By Wayne Koestenbaum
Picador USA, Paperback, 9780312429225, 184pp.
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
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Wayne Koestenbaum considers the meaning of humiliation in this eloquent work of cultural critique and personal reflection.
The lives of people both famous and obscure are filled with scarlet-letter moments when their dirty laundry sees daylight. In these moments we not only witness the reversibility of “success,” of prominence, but also come to visceral terms with our own vulnerable selves. We can’t stop watching the scene of shame, identifying with it and absorbing its nearness, and relishing our imagined immunity from its stain, even as we acknowledge the universal, embarrassing predicament of living in our own bodies. With an unusual, disarming blend of autobiography and cultural commentary, noted poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum takes us through a spectrum of mortifying circumstances—in history, literature, art, current events, music, film, and his own life. His generous disclosures and brilliant observations go beyond prurience to create a poetics of abasement. Inventive, poignant, erudite, and playful, Humiliation plunges into one of the most disquieting of human experiences, with reflections at once emboldening and humane.
“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
With the Internet and reality TV, humiliation has become a widespread form of entertainment. Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Humiliation, traces the many facets of this very human experience, and sociologist C.J. Pascoe describes how it can be amplified by the web. More at NPR.org
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