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In Against Everything, Mark Greif makes us rethink the ordinary, taking our own lives seriously, exploring how we might live an honest life in these dishonest times. In a series of coruscating set pieces, Greif asks why we put ourselves through the pains of exercise, what shopping in organic supermarkets does for our sense of self-worth, what the political identity of the In Against Everything, Mark Greif makes us rethink the ordinary, taking our own lives seriously, exploring how we might live an honest life in these dishonest times. In a series of coruscating set pieces, Greif asks why we put ourselves through the pains of exercise, what shopping in organic supermarkets does for our sense of self-worth, what the political identity of the hipster might be, and what happens to us when we listen to too much Radiohead. From such counter-intuitive observations, Greif exposes the fundamental contradictions between our actions, desires and the excuses that we make to ourselves in hope of consolation. With the wit and seriousness of David Foster Wallace, Against Everything is the most thought-provoking study and essential guide to everyday life under 21st-century capitalism.


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In Against Everything, Mark Greif makes us rethink the ordinary, taking our own lives seriously, exploring how we might live an honest life in these dishonest times. In a series of coruscating set pieces, Greif asks why we put ourselves through the pains of exercise, what shopping in organic supermarkets does for our sense of self-worth, what the political identity of the In Against Everything, Mark Greif makes us rethink the ordinary, taking our own lives seriously, exploring how we might live an honest life in these dishonest times. In a series of coruscating set pieces, Greif asks why we put ourselves through the pains of exercise, what shopping in organic supermarkets does for our sense of self-worth, what the political identity of the hipster might be, and what happens to us when we listen to too much Radiohead. From such counter-intuitive observations, Greif exposes the fundamental contradictions between our actions, desires and the excuses that we make to ourselves in hope of consolation. With the wit and seriousness of David Foster Wallace, Against Everything is the most thought-provoking study and essential guide to everyday life under 21st-century capitalism.

30 review for Against Everything: Essays

  1. 4 out of 5

    James Murphy

    I got the impression from the title that Mark Greif tries to be curmudgeonly. A couple of the early essays support that impression, an essay calling physical exercise a tyranny and one in which he writes about the constant bombardment by media of the values of nutrition and eating healthily. Rather than grumble, though, most of these essays can perhaps be best seen as providing new and insightful perspectives on the cultural facets of our lives. Pornography is an early subject, and so is in vitro I got the impression from the title that Mark Greif tries to be curmudgeonly. A couple of the early essays support that impression, an essay calling physical exercise a tyranny and one in which he writes about the constant bombardment by media of the values of nutrition and eating healthily. Rather than grumble, though, most of these essays can perhaps be best seen as providing new and insightful perspectives on the cultural facets of our lives. Pornography is an early subject, and so is in vitro fertilization in an essay which focuses not only on the famous Octomom but also the desire of some celebrities to adopt many children. There's a section on music, and in one essay Greif enthusiastically praises rap as being the significant new art form replacing all popular music which has preceded it. There's a section on television discussing the popularity of reality shows. For me, the closing essays are the strongest and most interesting. In one he startlingly compares the modern American combat infantryman to Homeric heroes, Baghdad to Troy. The next, on the nature of police work, offers eye-opening or -popping new ways to look at what the police really do. Scattered throughout the volume are 4 essays called "The Meaning of Life" concerning themselves with ideology, experience, and legislation. These are the most philosophical in the collection. Greif grew up near Concord, Massachusetts and identifies with who's arguably considered its most famous citizen, Henry David Thoreau. This fact might explain his pose as contrarian. He compares Thoreau's living alone at Walden Pond with the recent Occupy movement which took over Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Just as Thoreau occupied that small plot of land on Walden Pond trying to find the kind of life he wanted to live, the gentle modern protesters occupied Zuccotti Park with the same motives. In the end, pursuing the life you want to live may be life's ultimate reward.

