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Wayne Koestenbaum considers the meaning of humiliation in this eloquent work of cultural critique and personal reflection.

The lives of people both famous and obscure are filled with scarlet-letter moments when their dirty laundry sees daylight. In these moments we not only witness the reversibility of "success," of prominence, but also come to visceral terms with our own vulnerable selves. We can't stop watching the scene of shame, identifying with it and absorbing its nearness, and relishing our imagined immunity from its stain, even as we acknowledge the universal, embarrassing predicament of living in our own bodies. With an unusual, disarming blend of autobiography and cultural commentary, noted poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum takes us through a spectrum of mortifying circumstances—in history, literature, art, current events, music, film, and his own life. His generous disclosures and brilliant observations go beyond prurience to create a poetics of abasement. Inventive, poignant, erudite, and playful, Humiliation plunges into one of the most disquieting of human experiences, with reflections at once emboldening and humane.

From Publishers Weekly

May 23, 2011 – The genre-busting poet and critic Koestenbaum (The Queen's Throat) riffs on humiliation, tracing its relationship with art, desire, the body, and in the construction of celebrities for public consumption. In fragments that recall Roland Barthes's Mourning Diary, the author advances his provocative "paradoxes and juxtapositions" to trace humiliation's contours, the circumstances that make it possible ("Humiliation involves a triangle" of victim, abuser, and witness), and its centrality to certain kinds of pleasure (e.g., Koestenbaum's delight in Liza Minnelli's ability to repeatedly succumb to—and triumph over—humiliation). He refreshes worn tropes such as the humiliation inherent in reality TV and such political scandals as Richard Nixon's resignation ("Watergate wasn't a sexual scandal, but it manifested as physical abhorrence") while also deepening our understanding of racism, lynching, and police brutality in the context of shame. It's a wide-ranging, allusive conversation that wears its erudition lightly—not least because Koestenbaum is at his confiding, self-implicating best ("I am tired, as any human must be, after a life spent avoiding humiliation and yet standing near its flame, enjoying the sparks, the heat, the paradoxical illumination.")
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biographies & Memoirs
  • Published: Aug 02, 2011
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
  • Print Length: 192 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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