cover image What if This Were Enough? Essays

What if This Were Enough? Essays

Heather Havrilesky. Doubleday, $25.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-54288-3

These incisive essays by New York magazine columnist Havrilesky (How to Be a Person in the World), some previously published in shorter versions, invite readers into the contradictions of upper-middle-class American life. She’s interested in “how we ingest and metabolize” the “broader poisons of our culture,” yet cannot “figure out why we’re sick.” She relates these poisons—endemic distraction; determinedly amoral entertainment; the dominance of corporate culture, as represented by the ubiquity of Disney—with a combination of anger, dismay, and ambivalence. She calls out the hypocrisy of the “foodie movement,” with its self-congratulatory “heroic sheen,” for failing to prioritize making “healthy food more affordable to the poor.” Her social criticism is keen, but her best writing is personal. There’s a beautiful essay on being unable to extricate herself from a failing relationship, because “I was more at home with longing.” Her goal is to encourage readers to ask of themselves, as she asks herself amid Disneyland’s overcontrolled banality, “How did we get here? Who stood back and let this happen to our world?” She wants Americans to “wake up to the unbelievable gift of being alive,” even though it means facing anomie, despair, and all the scary emotions that are easier avoided. It’s a message she relates with insight, wit, and terrific prose. [em](Oct.) [/em]