  2. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is a hit or miss collection, as should be expected I suppose for a set of wildly disparate essays by a pretty young person. Overall I thought they were very good: basically, I see Greif as a sort of David Foster Wallace type of essayist, albeit more of a "classic" intellectual, more invested in retrieving a kind of New York-Cambridge intellectual scene that never much interested Wallace (he comes to mind because Greif too at least affects a familiarity with American pop culture, reality TV, This is a hit or miss collection, as should be expected I suppose for a set of wildly disparate essays by a pretty young person. Overall I thought they were very good: basically, I see Greif as a sort of David Foster Wallace type of essayist, albeit more of a "classic" intellectual, more invested in retrieving a kind of New York-Cambridge intellectual scene that never much interested Wallace (he comes to mind because Greif too at least affects a familiarity with American pop culture, reality TV, etc.). It's hard to escape a sense of myopia here: this is written by, and for, a very well-educated white man from the Northeast without children who has never really had non-academic employment. That said, it's a very good and smart example of that genre: he takes Thoreau as his guide and wants to ask the very BIG questions about the meaning of life, etc., taking risks that seem pretty rare to me, and trying to convince his readers that philosophy, art, and music should play an essential role in answering that question for all of us (his essays on politics and international affairs are pretty clumsy, and for me the weakest part of the book). It's clear that Greif has been heavily influenced by Thoreau, Nietzsche, and Arendt, but he wears this erudition lightly and writes very smart essays about our moment: a "phenomenology" of the present, as Jameson calls it on the back. My favorites were about exercise and reality television, probably, although the essay on the hipster was also quite good and captured my own experience pretty well (notably the transition, which I hadn't really thought of before, between the faux-suburbia-trucker-hat early 200s and the nature-child-Atari-headdress later 200s; interestingly, he prefers the latter because the former seems like too clearly an inversion of the white flight of the 60s and 70s, just bringing suburbia back into the city in an ironic way and reclaiming the space recently ceded to minorities, hence the ironic-racism, Vice-style, of that entire scene). His willingness to use philosophy to think about the present brings some things to view that I wouldn't have seen. For instance, he celebrates reality television by bringing up a Rousseau essay in which he claims that the best entertainment in a democracy is the citizenry itself -- something that was most true in the early days of reality TV (dating shows, judge judy, etc.), but has now been colonized by the media. If I had to say what unites these essays, I'd says it's an Arendt-ean sensibility that the boundary between the public and the private has been entirely demolished, which has incalculable consequences for American democracy and for our own ethical lives. By making our bodies -- health, sex, exercise -- into the primary matters for public consumption and debate, we deprive the public sphere itself of any content, thus precluding the ability to think critically about what we live for. He also makes a big deal throughout these essays that this publicification of the private ends up empowering a bunch of experts who claim to have mastery of those "health" affairs (the tyranny of "health" is a red thread through the collection, receiving a big payoff when "public health" is the reason that Bloomberg gave to drive the protesters out of Occupy Wall Street). The problem with "health" is that its the rubric through which we, as a society, have decided to embrace the administered, labor-intensive life even when it is no longer really necessary for this age of abundance.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    pros: a solid writer who approaches topics without a lot of impenetrable critical jargon. the cover art is beautiful. some pieces relating to topics such as ongoing war and the purpose of the police are worthwhile reads if not essential. i disagree on some of his points relating to exercise and it’s relation to mental health but the essay is well written enough to take in as a (somewhat dramatic) counter-viewpoint. a fast read (for me personally). cons: i never need to hear another white guy’s op pros: a solid writer who approaches topics without a lot of impenetrable critical jargon. the cover art is beautiful. some pieces relating to topics such as ongoing war and the purpose of the police are worthwhile reads if not essential. i disagree on some of his points relating to exercise and it’s relation to mental health but the essay is well written enough to take in as a (somewhat dramatic) counter-viewpoint. a fast read (for me personally). cons: i never need to hear another white guy’s opinion on why radiohead are amazing. ever again. i had violent flashbacks to 2005-era pitchfork review bro culture reading this. his writing on punk and rap is a-gon-is-ing. the “hipster” one is even worse (at one point he seems to imply no generation before the 2000s regularly got tattoos). the essay on youtube has aged very badly to the point it almost seems null. hating the kardashians isn’t as revolutionary as he feels it is and the way he writes about caitlin jenner especially is (depending on how forgiving you want to be on his knowledge of gender issues) either embarrassing or wilfully ignorant. while a problematic figure in trans discourse in her own right, i found greif’s referring to jenner as “he” in the piece infuriating and i really think if this is accidental (the piece is now over a decade old) it’s at best something an editor should have picked up on as outdated and amended.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Conor Ahern

