Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays

Overview


“Over the years I have developed a distaste for the spectacle of joie de vivre, the knack of knowing how to live,” begins the title essay by Phillip Lopate. This rejoinder to the cult of hedonism and forced conviviality moves from a critique of the false sentimentalization of children and the elderly to a sardonic look at the social rite of the dinner party, on to a moving personal testament to the “hungry soul.”
 
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Overview


“Over the years I have developed a distaste for the spectacle of joie de vivre, the knack of knowing how to live,” begins the title essay by Phillip Lopate. This rejoinder to the cult of hedonism and forced conviviality moves from a critique of the false sentimentalization of children and the elderly to a sardonic look at the social rite of the dinner party, on to a moving personal testament to the “hungry soul.”
 
Lopate’s special gift is his ability to give us not only sophisticated cultural commentary in a dazzling collection of essays but also to bring to his subjects an engaging honesty and openness that invite us to experience the world along with him. Also included here are Lopate’s inspiring account of his production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with a group of preadolescents, a look at the tradition of the personal essay, and a soul-searching piece on the suicide of a schoolteacher and its effect on his students and fellow teachers.
 
By turns humorous, learned, celebratory, and elegiac, Lopate displays a keen intelligence and a flair for language that turn bits of common, everyday life into resonant narrative. This collection maintains a conversational charm while taking the contemporary personal essay to a new level of complexity and candor.
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Editorial Reviews

Noel Perrin

“Subtle, profound (and slightly devilish). Phillip Lopate can express the nuances of the urban mind better than anyone else I know. Phillip Lopate is one of the best essayists in America.”

Noel Perrin

“Subtle, profound (and slightly devilish). Phillip Lopate can express the nuances of the urban mind better than anyone else I know. Phillip Lopate is one of the best essayists in America.”—Noel Perrin
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lopate entertains by blasting write-your-own-vows weddings, camaraderie in bars and the enforced gaiety of dinner parties but expounds more positively on movies, friendship and subletting as a lifestyle. ``Despite its cranky title, this lively, unpredictable collection of essays is a joy to read, and read again,'' PW said. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Like such forebears as William Hazlitt, Lopate describes the disjunctions of modern life via a graceful, old-fashioned genre: the leisurely personal essay. His collection, unlike many others, really coheres around a single point: the author's background and voice. Writing on movies, on friendship, on school teaching, on living in an apartment, he is determined ``to wrestle with intellectual confusion, to offer feelings, to set down ideas in a particularly direct and exposed format,'' even to the point of confessional writing. The humor and wisdom derive from the way Lopate's keen, often satirical, attention to the world around him must be reckoned with his own profound vulnerabilities. Libraries that buy serious fiction should acquire these essays for the same kind of readership.-- Donald Ray, Mercy Coll. Lib., Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803222731
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 782,724
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Phillip Lopate

Phillip Lopate is a professor of English at Hofstra University and teaches in the MFA graduate programs at Columbia, the New School, and Bennington. He is the editor of American Movie Critics: An Anthology from the Silents until Now and has published two novels and numerous nonfiction collections, including Portrait of My Body and Totally, Tenderly, Tragically.
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