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We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoonsby Tim Kreider
Synopses & Reviews
In We Learn Nothing, satirical cartoonist Tim Kreider turns his funny, brutally honest eye to the dark truths of the human condition, asking big questions about human-sized problems: What if you survive a brush with death and it doesnt change you? Why do we fall in love with people we dont even like? What do you do when a friend becomes obsessed with a political movement and wont let you ignore it? How do you react when someone youve known for years unexpectedly changes genders?
Irreverent yet earnest, he shares deeply personal experiences and readily confesses his vices — betraying his addiction to lovesickness, for example, and the gray area that he sees between the bold romantic gesture and the illegal act of stalking.
In these pages, we witness Kreider's tight-knit crew struggle to deal with a pathologically lying friend who wont ask for help. We watch him navigate a fraught relationship with a lonely uncle in jail who — as he degenerates into madness — continues to plead for the support of his conflicted nephew. And we cringe as he gets outed as a "moby" at a Tea Party rally. In moments like these, we cant help but ask ourselves: How far would we go for our own family members, and when is someone simply too far gone to save? Are there truly "bad people," and if so, should we change them? With a perfect combination of humor and pathos, these essays, peppered with Kreider's signature cartoons, leave us with newfound wisdom and a unique prism through which to examine our own chaotic journeys through life.
Uncompromisingly candid, sometimes mercilessly so, these comically illustrated essays are rigorous exercises in self-awareness and self-reflection. These are the conversations you have only with best friends or total strangers, late at night over drinks, near closing time.
"Political cartoonist Kreider's humorous collection of personal essays begins with his near-fatal neck stabbing; his failure to learn enduring life lessons from this traumatic event provides the book's title, tone, and argument. Throughout, Kreider (Twilight of the Assholes) locates the right simile and the pith of situations as he carefully catalogues humanity's inventive and manifold ways of failing: a secretive friend lives and dies behind a gigantic front of lies; another relocates to Missouri to prepare for peak oil Armageddon; and a delusional uncle with a knack for heinous crime expires in prison. Kreider's shortcomings — in romance, friendship, empathy for Tea Partiers, life itself — are also recounted. The essays that contradict the book's title prove especially strong. In the moving 'Sister World,' adoptee Kreider reveals how meeting his biological sisters teaches him about the depths and degrees of relatedness, and how to handle uncharacteristic profusions of love. In 'An Insult to the Brain,' Kreider reads Tristram Shandy aloud to his convalescing mother, and the novel's lessons on tedium and time, and formal eccentricities, bleed into his essay. His piece on the Tea Party, 'When They're Not Assholes,' sums up human nature: 'The truth is, there are not two kinds of people. There's only one: the kind that loves to divide up into gangs who hate each other's guts.' Agent: Meg Thompson, Einstein Thompson Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Tim Kreider may be the most subversive soul in America and his subversions — by turns public and intimate, political and cultural — are just what our weary, mixed-up nation needs. The essays in We Learn Nothing are for anybody who believes it's high time for some answers, damn it." Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls
"Whether he is expressing himself in highly original cartoons that are hilarious visual poems, or in prose that exposes our self-delusions by the way he probes his own experience with candor, Tim Kreider is a writer-artist who brilliantly understands that every humorist at his best is a liberator. Because he is irreverent, makes us laugh, ruffles the feathers of the pretentious and the pompous, and keeps us honest, We Learn Nothing is a pleasure from its first page to the last." Charles Johnson, bestselling author of Middle Passage
"Tim Kreider's writing is heartbreaking, brutal and hilarious — usually at the same time. He can do in a few pages what I need several hours of screen time and tens of millions to accomplish. And he does it better. Come to think of it, I'd rather not do a blurb. I am beginning to feel bad about myself." Judd Apatow
Satirical cartoonist Tim Kreider here turns his most unflinchingly funny, brutally honest mind to the dark truths of the human condition.
Tim Kreider spent the past fifteen years of his life as a political cartoonist with an avid cult following, exposing the hypocrisies of our government and being, as author Myla Goldberg put it, "funny and crazy and brave enough to proclaim as truths the things the rest of us are too chickenshit to say out loud." In 2009 he began writing for the New York Times, penning popular essays about love, death, and existential dread. Now, We Learn Nothing takes the reader even deeper into Kreider's unique worldview.
Combining the keen insight of David Foster Wallace with the absurd humor of David Sedaris, Kreider confronts some of the knottiest and most intimate problems in life. The book feels like philosophical or spiritual inquiries, asking big questions about human-sized problems: What if you survive a brush with death and it doesn't change you? Why do we fall in love with people we don't even like? What do you do when a friend becomes obsessed with a political movement and won't let you ignore it? How do you react when someone you've known for years unexpectedly changes genders?
Uncompromisingly honest, sometimes mercilessly so, these comically illustrated essays are rigorous, deeply personal exercises in self-awareness and self-reflection, in routing out delusion with the insight only hindsight can provide. These are the conversations you only have with best friends or total strangers, late at night over drinks, near closing time.
About the Author
Tim Kreider is a political cartoonist and a writer for the New York Times. His popular cartoon The Pain — When Will It End? has been collected in three books by Fantagraphics. He divides his time between New York City and the Chesapeake Bay.
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