    Mark Greif, founder of n+1 and professional intellectual holds forth on topics as disparate as Radiohead, modern warfare, and Thoreau in this highly intelligent but dry collectanea. I'm not a reader of n+1, but a "certain" type of friend is, and suffice it to say I've never been drawn to it. Greif has an admirable ability to form complex, richly coherent thoughts from mundane observations. His mind is clearly formidable, and at times this was funny and clever. But for every feat of pure cerebral Mark Greif, founder of n+1 and professional intellectual holds forth on topics as disparate as Radiohead, modern warfare, and Thoreau in this highly intelligent but dry collectanea. I'm not a reader of n+1, but a "certain" type of friend is, and suffice it to say I've never been drawn to it. Greif has an admirable ability to form complex, richly coherent thoughts from mundane observations. His mind is clearly formidable, and at times this was funny and clever. But for every feat of pure cerebral originality (e.g., his "Afternoon of the Sex Children," one of the better pieces in the book, connects our collective perversion of sexualizing children to an exhortation that we begin to esteem the old and spavined for their virtues), there are two extended meditations on abstruse philosophy and punk rock, things I'd prefer to be deconstructed by others. Overall an impressive collection, but feel free to skip the ones that don't merit your extended attention.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Sudol

    i can understand nine words in this book

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tommy

    Mark Greif is smart, opinionated, tragically close-minded, and obviously doesn't exercise, or know what food is. If you want armchair criticism of garbage topics, he's your mainsplainer. Put Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs on Mensa and it's still daft. Why would a man so conspicuously smart go on and on about reality TV? Or hipsters? Good grief. Mark Greif is smart, opinionated, tragically close-minded, and obviously doesn't exercise, or know what food is. If you want armchair criticism of garbage topics, he's your mainsplainer. Put Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs on Mensa and it's still daft. Why would a man so conspicuously smart go on and on about reality TV? Or hipsters? Good grief.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Self-indulging ramblings about the surrounding shiny things or facts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Herbie

    I have been reading a lot of magazine articles online. Short, long, but mostly long. This was a nice cleanse. In a way it was The longest of long reads. But it was also a reminder that being glued to what is unfolding in this moment blocks one from reflecting deeply. That the constant stream of news and analysis does miss important structural truths, insights, dynamics. These essays have lasting value. In 2017, after the election of this 45th President, the essay on reality TV holds new importance I have been reading a lot of magazine articles online. Short, long, but mostly long. This was a nice cleanse. In a way it was The longest of long reads. But it was also a reminder that being glued to what is unfolding in this moment blocks one from reflecting deeply. That the constant stream of news and analysis does miss important structural truths, insights, dynamics. These essays have lasting value. In 2017, after the election of this 45th President, the essay on reality TV holds new importance. I am also a not-black person who likes to rap in the privacy of my home. Greif asks questions about police that I'm surprised no one seems to have yet asked. The deep reflections on Iraq and on how we make war are surprisingly absent from contemporary discourse.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Clint Morin

    Good Greif.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Norton

    Greif's greatest hits from the first decade or so of n+1 magazine. We see here all the topics a young litty academic should be bothered about: Iraq, reality TV, the financial crash, the state of pop music. There are also items on exercise and childrearing, getting nearer to the domestic concerns of the Harvard grad who doesn't want to fall too far behind the lifestyle of his peers, regardless of how unconventional his career may be. The musings about classical philosophy and the concepts of "exp Greif's greatest hits from the first decade or so of n+1 magazine. We see here all the topics a young litty academic should be bothered about: Iraq, reality TV, the financial crash, the state of pop music. There are also items on exercise and childrearing, getting nearer to the domestic concerns of the Harvard grad who doesn't want to fall too far behind the lifestyle of his peers, regardless of how unconventional his career may be. The musings about classical philosophy and the concepts of "experience" and "meaning" are the weakest. The essay on punk reveals that Americans use the term "post-punk" more inclusively than Britons do, for them it encloses all of what we'd call "indie rock", up until the rise of grunge as a separate species, whereas here The Smiths mark the start of a new era. The white-guy-talks-about-hiphop essay is as good as it could ever have been. It's notable he doesn't say much about Eminem, but that would probably be too much to manage. The essay on Radiohead explains what they represent to their chin-stroking audience, but stops short of realising they aren't doing anything particularly original, merely packaging and marketing it for... well, people like Mark Greif. At the end we have the embarrassed recollection of seeing the Occupy Wall Street protesters appearing in court and being shocked that they hadn't put their best suits on for the occasion. Being a tourist in art and ideas doesn't erase the underlying impulse to conformity, to playing the game by rules that you know and favour your sort, the knowing insider who went to the right school.

