Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, Promise Land (2014)

promise-land-jessica-lamb-shapiro-2014“It’s ingrained in human nature to look at ourselves with a weary awareness of all that’s wrong within, and the optimism that someone, somewhere can tell us how to fix it. As Jessica Lamb-Shapiro points out in her ambitious if unfulfilling new memoir-cum-odyssey, Promise Land, we’ve been gobbling up self-help advice for nearly as long as the written word has existed, devouring it in the ancient Egyptian Sebayt writings and the Book of Proverbs. But our contemporary mania for the wisdom of Dr. Phil is different from what generations past gleaned from Epictetus or even Dale Carnegie, and Lamb-Shapiro aims to explain how. Along the way, she’s on a quest to fix herself. Lamb-Shapiro, who has written for The Believer and McSweeney’s, is a witty and enjoyably self-aware writer. She’s certainly a far more entertaining guide through hellish terrain — like a preshow interrogation by a ‘Dr. Oz’ producer — than Dante was given.” [. . .]    –Mary Elizabeth Williams, The New York Times, January 3, 2014

“Books, Just Like You Wanted”

03bits-knightley-tmagArticle“Kiera Knightley in the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice.” The book by Jane Austen is among the most opened books on Oyster but is finished less than 1 percent of the time.”

“Anyone can publish a book these days, and just about everyone does. But if the supply of writers is increasing at a velocity unknown in literary history, the supply of readers is not. That is making competition for attention rather fierce. One result: ceaseless self-promotion by eager beginners.” […]

“Another commentator quoted the poet Joseph Brodsky, who wrote that ‘in cultural matters, it is not demand that creates supply, it is the other way around. You read Dante because he wrote The Divine Comedy, not because you felt the need for him: you would not have been able to conjure either the man or the poem.’ ” […]    –David Streitfeld, The New York Times, January 3, 2014