Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life

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Shoot straight from the hip. Tell it like it is. Keep it real.

We love these commands, especially in America, because they appeal to what we want to believe: that there's an authentic self to which we can be true. But while we mock Tricky Dick and Slick Willie, we're inventing identities on Facebook, paying thousands for plastic surgeries, and tuning in to news that simply verifies our opinions. Reality bites, after all, and becoming disillusioned is a downer.

In his new book Keep It Fake: Inventing an Authentic Life, Eric G. Wilson investigates this phenomenon. Hedraws on neuroscience, psychology, sociology, philosophy, art, film, literature, and his own life to explore the possibility that there's no such thing as unwavering reality. Whether our left brains are shaping the raw data of our right into fabulous stories or we're so saturated by society's conventions that we're always acting out prefab scripts, we can't help but be phony.

But is that really so bad? We're used to being scolded for being fake, but Wilson doesn't scold--because he doesn't think we need to be reprimanded. Our ability to remake ourselves into the people we want to be, or at least remake ourselves to look like the people we want to be, is in fact a magical process that can be liberating in its own way. Because if we're all a bunch of fakes, shouldn't we embrace that? And if everything really is fake, then doesn't the fake become real--really?

In lively prose--honest, provocative, witty, wide-ranging (as likely to riff on Bill Murray as to contemplate Plato)--Keep It Fake answers these questions, uncovering bracing truths about what it means to be human and helping us turn our necessary lying into artful living.

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About the author

Eric G. Wilson is the Thomas H. Pritchard Professor of English at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He is the author of Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, The Mercy of Eternity: A Memoir of Depression and Grace, and five books on the relationship between literature and psychology.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Sarah Crichton Books
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Published on
May 5, 2015
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Pages
240
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ISBN
9780374709471
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
Philosophy / Criticism
Social Science / Popular Culture
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Instant New York Times Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book of 2016
A Time Magazine Top 10 Novel of 2016
A Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2016

“Dazzling . . . A profound novel about the claims of identity, history, family, and the burdens of a broken world.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s “Fresh Air”

In the book of Genesis, when God calls out, “Abraham!” before ordering him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, Abraham responds, “Here I am.” Later, when Isaac calls out, “My father!” before asking him why there is no animal to slaughter, Abraham responds, “Here I am.”

How do we fulfill our conflicting duties as father, husband, and son; wife and mother; child and adult? Jew and American? How can we claim our own identities when our lives are linked so closely to others’? These are the questions at the heart of Jonathan Safran Foer’s first novel in eleven years—a work of extraordinary scope and heartbreaking intimacy.

Unfolding over four tumultuous weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., Here I Am is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. As Jacob and Julia Bloch and their three sons are forced to confront the distances between the lives they think they want and the lives they are living, a catastrophic earthquake sets in motion a quickly escalating conflict in the Middle East. At stake is the meaning of home—and the fundamental question of how much aliveness one can bear.

Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers loved in his earlier work, Here I Am is Foer’s most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet. It not only confirms Foer’s stature as a dazzling literary talent but reveals a novelist who has fully come into his own as one of our most important writers.

For William Blake, living is creating, conforming is death, and “the imagination . . . is the Human Existence itself.” But why are imagination and creation—so vital for Blake—essential for becoming human? And what is imagination? What is creation? How do we create? Blake had answers for these questions, both in word and in deed, answers that serve as potent teachings for aspiring writers and accomplished ones alike. Eric G. Wilson’s My Business Is to Create emulates Blake, presenting the great figure’s theory of creativity as well as the practices it implies. In both his life and his art, Blake provided a powerful example of creativity at any cost—in the face of misunderstanding, neglect, loneliness, poverty, even accusations of insanity. Just as Los cries out in Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, “I must Create a System, or be enslav'd by another Man's; / I will not Reason and Compare: my business is to Create,” generations of writers and artists as diverse as John Ruskin, William Butler Yeats, Allen Ginsberg, Philip K. Dick, songwriter Patti Smith, the avant-garde filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and the underground comic-book artist R. Crumb have taken Blake’s creed as inspiration. Unwilling to cede his vision, Blake did more than simply produce iconoclastic poems and paintings; he also cleared a path toward spiritual and ethical enlightenment. To fashion powerful art is to realize the God within and thus to feel connected with enduring vitality and abundant generosity. This is Blake’s everlasting gospel, distilled here in an artist’s handbook of interest to scholars, writing teachers, and those who have made writing their way of life. My Business Is to Create is indispensable for all serious artists who want to transform their lives into art and make their art more alive.
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