  11. 4 out of 5

    David M

    If Benjamin Kunkel is an authentic class traitor, Mark Greif is still entirely too caught up in petit bourgeois hand-wringing. Which is to say, Quit wallowing in how guilty you are for existing and get to the point. Still, some interesting pieces here. I really (non-ironically) appreciate his reflections on the Kardashians. He’s at his best, I think, when writing about the absolute dregs of pop culture. Without having any illusions as to its value, he’s curiously sympathetic and able to show why If Benjamin Kunkel is an authentic class traitor, Mark Greif is still entirely too caught up in petit bourgeois hand-wringing. Which is to say, Quit wallowing in how guilty you are for existing and get to the point. Still, some interesting pieces here. I really (non-ironically) appreciate his reflections on the Kardashians. He’s at his best, I think, when writing about the absolute dregs of pop culture. Without having any illusions as to its value, he’s curiously sympathetic and able to show why understanding this crap is kind of important. On the other hand, when it comes to middle tier quasi-crap he often falters. For instance, he can’t seem to decide between defending the aesthetic value of indie rock versus flagellating himself some more for being the kind of person who listens to it. The essay on the hipster is maybe the weakest in the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Zuzana Reveszova

    "I mistrust any authority that is happy with this world as it is. I understand delight, and being moved by the things of this world. I understand feeling stron on oneself because of one's capabilities. I know what mania is, the lust for powers not of the ordinary run. I sympathize with gratitude for the presence of other people, and for plenty and splendor. But I cannot understand the failure to be disappointed with our experiences of our collective world, in their difference from our imaginatio "I mistrust any authority that is happy with this world as it is. I understand delight, and being moved by the things of this world. I understand feeling stron on oneself because of one's capabilities. I know what mania is, the lust for powers not of the ordinary run. I sympathize with gratitude for the presence of other people, and for plenty and splendor. But I cannot understand the failure to be disappointed with our experiences of our collective world, in their difference from our imaginations and desired, which are so strong. I cannot understand the failure to wish that this world was fundamentally more than it is."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Esther Z

    Honestly found this kind of insufferable... 1.5 for benefit of the doubt... maybe I just wasn’t Thinking when I read it? Might revisit down the track but I did not read all of the essays and pretty much had to force myself to finish the ones that I did :/ disappointing bc the cover is sexy as

  14. 5 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    I got two thirds of the way through this remarkable set of essays before I started thinking Mark Greif might actually be “for” something, rather than simply “against everything,” as he claims. Even at that point I was far from disappointed, because he is a formidable author. I’ve read a lot in my years and English prose like his I’ve only ever read in translation from German, if I’m honest. That’s how complex it is, and yet it’s sharp. And witty and dark. Probably because of his youth, he’s rather I got two thirds of the way through this remarkable set of essays before I started thinking Mark Greif might actually be “for” something, rather than simply “against everything,” as he claims. Even at that point I was far from disappointed, because he is a formidable author. I’ve read a lot in my years and English prose like his I’ve only ever read in translation from German, if I’m honest. That’s how complex it is, and yet it’s sharp. And witty and dark. Probably because of his youth, he’s rather obsessed with sex, drugs and rock and roll (pretty much in that order, and more “pop” than rock and roll, because it’s always in relation to society that he likes to examine things), but he makes a rather good fist of dissecting it all, and not only. He often falls in love with irreverent observations he’s made and when that happens he tends to develop them further than they deserve, but it’s fantastic to watch him at it. For example, exercise is defined as anything you do while keeping a mental tally in your head. Funny and inventive, if not exactly right, yeah? But all views are honestly held, or at the very least they come from / relate to experience that needs to be shared. My absolute favorite was his take on why people rap to themselves: to practice! I’m half a generation older than him, so I cringe at funny times when I read him. Like when he tries to make excuses for Nabokov (clearly, then, he does not have children yet, much as he is making a good point of flagging the absurd) but also when as a New Yorker he advocates a 100% tax on earnings above 100k. Good luck raising a family on that, son. I can guarantee your kids won’t go to Harvard like you did, not in year 2017. No “heros” classes for them! As you read on, you discover that Mark Greif is more than an agitator or a polemicist, he actually has a philosophy. It’s not fully developed here, but it comes in several parts, all flagged for you under “meaning of life” and it’s fun to watch it develop. I don’t know that I’ll subscribe to his magazine, but I’m definitely buying his next book, whenever that comes.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Harrison

