Christian Lorentzen of Vulture.com checks out "Against Everything" by Mark Greif in NY1's The Book Reader.
What does it mean to be "Against Everything?" That’s the title of a new collection of essays by Mark Greif, one of the founders of n+1, a little magazine started in Brooklyn in 2004 that’s had a big impact on the world of ideas.
Greif is a critic of the modern American condition. Writing about exercise, he argues that we now go to the gym because we no longer have to go to work in factories. But a gym is also a kind of church. “The thinness we strive for is spiritual,” he says.
Greif writes about food, tracing our journey from being a culture that gorged on fish sticks and Wonder Bread to a diet based on “careful discriminations, taboos, and rigorous exclusions.”
He writes very personally about punk rock and rap music, identifying figures like Sonic Youth and N.W.A. as the inheritors of a long tradition of political dissent. Reality television, YouTube, and hipsters come in for scrupulous examination, and Greif finds that the hipster is someone who “aligns himself both with the rebel subculture and with the dominant class, and thus opens up a poisonous conduit between the two.”
"Against Everything" is a philosophical history of the present day, the sort of book that tells you all the things you didn’t know about all the things you thought you knew back and forth.
Greif is 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.