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Humiliation (BIG IDEAS//small books) [Kindle Edition]

Wayne Koestenbaum
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

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.

About the Author

Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of poetry, one novel, and six books of non-fiction. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, he is a distinguished professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center (New York) and also a visiting professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 448 KB
  • Print Length: 193 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0312429223
  • Publisher: Picador (2 Aug. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WJPZ96
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #424,983 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars For shame! 27 Jan. 2014
This volume consists of short meditations and reflections of humiliation, with its trio of tyrant, victim and observer, the last of which the reader inevitably becomes. Many of Koestenbaum's examples come from television such as American X Factor and a cosmetic surgery show called "The Swan" despite the author's disavowal of television. Some of the comments are insightful, many mundane, and the litany of both the author's and others' humiliations does become tedious. His style, idiom and phraseology at times reflect "A Lover's Discourse" but without Barthes' elegance or insight. I was somewhat disappointed after reading the same author's "The Queen's Throat" but at less than 200 pages and a pocket format at least it's over soon. It is a shame that this review is too late to add to the humiliation in which the author so profitably revels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 'Humiliation is a pair of filth-speckled glasses' 10 April 2013
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
"Humiliation" consists of eleven 'fugues' in which Wayne Koestenbaum aims to set forth 'an open-ended series of paradoxes and juxtapositions' on the subject of humiliation. These fugal chapters are free-wheeling explorations of the subject where personal (very personal) reminiscence mixes with references to literary theory, celebrity debasement, and historical cataclysms such as slavery and the holocaust, as well as apologies for juxtaposing such subjects.

Koestenbaum argues that humiliation is a theatre involving three participants: perpetrator, victim, and witness. Thus it can be distinguished from related feelings such as shame or embarrassment. The author describes how he has played all three roles at various times, and the reader too is implicated in this triangle - making "Humiliation" a sometimes uncomfortable read.

Koestenbaum writes: "This book I'm now writing is a hymn to humiliation, and it is a somewhat phallic song, for which I hope you'll forgive me." Some readers may not feel able to forgive such obsessive self-humiliation and incrimination; however, I found myself swept up in Koestenbaum's lush prose, letting the words flow over me like a rich and complicated piece of music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to categorize 18 July 2011
By M. Hyman - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book. I primarily decided to read it because of the quote from John Waters who, when I was growing up in Maryland, was a bit of a not-yet-discovered cultural icon. Having said that, midway through the book I still wasn't sure what to expect from the book. It is a quirky set of short paragraphs relating to humiliation, in one form or another, or sexual tendencies and obsessions, or art, or struggle, or all of the above. It is sometimes written with a heavy intellectual tone, with the word play perhaps taking more value than the words, and at other times it is direct or even shocking, and throughout it bounces through various topics roughly organized around themes of humiliation.

It is, thus, a sort of collection of very short essays or musings, and it isn't clear how one would characterize it.

would i recommend it to others? i don't know. it is sometimes hard to read, sometimes endearing, sometimes capturing, sometimes dull, sometimes pompous, sometimes erotic, sometimes... sometimes a little of everything
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reminiscent of Bernhard, with a touch of actual humor 1 Aug. 2011
By J from NY - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Wayne Koestenbaum's "Humiliation" is an alternately hilarious and depressing book--his fixation on the term itself translates into a brilliant little novel (certainly not for everybody) which calls to mind a blend of Thomas Bernhard's Gargoyles: A Novel
and Mina Loy's [[ASIN:0876858531 Insel]. The character is subject to, indeed, humiliation after humiliation: feelings of shame, pain, etc are explored to virtually no end. Ultimately, though, Kostenbaum is not a doom sayer--he uses the most uncanny and embarrassing situations to reveal that we most embarassment comes from within, not without. A good novel.
25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Small, half baked ideas-not that small a book 30 Jun. 2011
By Julie H. Rose - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Humiliation is one of the books in Picador's "Big Ideas small books" series of "provocative short books inviting us to rethink our biggest ideas."

