Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Defense of Pessimism

I went to Greenlight, my beloved local Brooklyn bookstore, this evening to see David Rakoff read and answer questions. His new book, Half Empty, sounds like a more personal answer to Barbra Ehrenreich's Bright Sided, which I read recently and just loved. Ehrenreich writes about how stigmatizing pessimism can often mean stigmatizing foresight and rationality, and how the broad-reaching impact of that is bad for society. I have not yet read Half Empty (didn't even purchase it due to lack of funds, but I will, and I buy a lot of books from Greenlight I'll have you know) but it appears to tackle the same themes, but in essays that are more about the author's life and less about, say, the financial crisis.

Like Ehrenreich does/did (not sure of her current health status), Rakoff has cancer. He had it as a young adult and recovered, and the new tumor is a result of the old treatment. This did not come up tonight; I heard it on Fresh Air. I admire both of them so much for facing down sickness and mortality, and coming out of it with their worldview perhaps deepened, but essentially unchanged. Perhaps there are plenty of atheists in foxholes after all.

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