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We Learn Nothing: Essays Paperback – April 9, 2013
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"Tim Kreider's writing is heartbreaking, brutal and hilarious—usually at the same time. He can do in a few pages what I need several hours of screen time and tens of millions to accomplish. And he does it better. Come to think of it, I'd rather not do a blurb. I am beginning to feel bad about myself." (Judd Apatow)
"A remarkable collection . . . I found myself nodding in agreement and wondering how [Tim Kreider] could so consistently express my feelings, and express them so much better than I ever could." (Nancy Pearl NPR.org)
“In a political atmosphere as angry as this, [Kreider's] oblique, self-deprecating commentary may be the only angle to which party loyalists on either side are likely to respond. We Learn Nothing should be their required reading.” (Willamette Week (Portland, Ore.))
“Kreider is as compelling a writer as he is a visual satirist. His essays tend toward the ‘elegiac,’ as he puts it—something that cannot be said of his cartoons—but the same delightfully brutal honesty underlies both. Kreider’s descriptions are often simultaneously surprising and resonant . . . self-effacing and funny.” (City Paper (Baltimore))
“Amazing . . . Any thinking person with a sense of humor will find We Learn Nothing provocative and delightful, reminiscent, in varying ways, of David Foster Wallace, James Thurber, David Sedaris, and Susan Sontag.” (Jennifer Finney Boylan author of She’s Not There)
“Kreider is a superb essayist, a funny and fluent storyteller who wears his cultural literacy lightly . . . To read “The Creature Walks Among Us,” “The Czar’s Daughter,” “Escape from Pony Island,” or “An Insult to the Brain” is to appreciate a mordant but affectionate observer of life’s rich pageant, and a craftsman who almost never puts a word wrong.” (Johns Hopkins Magazine)
“Kreider locates the right simile and the pith of situations as he carefully catalogues humanity’s inventive and manifold ways of failing.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Earnest, well-turned personal essays about screw-ups without an ounce of sanctimony—a tough trick.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"Tim Kreider may be the most subversive soul in America and his subversions—by turns public and intimate, political and cultural—are just what our weary, mixed-up nation needs. The essays in We Learn Nothing are for anybody who believes it's high time for some answers, damn it." (Richard Russo Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls)
"Whether he is expressing himself in highly original cartoons that are hilarious visual poems, or in prose that exposes our self-delusions by the way he probes his own experience with candor, Tim Kreider is a writer-artist who brilliantly understands that every humorist at his best is a liberator. Because he is irreverent, makes us laugh, ruffles the feathers of the pretentious and the pompous, and keeps us honest, We Learn Nothing is a pleasure from its first page to the last." (Charles Johnson bestselling author of Middle Passage)
About the Author
Tim Kreider has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Week, The Men’s Journal, and Nerve.com. His popular comic strip, The Pain—When Will It End?, ran in alternative weeklies for twelve years and has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics. He is the author of two collections of essays, We Learn Nothing and I Wrote This Book Because I Love You. He divides his time between New York City and an undisclosed location on the Chesapeake Bay.
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I was a little hesitant because it became clear after a bit of research that Kreider's politics and mine were pretty far out of sync. (Not that I mind competing viewpoints, I just don't like the whole bashing thing.) I need not have worried. Unlike much of Kreider's work of the George W. Bush era, which consistently savaged all things Republican, We Learn Nothing is not overtly political. Each essay is unique, highly original, wistful, soul-baring, poignant, and achingly human. Although a naturally passionate lefty partisan, Kreider is, to his immense credit, rigorously intellectually honest and reflexively fair throughout this latest collection. He is unsparingly critical of himself and those with whom he aligns, and gracious and empathetic to his philosophical opposites. It feels a little like an act of atonement, as though Kreider is saying: Sorry I got a little carried away there. See, I'm much better now.
I cannot recall ever having read an author so preternaturally incisive, so aware, so adept at performing what amounts to a full monty of the soul without seeming self-indulgent. Kreider is relentlessly introspective and profoundly self-aware. Yet this is no act of mere navel-gazing. Above all, We Learn Nothing is the work of a sensitive, piercing intelligence trying to make sense of the world by first making sense of itself. This book should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with this messy, confusing, brutal, beautiful, tragic, hilarious, stupid, fragile thing we call life. Scratch that: This book should be required reading, period.
After reading this book I thought, I would love to spend an afternoon with this guy over beers, discussing anything and everything.
The stories themselves cover a lot of terrain: dysfunctional family members, transgendered friends, near death experiences, relationships; but always from the perspective of someone who's madly in love with his friends and family, warts and all. Kreider exposes the ugly/beautiful truth of what it means to be human in the most honest, thoughtful, endearing and entertaining way.
Highly, highly recommended.
I judge this book very favorably.
I had never heard of Tim Kreider. It turns out that he is a cartoonist. The book is peppered with his drawings. They were fine (hopefully he never reads this review).
The writing, however, was much more than fine.
In this collection of essays, he says all of the things that I am way too cowardly to. Do you ever feel like most of your life is wasted being “busy”? If you don’t, then “Lazy: A Manifesto” might cause you an existential crisis.
Ever wondered what it feels like when a close friend has an abrupt and totally unexpected sex change? I hadn’t, but in “Chutes and Candyland” Kreider answered all of the questions I didn’t know I had.
Ever been abandoned by a childhood friend – as a forty year-old man? I’m not forty yet, but after reading “The Anti-Kreider Club” now I know what to expect.
Ever had a brush with death that changed your entier outlook on life – for about a week? Actually, I have. My wound was less dramatic than Kreider’s, but the subsequent emotional arc of “The Reprieve” was very much the same.
This world is full of people. Some of them have very different opinions than I do. Some of them have very similar ones. Every once in a while, I come across a person who not only shares my opinions, but also articulates them more perfectly than I ever could. Tim Kreider is one of those people. Did I learn anything from his book? Maybe. Maybe not. Only time will tell.
At the very least, I know that I resonated with every word.
Most recent customer reviews
Funny and inquisitive and thoughtful enough to make you stop writing