Nice idea. The books entitled Violence and Time fit well into this framework. Yes, violence and time are both pretty big ideas. Who decided that humiliation was a Big Idea? Hmm. Maybe an editor who said something like, "Wayne, write about whatever you like." Wayne Koestenbaum likes humiliation, and so it's a Big Idea.

Humiliation (the book) may be provocative, but it is nothing more than that. Koestenbaum wrote the very good "The Queen's Throat," but Humiliation reads like the sleepy self-indulgent musings of a horny voyeur with no action at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. There's some clever turns of phrase, but it's all so much ado about nothing much at all, indeed one very small idea that, at nearly 200 pages, is much too long indeed.

This review, written by a non-writer with a bad toothache, is about as intellectual and well composed as the book. This book deserves no more than that, for frankly, this kind of sloppy, snarky writing is tired. It's also tiring.

Frightening the horses has been done to death. I'm not shocked by this book, for I've read Genet, Dennis Cooper, and DeSade. Our cultural propensity for enjoying both our own and other people's public humiliation and redemption from it is an interesting topic (though is it Big?) It would have been far more interesting, however, and truly provocative, if Koestenbaum actually answered some of the questions he asked, such as why he enjoys reading the desperate pleas for sexual humiliation on Craigslist. But no, he merely observes from a distance, as if languidly exposing himself and others for their transgressions means something. It does not. He only begs the question, "Why was this book published?" and "Is this the state of intellectual inquiry in 2011?"

Lastly, Buddha's first noble truth was not humiliation. To turn Buddhism into yet another piece of evidence of the majesty or essential nature of humiliation is sheer silliness; nothing intellectual or even clever about it.

On second thought, there may be a bit of merit in this book insofar as it caused me to ask myself the questions that went unanswered. Should I amend my review? No. I can't recommend paying for Koestenbaum's lazy writing nor Picador's extensive marketing. Skim the book at a bookstore. If this topic interests you, read Genet, DeSade, Cooper, and yes, even Craiglist. I'm sure your own musings will be at least as interesting than Mr. Koestenbaum's (though John Waters will not congratulate you on them).
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No, Thanks 31 July 2011
By R. W. Rasband - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I got this small book from Amazon, I expected from the description a satirical look at cultural ideas of humiliation. Instead the author spends much of his time on his own personal obsessions--which include sex in public restrooms and masochistic ads on CraigsList. He also seems to enjoy that sort of humiliation. But I don't think most of us do. So this book has little insight, and is no fun. Too bad, because it remains a good idea for a book.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enduring Embarrassment 26 Jun. 2011
By Opa Wayne - Published on
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For many, this may be a painful book. Koestenbaum presents the many faces of humiliation. He exposes the pain, the crises in self confidence, the feelings of shame and isolation that most of us know if we have ever been humbled.

Humiliation is a detailed treatise which attempts to define humiliation in its many aspects. Koestenbaum explores art, current events, literature, film, history, and his personal experiences to give us hundreds of small anecdotes and meditations on mortification and its effect upon people.

Koestenbaum details what he calls the "Jim Crow gaze". The gaze appears on the face of racial bigots, especially in the eyes of people living in a "state of apartheid". It is cold, seems dead, and does not recognize the victim as human. Instead it sees a "scab", a spot of absence." Such people can not see their victim as human without surrendering the negative feelings and often the hatred and fear necessary to maintain their prejudice.

"Humiliation" even explores self humiliation. It is unclear whether it is natural to feel humiliated when no one else is aware of our mistake, or gaff. Maybe we have such feelings because our society has carefully trained us concerning its standards of "decency". What is clear is that sometimes we feel the pain, the emotional embarrassment, even in solitude.

If I ever wanted to be a celebrity, this book discourages me. I would not trade places with Michael Jackson, Alec Baldwin, or other famous people whose experiences are included in the text. One section, called "Disgusting Allegations" details situations I certainly want to avoid.

Humiliation is not the book of comedy sketches I thought it was when I ordered it. Actually it is better. This text opens part of our soul to us. I recommend this book.
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