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The new situation doesn't represent the lack of community suddenly produced by the Internet. That is the hackneyed complaint made, again and again, by people who don't seem to have thought through the unlovely aspects of community- its smug provincialism and punitive conventionalism, its stasis and xenophobia- which was in any case jeopardized and transformed by the advent of modernity two hundred years ago. The simple fact is that sometimes you don't want the quiet conformities induced by community; sometimes you simply want to be alone, yet together with other people at the same time. The old-fashioned cafe provided a way to both share and abandon solitude, a fluid, intermediary experience that humans are always trying to create and perfect. The Internet could have been its fulfillment. But sitting absorbed in your screen world is a whole other story. You are socially and psychologically cut off from your fellow caffeine addicts, but mentally beset by e-mails, commercial pop-ups, and a million temptations that may enchant in the moment- aimed as they are at your specific and immediate interests and desires -but in retrospect are time-wasting ephemera.
A provocative critique of modern frivolity and a guide to being serious in an unserious age We used to live in a world run by serious people: politicians and religious leaders, writers and artists, journalists and academics, lawyers and business executives, who approached their work with maturity and mindfulness. Today it seems as if most of these figures have all but disappeared, leaving our country and our culture in the hands of amateurs, buffoons, and professional clowns. Yet, according to Lee Siegel, seriousness has been elusive in every age, and every age has its own particular obstacles to living seriously. In a unique combination of fiction, memoir, history, social criticism, satire, and spiritual reflection, Siegel illuminates our contemporary distractions of profit, popularity, and instant pleasure as we search for ways to be serious in culture, in politics, and in everyday life. Are You Serious? is a thoughtful and enlightening exploration of seriousness in all its incarnations, from the heights of intellectual endeavor to the depths of political conflict to how the word itself is used in ordinary situations, from romance to business. Siegel lays bare the forces in modern life that create the silliness all around us, and he describes how seriousness may be attained through the qualities of attention, purpose, and continuity, in satisfying lives forged in bonds of work and love.
Cultural critic and essayist Siegel has published pieces in such prominent American periodicals as Harper's, The New Republic (where he is a senior editor), Time, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Here he collects 21 of those essays commenting on such diverse cultural products as the Harry Potter books, the plays of Anton Chekhov, the television shows The Sopranos and Sex and the City, Stanley Kubrick's film Eyes Wide Shut, and a biography of Saul Bellow. Throughout the essays he celebrates those works with imagination, those that display artistic authenticity and integrity, and denigrates those that are the products of an increasingly commercialized culture. His motto as a cultural critic is to "do unto art as what you would have art do unto you. " Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc. , Portland, OR (booknews. com)
Television has taken firm hold of American life ever since the first flickering images replaced the disembodied voices innocently crackling from the radio. Ever present and evolving, television thrives at the crossroads of commerce, art, and entertainment. InNot Remotely Controlledcultural critic Lee Siegel collects his reportage and musings on this most hybrid medium. Whether chronicling the history of the "cop" drama, revealing the inherent irony in Donald Trump's character on "The Apprentice," or shedding light on those unheralded gems that Neilsen ratings swept away prematurely, Siegel gives each episode, series, or documentary the attention and respect usually reserved for high-art and dusty literature. Going far beyond mere pans andpraise, Siegel has given long-overdue attention to America's most pervasive art form: television.
A plane crashes in the vast Northern Territory of Australia, and the only survivors are two children from Charleston, South Carolina, on their way to visit their uncle in Adelaide. Mary and her younger brother, Peter, set out on foot, lost in the vast, hot Australian outback. They are saved by a chance meeting with an unnamed Aboriginal boy on walkabout. He looks after the two strange white children and shows them how to find food and water in the wilderness, and yet, for all that, Mary is filled with distrust.On the surface Walkabout is an adventure story, but darker themes lie beneath. Peter's innocent friendship with the boy met in the desert throws into relief Mary's half-adult anxieties, and the book as a whole raises questions about what is lost--and may be saved--when different worlds meet. And in reading Marshall's extraordinary evocations of the beautiful yet forbidding landscape of the Australian desert, perhaps the most striking presence of all in this small, perfect book, we realize that this tale--a deep yet disturbing story in the spirit of Adalbert Stifter's Rock Crystal and Richard Hughes's A High Wind in Jamaica--is also a reckoning with the mysteriously regenerative powers of death.
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