Against Joie de Vivre


Against Joie de Vivre

Personal Essays

Phillip Lopate

336 pages


December 2008


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“Over the years I have developed a distaste for the spectacle of joie de vivre, the knack of knowing how to live,” begins the title essay by Phillip Lopate. This rejoinder to the cult of hedonism and forced conviviality moves from a critique of the false sentimentalization of children and the elderly to a sardonic look at the social rite of the dinner party, on to a moving personal testament to the “hungry soul.”
Lopate’s special gift is his ability to give us not only sophisticated cultural commentary in a dazzling collection of essays but also to bring to his subjects an engaging honesty and openness that invite us to experience the world along with him. Also included here are Lopate’s inspiring account of his production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with a group of preadolescents, a look at the tradition of the personal essay, and a soul-searching piece on the suicide of a schoolteacher and its effect on his students and fellow teachers.
By turns humorous, learned, celebratory, and elegiac, Lopate displays a keen intelligence and a flair for language that turn bits of common, everyday life into resonant narrative. This collection maintains a conversational charm while taking the contemporary personal essay to a new level of complexity and candor.

Author Bio

Phillip Lopate is the director of the nonfiction graduate program and teaches writing at Columbia University. He is the author and editor of numerous books including Portrait Inside My Head: Essays, To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction, and Notes on Sontag.


“Lopate entertains by blasting write-your-own-vows weddings, camaraderie in bars and the enforced gaiety of dinner parties but expounds more positively on movies, friendship and subletting as a lifestyle. . . . Despite its cranky title, this lively, unpredictable collection of essays is a joy to read, and read again.”—Publishers Weekly

“Subtle, profound (and slightly devilish). Phillip Lopate can express the nuances of the urban mind better than anyone else I know. Phillip Lopate is one of the best essayists in America.”—Noel Perrin

Table of Contents

Samson and Delilah and the Kids
Against Joie de Vivre
Art of the Creep
A Nonsmoker with a Smoker
What Happened to the Personal Essay
Never Live Above Your Landlord
Revisionist Nuptials
Anticipation of La Notte: The "Heroic" Age of Moviegoing
Modern Friendships
A Passion for Waiting
Chekhov for Children
On Shaving a Beard
Only Make Believe: Some Observations on Architectural Language
Houston Hide-and-Seek
Carlos: Evening in the City of Friends
Upstairs Neighbors
Waiting for the Book to Come Out
Reflections on Subletting
Suicide of a Schoolteacher

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