Against Everything is a thought-provoking study and essential guide to the vicissitudes of everyday life under twenty-first-century capitalism.
Mark Greif is one of the most exciting writers of his generation. In this invigorating collection, he challenges us to rethink the ordinary world and take life seriously – in short, to stay honest in dishonest times. In a series of coruscating set pieces he asks why we put ourselves through the pains of exercise, what our concerns about diet or sex does for our fundamental worth, what political identity the hipster might possess, and what happens to us when we listen to Radiohead or hip-hop.
Counter-intuitive and revelatory in his insights, Greif revels in the contradictions arising between our desires and the excuses we make to console ourselves. His work demands we have the courage to be ‘against everything’, to change our vantage on everyday life, find it wanting and demand something better.
“The best claim to be his generation’s finest essayist comes in the concluding essay on Thoreau, the Occupy movement and his own generation. Taken as a whole the book is a powerful injunction to look, listen and reflect, our surest means of defiance against the encroaching dimness.”
“Mark Greif writes a contrarian, skeptical prose that is at the same time never cynical: it opens out on to beauty and the possibility of change.”
“Mark Greif is the best essayist of my generation. No one is more modern or more classical—or more stylish. This has its alarming effects. When you read Against Everything, you will vow to change your life.”
“Anyone who hasn’t discovered Mark Greif’s unforgettable essays yet in the pages of n+1—America’s most powerful literary mag, which he co-founded—will thank me for demanding you rush out to buy his grasp-you-by-the-throat collection Against Everything. Like James Wood or Susan Sontag, George Orwell or Randall Jarrell, Greif defines our age yet writes with such wit and grace, he’ll last forever. A must-read collection by one of our preeminent thinkers.”
“Greif’s book proposes the impossible thing, a phenomenology of the present—at a moment in which the present is slipping by so fast that anything we dare call that is already signed, sealed and delivered to the past. Hip hop, food shows, current events like war and the police, hipsters, exercises, the youth culture—this list omits the deliberate and attractive heterogeneity of Greif’s notes on the everyday, his attempt to capture its random contents before they are incorporated into some official academic field or trivialized into familiar themes and slogans by an omnivorous public sphere. It isn’t a novel, it isn’t a journal either (which you could ‘dip into’), it’s probably not a blog, it is deliberately unfinished (in the sense of ‘to be continued,’ but maybe by all or each of us); but it is certainly wonderful reading which cuts into the present before the latter disappears.”
“I love Mark Greif. No living essayist effects the destruction of everything other people hold dear with a lighter or more elegant touch. An unmitigated delight.”
“The ideas and images I discover in Mark Greif’s essays stay with me for years, and become part of the way I experience and understand the world. I couldn’t be happier that this book is being published so I can read them all over again.”
“Mark Greif makes a case for so much: for curiosity and precision, for second glances, for reconsidering, for paying attention to the world and not being satisfied by what it’s become, or ever been. I found the crackle of rigor in these essays, but also so much tenderness and awe.”
“This wonderful collection of essays about contemporary American life is not only thought-provoking but also a pedigree version of that rarest beast, ‘the public understanding of the humanities.’… Underneath a fox-like curiosity in the seeming ephemera of popular culture is a hedgehog concern with how we experience all these and what that experience means. … [T]his is how academics and intellectuals ought to write for the (mythical) general reader.”
“Embodies a return to the pleasures of critical discourse at its most cerebral and personable. Greif brings to mind a host of critics from William Hazlitt to Lionel Trillling, but most of all he suggests it is possible to write about culture with a reverence for language and a passion for what has come before. I would read anything he writes, anywhere.”
“Greif is a critic of the modern American condition...a dazzling intellectual, and like all the best philosophers, he thinks we all can and should live our lives like philosophers. To read Against Everything is a good start on that path.”