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Sean Hayes has commented on (3) products.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Confederacy of Dunces

Sean Hayes, October 23, 2014

This novel was prophetic in many ways. Its antihero, Igantius Reilly, has been educated with useless subjects to the degree that he is unfit to hold a job or any place in the real world. I have heard he is the basis for the Comic Shop Owner on The Simpsons. He has the extended adolescence and taken-for-granted reliance on his parent that is now commonplace. His remarked-upon obesity would probably be unremarkable today. He pioneered the concept of hate-watching 50 years before it was cool. His righteous indignation would be right at home on any internet message board, tea party meeting, gaming forum, etc. He would wake up to Fox News or MSNBC just to get himself righteously ticked off to fuel his day. His opinions are also completely wrong and hypocritical, but that does not diminish his passion for expressing them. I have always liked a picaresque novel with a strong narrative voice, and wordplay and verbal humor. This book has all of that. It has the Larry David view of good intentions gone wrong and social customs examined as the useless, hollow conventions they are. The book is divisive given that Ignatius is neither likable, nor good looking, and typically one has to be one or the other. Or have some tragic backstory that makes him sympathetic. It presents stereotypes, but traps the characters who believe in them. So the stereotypes become sympathetic, not ugly caricatures. Apart from being funny and astutely modern, the city of New Orleans is wonderfully rendered, the dialogue is fantastic, and the romance of Ignatius and his beatnik girlfriend actually leaves more to be desired and imagined. I understand why some people would not like the book; they include my own Mother. But I'd say the fault lies with it not being to everyone's taste, rather than any particular fault with the book itself.

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American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics by Dan Savage
American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics

Sean Hayes, October 31, 2013

This book is really an epistemology of Dan Savage's philosophy, which should be well known to any reader/listener of Savage Love, and a lot of the love this book is getting is from those who don't have a total familiarity with Dan's concepts and are either getting them for the first time, or seeing them succinctly put into print for the first time. For long time fans, it's good to see these points laid down, but not particularly surprising. It sometimes shows how his voice has weakened from criticism. At times he seems pained not to offend certain contingents, loading his sentences with qualifications and exceptions. Some of Dan's obsessions remain annoying, such as his obsession with the thoughts of right wing Christian bigots, some of whom we would not have heard of if liberals and gay rights activists such as himself did not publicize them so often.

However, Dan Savage has made many of the points I would love to have made myself if I'd ever had access to half his audience, not necessarily on sexuality, but on hypocrisy and religion and schizophrenic opinions regarding sex and religion. I would love to see him explore issues he does not often explore, such as infighting among the lgbt or feminist movements and various internal disputes among those who basically agree with his philosophy (he does this with regard to bisexuals, but he could have gone further). But as always, I can't complain too much about a book when my chief complaint is that I wish it would have been longer. A worthwhile read for newbies definitely and old time listeners who want to fully immerse themselves in Dan's thoughts.
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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Sean Hayes, October 14, 2013

I have been waiting for a book like this for many years, and read it as a sort of manifesto. It could be a companion piece to Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, in which brain dead optimism is connected with recent social failures.

In this book, we see how the world is stacked in favor of a singular personality trait - the extroverted 'hail fellow well met' with a smile and firm handshake for everyone - to the point where any contrasting personality type is considered a mental disorder, or totally shunted off into social abnormality. Cain explores how this can cause conflict in classrooms (which are now increasingly oriented toward group learning, a subject that could have been explored at more length), workplaces (in which open plans meant to foster creativity actually promote distractions), cultural interactions (differences in Eastern and Western modes of communication), and parenting. She explores existential differences between the two personality types, which strikes me as far more significant than books like "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus," which identify similar problems as part of a divide between genders or races.

Along with scientific analysis of personality types, Cain uses her own experience (as an introverted business consultant) to show others how they can use their introverted personalities to help them in positions - social, work, relationships - which would seem to favor the extroverted.

I did see a flaw in the self help aspect of the book in the same area I normally see flaws in the genre: Most of her examples were of business leaders, lawyers, yuppie parents, etc. It is no coincidence that self help books target the very people who can afford to attend lectures and seminars which typically arise as corollaries to any best selling book of this type.

There are definite problems faced by anyone (no longer merely the disadvantaged or uneducated) who seeks work in customer service, retail, or other areas where want ads sometimes read "now hiring smiling faces," with no mention of actual qualifications. Cain does go into this at one point with call center employees, but it could have been better explored. Ditto job interviewing, and isometric tests measuring personality that are sometimes conducted before an interview even takes place.

But I am mainly criticizing the book for what it leaves out. What is here should be read by anyone who felt that there was something wrong with them for hating small talk and breezy interaction and valuing thought, solitude and meaningful discourse.
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(5 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)



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