    As an essayist, Greif is at his absolute weakest whenever he leverages himself as superior to his subject, which in his early writing is often. He improves over the ten year period of writing that Against Everything collects at roughly the midway point of the book. But he never seems to come down from his perch and question his own assumptions. I can't help but feel that all his arguments are stemming from his own first impressions of whatever subject he is writing about. I think he trusts his g As an essayist, Greif is at his absolute weakest whenever he leverages himself as superior to his subject, which in his early writing is often. He improves over the ten year period of writing that Against Everything collects at roughly the midway point of the book. But he never seems to come down from his perch and question his own assumptions. I can't help but feel that all his arguments are stemming from his own first impressions of whatever subject he is writing about. I think he trusts his gut a little too much and this central dynamic in his critical thinking gets buried under layers of vague, Harvard-Educated writing. Greif lost me, utterly, at page one with Against Exercise. He views fitness and exercise as something closely resembling an inhuman tragedy. I'm OK with his opinion on that, but of course it is nothing new- people have been coming up with excuses since time immemorial to avoid simple exercise. My problem with this piece isn't so much his argument (which I'm not buying regardless) but that Greif fails to conceive that a person who would read his writing could also be someone who goes to the gym regularly, which I do. To be clear, Against Exercise is not some kind of sympathetic plea for people who work out to stop but is a critical piece against people who work out written for likeminded people like Greif, who are too smart for that kind of thing. I don't feel slighted, I find it funny. But, this is sloppy coming from someone who positions themselves as an authority of some kind. Against Everything is a very us vs them collection of writing. Greif has a particular person in mind who reads his work. You can see this in the way he speaks of Us and We when talking about experiences which to him seem common but to be frank do not represent me. Disagreement feels as though you become marked as inferior in his eyes. Against Everything very often takes on the tone of a self-help book, but Mark Greif just seems like a defeated man to me. I don't really want to learn anything from him which often put me at odds with his writing. But, he is quite good when he takes himself out of the piece he published. I think he'd make one hell of a journalist if he just got over himself.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Oryx

    I'm glad I took my time with this. Some of the essays were absolutely phenomenal, in fact, most of the essays were absolutely phenomenal, in fact, all but one* of the essays was absolutely phenomenal, and for that reason I award this collection the golden sky. 4.3941 * I refuse to name the 'bad' essay, instead challenge you to guess (should you wish to [you probably don't {that's fine}]). I'm glad I took my time with this. Some of the essays were absolutely phenomenal, in fact, most of the essays were absolutely phenomenal, in fact, all but one* of the essays was absolutely phenomenal, and for that reason I award this collection the golden sky. 4.3941 * I refuse to name the 'bad' essay, instead challenge you to guess (should you wish to [you probably don't {that's fine}]).

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anastasiya Mozgovaya

    this collection of essays is all over the place in both a good and a bad way. i have enjoyed the first chapter the most and i have found it to be astonishingly relevant and poignant despite being written in the early 2000s. it is the reason why i recommend reading this book. the essay about the concept of experience is another one. however, as i was progressing, i got less and less immersed and invested. for example, the essays about musicians fell flat for me due to a lack of context and interes this collection of essays is all over the place in both a good and a bad way. i have enjoyed the first chapter the most and i have found it to be astonishingly relevant and poignant despite being written in the early 2000s. it is the reason why i recommend reading this book. the essay about the concept of experience is another one. however, as i was progressing, i got less and less immersed and invested. for example, the essays about musicians fell flat for me due to a lack of context and interest in the subject matters. all in all, Greif is an impressive thinker and writer, so i will definitely dive deep into his other work available online and in the N+1 magazine.

  18. 4 out of 5

    João Morais

    Fav chapters were Against exercise, The concept of experience, Radiohead or the philosophy of pop and Gut level legislation on Redistribution

