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The Empathy Exams: Essays

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The Empathy Exams: Essays Cover

ISBN13: 9781555976712
ISBN10: 1555976719
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New Favorite

Staff Pick

Leslie Jamison is a marvel. The essays that make up this collection are wise, uncomfortable, beautiful, humane, and utterly absorbing. They demand an investigation of the reader's own heart. I can't think of another book I've recommended to so many people so fiercely. I'm already happy to declare it the best nonfiction book of 2014.
Recommended by Jill Owens, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

From personal loss to phantom diseases, a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain — real and imagined, her own and others — Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory — from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration — in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace.

Review:

"Novelist Jamison's (The Gin Closet) first collection of essays, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, is a heady and unsparing examination of pain and how it allows us to understand others, and ourselves. Whether she's playacting symptoms for medical students as a medical actor, learning about the controversial Morgellons disease (delusional parasitosis), or following ultramarathoners through the rugged Tennessee mountains, Jamison is ever-probing and always sensitive. Reporting is never the point; instead, her observations of people, reality TV, music, film, and literature serve as a starting point for unconventional metaphysical inquiries into poverty tourism, prison time, random acts of violence, abortion, HBO's Girls, bad romance, and stereotypes of the damaged woman artist. She focuses on physical and emotional wounds because, as she writes, 'discomfort is the point. Friction arises from an asymmetry.' For Jamison, that friction shatters the clichés about suffering that create distance between people, resulting in a more honest — and empathetic — way of seeing. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

"A stunning collection...a profound investigation of empathy's potential and its limits." Cosmopolitan

Review:

"Gutsy essays....A tough, intrepid, scouring observer and vigilant thinker, [Jamison] generates startling and sparking extrapolations and analysis. On the prowl for truth and intimate with pain, Jamison carries forward the fierce and empathic essayistic tradition as practiced by writers she names as mentors, most resonantly James Agee and Joan Didion." Booklist, starred review

Review:

"The Empathy Exams is a work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain. Leslie Jamison is so intelligent, so compassionate, and so fiercely, prodigiously brave. This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best." Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize

Review:

"Leslie Jamison threads her fine mind through the needle of emotion, sewing our desire for feeling to our fear of feeling. Her essays pierce both pain and sweetness." Eula Biss

Review:

"Leslie Jamison has written a profound exploration into how empathy deepens us, yet how we unwittingly sabotage our own capacities for it. We care because we are porous, she says. Pain is at once actual and constructed, feelings are made based on how you speak them. This riveting book will make you a better writer, a better human." Mary Karr

Review:

"The Empathy Exams is a necessary book, a brilliant antidote to the noise of our time. Intellectually rigorous, it's also plainly personal, honest and intimate, clear-eyed about its confusions. It's about the self as something other than a bundle of symptoms, it's about female pain and the suffering of solitary souls everywhere, it's an exploration of empathy and the poverty of our imaginations, it's ultimately about the limits of language and the liberating possibilities of a whole new narrative....The Empathy Exams earns its place on the shelf alongside Sontag." Charles D'Ambrosio

Review:

"These essays — risky, brilliant, and full of heart — ricochet between what it is to be alive and to be a creature wondering what it is to be alive. Jamison's words, torqued to a perfect balance, shine brightly, allowing both fury and wonder to open inside us." Nick Flynn

Review:

"Brilliant. At times steel-cold or chili-hot, [Jamison] picks her way through a society that has lost its way, a voyeur of voyeurism. Here now comes the post-Sontag, post-modern American essay." Ed Vulliamy, author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline

About the Author

Leslie Jamison is the author of a novel, The Gin Closet, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Her essays have appeared in Believer, Harper's Magazine, Oxford American, and Tin House. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

tolstoy9, March 27, 2014 (view all comments by tolstoy9)
I read the title essay -- absolutely phenomenal writing. Leslie Jamison has an amazing gift for storytelling that both engages and challenges the reader.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9781555976712
Subtitle:
Essays
Author:
Jamison, Leslie
Publisher:
Graywolf Press
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Anthologies-Essays
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140401
Binding:
Paperback
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb

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The Empathy Exams: Essays Sale Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages Graywolf Press - English 9781555976712 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Leslie Jamison is a marvel. The essays that make up this collection are wise, uncomfortable, beautiful, humane, and utterly absorbing. They demand an investigation of the reader's own heart. I can't think of another book I've recommended to so many people so fiercely. I'm already happy to declare it the best nonfiction book of 2014.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Novelist Jamison's (The Gin Closet) first collection of essays, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, is a heady and unsparing examination of pain and how it allows us to understand others, and ourselves. Whether she's playacting symptoms for medical students as a medical actor, learning about the controversial Morgellons disease (delusional parasitosis), or following ultramarathoners through the rugged Tennessee mountains, Jamison is ever-probing and always sensitive. Reporting is never the point; instead, her observations of people, reality TV, music, film, and literature serve as a starting point for unconventional metaphysical inquiries into poverty tourism, prison time, random acts of violence, abortion, HBO's Girls, bad romance, and stereotypes of the damaged woman artist. She focuses on physical and emotional wounds because, as she writes, 'discomfort is the point. Friction arises from an asymmetry.' For Jamison, that friction shatters the clichés about suffering that create distance between people, resulting in a more honest — and empathetic — way of seeing. Agent: Jin Auh, Wylie Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "A stunning collection...a profound investigation of empathy's potential and its limits."
"Review" by , "Gutsy essays....A tough, intrepid, scouring observer and vigilant thinker, [Jamison] generates startling and sparking extrapolations and analysis. On the prowl for truth and intimate with pain, Jamison carries forward the fierce and empathic essayistic tradition as practiced by writers she names as mentors, most resonantly James Agee and Joan Didion."
"Review" by , "The Empathy Exams is a work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain. Leslie Jamison is so intelligent, so compassionate, and so fiercely, prodigiously brave. This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best."
"Review" by , "Leslie Jamison threads her fine mind through the needle of emotion, sewing our desire for feeling to our fear of feeling. Her essays pierce both pain and sweetness."
"Review" by , "Leslie Jamison has written a profound exploration into how empathy deepens us, yet how we unwittingly sabotage our own capacities for it. We care because we are porous, she says. Pain is at once actual and constructed, feelings are made based on how you speak them. This riveting book will make you a better writer, a better human."
"Review" by , "The Empathy Exams is a necessary book, a brilliant antidote to the noise of our time. Intellectually rigorous, it's also plainly personal, honest and intimate, clear-eyed about its confusions. It's about the self as something other than a bundle of symptoms, it's about female pain and the suffering of solitary souls everywhere, it's an exploration of empathy and the poverty of our imaginations, it's ultimately about the limits of language and the liberating possibilities of a whole new narrative....The Empathy Exams earns its place on the shelf alongside Sontag."
"Review" by , "These essays — risky, brilliant, and full of heart — ricochet between what it is to be alive and to be a creature wondering what it is to be alive. Jamison's words, torqued to a perfect balance, shine brightly, allowing both fury and wonder to open inside us."
"Review" by , "Brilliant. At times steel-cold or chili-hot, [Jamison] picks her way through a society that has lost its way, a voyeur of voyeurism. Here now comes the post-Sontag, post-modern American essay."
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