Four years ago, I read David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable, a book of collected essays. Rakoff, an out gay man, reads like a more curmudgeonly and hyperliterate version of David Sedaris, like the bastard love-child of Sedaris and Chuck Klosterman. Years later, Rakoff’s next book, Half Empty, capitalizes on his dark worldview by offering a series of loosely-connected essays in defense of the notion that pessimism is not all bad.
- Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
- Year: 2010
- Pages: 304
Hoarding recently got a representative–for better or worse–in pop culture with the arrival of TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive; I’ll leave it to your own judgment if this is a good or bad thing, or just how “pop culture” TLC is, but in any case, it goes to show the tabloid power of psychological problems. Everyone gapes and gawks at home filled to the ceilings with piles of accumulated junk and wonders how these squirrely people can live their lives this way.
Stuff is an attempt by a noted academic and active therapist in the field (Randy Frost, along with a coauthor who is rarely mentioned by name) to summarize the state of scientific knowledge about hoarding, where it comes from, why it doesn’t easily conform to stereotypes, and how at least some of these people can be successfully treated.
My interest in Drive was piqued by a presentation that Pink gave during a TED talk. The idea itself is interesting, but it also dovetails nicely with my general focus of study during my MBA coursework , namely intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. That might sound a little like jargon; it gets easier.
Steven Pinker has a new op-ed in the New York Times where, ever the gallant hero of relativism in the way that most linguists and social scientists are, he defends new forms of mass and social media from their loudest detractors. His two salient examples are Powerpoint and Twitter. While the former has been a fixture of academic or professional communication for well over a decade, the latter is a relative newcomer and currently receives the same mix of pointed dislike and frenzied exuberance usually reserved for the novel.
Let it not be said that I am discomfited or alarmed by new forms of media; that I’m posting this to a blog after finding the article on Facebook, cross-posted from Twitter itself, may say something about my attitude toward the new and the popular. At the same time, I am extraordinarily distrustful of smiling cretins who like to whitewash the tendency of pop-culture to both reflect and encourage those things about ourselves which are ultimately damaging—the execrable Everything Bad is Good For You is a good example of just how facile such attempts can be.
Everyone does or should know about Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, a seminal children’s book that has brought joy to (dare I say?) millions of childrens and adults alike—perhaps even more by adults than by children. It’s a simple story of a naughty young boy who flees to his imagination and back again, but of course much ink has been expended to justify it, parse it, explain it, and praise it, and it’s been built into more of a cultural phenomenon than a book.
Since it was already an opera and a cartoon, it was only a matter of time before it became a movie in 2009. Everyone knew that Spike Jonze (he of Adaption fame, as well as other Charlie Kaufman scripts) directed it, but what I didn’t know until well after the initial spate of movie trailers is that Dave Eggers—the writer, publisher, and philanthropist—had done the screenplay. And it wasn’t until even later that I realized he also did a novelization, which brings us to The Wild Things.