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    This book challenges convention in every essay, and really draws you in. It is worth the effort and will make you reflect... a lot. First essay, "Against Exercise". "Our practices are turning is inside out. Our hidden flesh becomes our public front. An era of exercise has brought more obsession and self-hatred rather than less." Food - "we have no language but health. It is our model of all things invisible and unfelt. If in this day and age we rejected the need to live longer, what would rich We This book challenges convention in every essay, and really draws you in. It is worth the effort and will make you reflect... a lot. First essay, "Against Exercise". "Our practices are turning is inside out. Our hidden flesh becomes our public front. An era of exercise has brought more obsession and self-hatred rather than less." Food - "we have no language but health. It is our model of all things invisible and unfelt. If in this day and age we rejected the need to live longer, what would rich Westerners live for instead?" Using experience against the concept of experience - aestheticism and perfectionism (Flaubert and Thoreau - "sometimes the earliest individuals to face a situation get its description exactly right, since they know the shock of change, with the old condition right behind them") Anesthetic experience - the hype of everything numbs us to the bad things in the world. Reduce drama and look for things (media) in which there is no conflict and no disaster. (Hallmark movies?) Octomom and Financial crisis. She was painted as a villain for taking advantage of disability payments and was "milking the system." He compares this to wall st bankers and their bailouts, and marvels that there were no nameable villains from the banks even they did the same thing (looked at in a certain way). Then ties it into a discussion of the market for babies, ivf, abortion, and upper class fertility. Occupy Wall St and Thoreau. Calls his own motives into question and focuses on Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" essay and his refusal to pay a poll tax, for which he was jailed. Thoreau "communicated a clarity to nonviolent direct action in words that found their way ti Gandhi and MLK." From Thoreau: "People with consciences must go to the junctures where govt has leagued with injustice and clog them. When the subjects have refused allegiance, and the officer has resigned his office, then the revolution is accomplished." Feels quite topical during this weekend of the Women's March.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter Harrison

    I was disappointed by this book. Greif is clearly a very intelligent and well educated person. His written style is slick, occasionally too slick and bordering on style over substance. It often feels like there is little depth in his argument, despite a superficial veneer of intellectualism. As a cultural critic, Greif simply doesn't have the depth and philosophical underpinning of someone like Zizek. His perspective is remorselessly liberal, left-leaning, middle class American and brings with it I was disappointed by this book. Greif is clearly a very intelligent and well educated person. His written style is slick, occasionally too slick and bordering on style over substance. It often feels like there is little depth in his argument, despite a superficial veneer of intellectualism. As a cultural critic, Greif simply doesn't have the depth and philosophical underpinning of someone like Zizek. His perspective is remorselessly liberal, left-leaning, middle class American and brings with it a sense of American exceptionalism which feels jarring to a non-US citizen reader. This tendency is most obvious in his essay on the US military interventions in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. While being gently critical of US foreign policy in parts, his depiction of the modern US soldier with hi-tech gear as a Homeric hero is frankly bizarre. Greif superficially challenges the status quo, but without Zizek's iconoclastic verve or revolutionary conviction. The essay on the economy feels naive with its proposition of legislatively implemented redistribution and income caps to remove inequality that is not "morally relevant". The three essays on music (encompassing Radiohead, Punk, and Rap) feel over-thought, and make little allowance for someone unfamiliar with the music in question - while the description of his effort to learn to rap as a middle class white man are toe-curling. The essay on sex doesn't really seem to acknowledge the overt sexualisation of the modern capitalist world which coexists with the standard prudish American approach to the subject. The philosophers Greif quotes tend to be Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes - in other words the founders of modern individualism. I can't escape the feeling that underneath the progressive surface is a fundamentally neoliberal and individualist view of the world. I could go on. In short, this is a superficially interesting and challenging set of essays rendered less insightful than they might have been by a basic shallowness of approach and a set of a priori American assumptions the drive the analysis.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    From the New York Times Book Review: In our dumbed-down, social-media-driven age, Against Everything embodies a return to the pleasures of critical discourse at its most cerebral and personable. . . Greif suggests it is possible to write about the culture with a reverence for language and passion for what has come before. I would read anything he writes, anywhere. He's also the founder of n+1, which I never quite managed to get into, but this sounds pretty terrific? From the New York Times Book Review: In our dumbed-down, social-media-driven age, Against Everything embodies a return to the pleasures of critical discourse at its most cerebral and personable. . . Greif suggests it is possible to write about the culture with a reverence for language and passion for what has come before. I would read anything he writes, anywhere. He's also the founder of n+1, which I never quite managed to get into, but this sounds pretty terrific?

