-agenda-bender bi-curious rockers, current zombie apocalypse obsession, Dadaist spam poetry, the homosexuality quotient of the tiresome Super Bowl (Dery does not shy away from any sexual matter, straight or not), Mayan apocalypse cultists, fundamentalist religion pamphleteers, the suicide note as a literary subgenre, the fascist-identifying proclivities of Prince Harry, and on and on (you get the general hyper-eclectic-discussions gist) interest you, then you will absolutely love this book. With a spunky, funky sensibility informed in parts by the late 70s American punk of his youth, alternative literature and an endlessly inquiring mind, Dery gleefully picks up a great many taboo-subject rocks, shows us what's squirming sightless unseen underneath them, then crushes the stupidity of the more deserving targets to death with the selfsame stone.
On a technical level, Dery is an excellent writer, approaching his subject matter with a wry, sometimes uproarious spiketop sense of humor which helps to leaven some of his more serious discussions. Dery does tend to dwell a lot on the darker side of life, which can make for uncomfortable and somewhat frightening, if enlightening, reading. It strikes me there's a slightly schoolboy prurience (back to punk and nihilism again) to the glee-degree with which he jumps into some of humanity's bleakest corners, but his reports back on the long dark night of our ever-evaporating soul are always done with a judicious amount of redeeming humanity, a lack of identification with the insane, and a sense of genuine human curiosity and inquiry. He does not fetishise stuff like the sickest corners of the net's sexual representation, he just says here's what I found and saw during examining this crash on the information superhighway, here's what I made of it, nothing hugely interesting to see here, move along, move along.