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt Dowdy

    enlightening

  23. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Peace

    I read a lot of Thoreau and Emerson last year, practically immersed myself in their work. I picked this up on the basis of several people's recommendation, not knowing it would be the perfect follow-up to my reading last year. I have complicated feelings about Greif and where he's coming from, but I can't deny that every single essay in here is thought-provoking and, for the most part, thorough in its working through an argument. Greif straddles the line between academic and mainstream writing, I read a lot of Thoreau and Emerson last year, practically immersed myself in their work. I picked this up on the basis of several people's recommendation, not knowing it would be the perfect follow-up to my reading last year. I have complicated feelings about Greif and where he's coming from, but I can't deny that every single essay in here is thought-provoking and, for the most part, thorough in its working through an argument. Greif straddles the line between academic and mainstream writing, and his philosophizing (and this is indeed a book of philosophy) is easy to understand while still retaining its complexity, a rare feat. It was worth picking up just for the essay"The Concept of Experience," which so clearly lays out the modern thought on what a "good" life looks like and so clearly details the possible alternatives to this (which felt extremely True to me) that I knew I'd be reading pretty much anything this guy writes from now on. To go on from that to ruminations on the Velvet Underground and the effects of social/political upheaval in the 80s and 90s on rap and hip-hop and the function of police in a democratic society and the man himself, Thoreau, made this a consistently compelling book, both for its subject matter and for Greif's remarkably clear writing. Great book. I already ordered his other one, The Age of the Crisis of Man, yesterday.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars. Fair warning: It's been a while since I wrote a review. Against Everything is an interesting reflection on a variety of subjects; it went in-depth and made me think about cultural at a society and individual level. Mark Greif writes philosophically with a focus on culture, history, literature, and other sources weaved into his essays to make his point. I thought that his writing was excellent, thoughtful and deep, but not necessarily something that I found accessible and struggled to re 3.5 stars. Fair warning: It's been a while since I wrote a review. Against Everything is an interesting reflection on a variety of subjects; it went in-depth and made me think about cultural at a society and individual level. Mark Greif writes philosophically with a focus on culture, history, literature, and other sources weaved into his essays to make his point. I thought that his writing was excellent, thoughtful and deep, but not necessarily something that I found accessible and struggled to read. This book wasn't easy for me to read. There were essays where I was engrossed and interested on what I was learning, but most of the time, I read in disinterest, wanting the book to be over. That isn't anything against this book or Mark, because I believe that it was just not my cup of tea and I would've benefitted from reading individual essays instead of the whole collection, but I do feel as if I learned and reflected while reading this book. It wasn't a memorable book, but it was decently written and thoughtful.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher McQuain

    ****1/2, probably. The word I can think of that applies to these essays -- "lovable" -- seems wrong due to that word's misuse as an anodyne, cuddly descriptor. What I mean in this case is that whether or not the book has some flaws and weak spots (it does), or whether or not one's own life experiences or aesthetics overlap much with those of the author (mine don't, generally; I don't personally find Radiohead or Kanye West as monumental as does he), the genuine humaneness and commitment (both per ****1/2, probably. The word I can think of that applies to these essays -- "lovable" -- seems wrong due to that word's misuse as an anodyne, cuddly descriptor. What I mean in this case is that whether or not the book has some flaws and weak spots (it does), or whether or not one's own life experiences or aesthetics overlap much with those of the author (mine don't, generally; I don't personally find Radiohead or Kanye West as monumental as does he), the genuine humaneness and commitment (both personal and political, most often a healthily humble intertwining of both) of his voice pervade and elicit an intimate, conversational sort of affectionate admiration via passages of text the bulk of which are exceptionally thoughtful, with a rigor to match their energy; if you're like me, you could find Greif's elegantly, eloquently shared thoughts/impressions re Radiohead and West, for example, actually more meaningful than the music with which they engage. If the book's title seems to mark Greif as another counterintuitive hot-take-taking contrarian, well, that's somewhat true in the most literal sense, with the decisive difference that, unlike the vast majority of our self-consciously "counterintuitive" and "contrarian" commentators, he has no truck with scandal-making or shock value; his true, productive provocations are spiteless, and he establishes deep layers of well-considered, appropriately equivocating/dialectical foundation for every unexpected, uncommon opinion he proffers. He puts the brakes on any rush to judgment and has an at times exquisite ability to invite us into his finely developed sense of conscientiousness -- of articulating, holding up to different lights, and ultimately DEVELOPING his thoughts. The fact that all this is done to a standard I would rarely describe as less than well-written, and often as achieving a real beauty through lucidly succinct yet unusually, memorably worded turns of phrase, means I can endorse the collection heartily, even to readers who might remark the title or Greif's topics and not find much in common with their own interests or sensibilities. At the same time his riches-loaded paragraphs goad and inspire an unfamiliar growth in one's own capacities for observation and consideration, they're also simply a pleasure to take in, a stimulating occasion to which to rise.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Belle

    This is one of the most riveting, thought-provoking nonfiction essay collections I’ve ever read - it is so interesting to read how Greif underlines all the ways in which our society is divided into public and private spheres, and where power lies within our modern society (even in the most unthought of places, like gyms, grocery stores, concerts, hospitals, vlogs, reality TV, etc…). He has certainly made me stop to consider how much of my life I am living on autopilot and in what ways I can be m This is one of the most riveting, thought-provoking nonfiction essay collections I’ve ever read - it is so interesting to read how Greif underlines all the ways in which our society is divided into public and private spheres, and where power lies within our modern society (even in the most unthought of places, like gyms, grocery stores, concerts, hospitals, vlogs, reality TV, etc…). He has certainly made me stop to consider how much of my life I am living on autopilot and in what ways I can be more perceptive of my daily living. Greif is one of the best intellectuals I’ve encountered in the 21st century. I undoubtedly see the lingering thought processes of David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest) demonstrated in his essays.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    3.5. Loved some of this and found it insightful, other things just didn't land at all and failed to make their point, and admittedly some of it went clear over my head. His final essay about Zuccotti Park was probably the most relevant (even being from 2012), though some of the other essays, even the more recent ones, seemed really out of date... and I'm quite sure I didn't understand what the Octomom had to do with anything. Still, his is an interesting, irreverent mind, and I enjoyed his mostl 3.5. Loved some of this and found it insightful, other things just didn't land at all and failed to make their point, and admittedly some of it went clear over my head. His final essay about Zuccotti Park was probably the most relevant (even being from 2012), though some of the other essays, even the more recent ones, seemed really out of date... and I'm quite sure I didn't understand what the Octomom had to do with anything. Still, his is an interesting, irreverent mind, and I enjoyed his mostly contemporary philosophizing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ard

    Against Everything is an interesting and thought-provoking book. Greif ponders many different subjects that we presume as normal and turns them on their heads. He reasons going to the gym is a sign that humans miss factory work. He surmises reality TV shows are based on invisible social facts and sites Storage Wars as his example (During the recession many people stopped paying rent on their storage rentals and decided it was not even worth investigating what "junk" was even in their rented spac Against Everything is an interesting and thought-provoking book. Greif ponders many different subjects that we presume as normal and turns them on their heads. He reasons going to the gym is a sign that humans miss factory work. He surmises reality TV shows are based on invisible social facts and sites Storage Wars as his example (During the recession many people stopped paying rent on their storage rentals and decided it was not even worth investigating what "junk" was even in their rented spaces). Greif brings up very good points and challenges the reader to, at the very least, think about the argument. Sometimes Greif lost me on arguments and other times he sounds downright curmudgeonly. For the most part I enjoyed the book and I will probably return to it to read an essay from time to time.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Fred Ayres

    Should've checked the average rating on Goodreads before losing over a week of my life to Against Everything. If Greif's arguments were made a touch more cogent and the ersatz erudition he attempts to present were excised, I might come to come similar conclusions about exercise, dieting, traveling, the modern-day Hipster, and American foreign policy. The ideas in this text are not at all inchoate! Greif's presentation of them, unfortunately, ruins any chance of them being widely understood or ac Should've checked the average rating on Goodreads before losing over a week of my life to Against Everything. If Greif's arguments were made a touch more cogent and the ersatz erudition he attempts to present were excised, I might come to come similar conclusions about exercise, dieting, traveling, the modern-day Hipster, and American foreign policy. The ideas in this text are not at all inchoate! Greif's presentation of them, unfortunately, ruins any chance of them being widely understood or accepted outside of the confines of a niche magazine.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    A series of Pitchfork reviews that get progressively more annoying as the book goes on. The more entertaining parts were Grief kissing Thom Yorke’s ass on a level I’ve never seen before and his decent takedown of fellow sanctimonious, overeducated writer (takes one to know one), Michael Pollan. The essay about rap had probably 50 more instances of the n word than was necessary, not helped by his cringe-inducing descriptions of him trying to rap, failing to relate to rap, deciding how to be polit A series of Pitchfork reviews that get progressively more annoying as the book goes on. The more entertaining parts were Grief kissing Thom Yorke’s ass on a level I’ve never seen before and his decent takedown of fellow sanctimonious, overeducated writer (takes one to know one), Michael Pollan. The essay about rap had probably 50 more instances of the n word than was necessary, not helped by his cringe-inducing descriptions of him trying to rap, failing to relate to rap, deciding how to be politically correct while he raps alone in his car, etc… The weird, unhinged rant about Caitlyn Jenner also really dates this collection and is the point where I pretty much gave up on the book

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