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How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be…

How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays

by Daniel Mendelsohn

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Well worth reading, Mendelsohn (a classicist) discusses film, books and theater, most of which he loved but a few he hated. His only really vituperative piece examines Boswell's 'Same Sex Union in Premodern Europe'. His odium isn't directed at the subject matter, but at the shoddy scholarship or deliberately altered textual meanings used to justify same sex marriages. If two people love each other, who is to say their heart is wrong? A acquaintance of mine pointed out that, in her opinion, it still isn't a marriage to which I replied that's because you haven't seen two gay men argue over who's turn it is to do the dishes. At this point I can't help but steal the gay comic writer Marc Acito's line 'Boy scouts, military, have kids. When did the gay agenda become the same as the Mormon's?'. (So I ripped you off, bite me, Marc. No really. Ladies and gentlemen, let us not judge Mr. Acito too harshly, his true and natural essence is sorely distorted by supporting terrific delusions. Why, the man actually believes that Hugh Jackman loves him more than me.)

Mendelsohn discusses the topic of each essay by first letting us know how beautiful it is, and then proceeds to tell us how each can be broken. There is a fatalism, a sadness laced in the essays. Still, I liked the book and, even though I have yet to see Brokeback Mountain, was genuinely moved by his comments on it. Daniel Mendelsohn must make a very interesting dinner guest.
  SomeGuyInVirginia | Jan 12, 2012 |
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  MightyLeaf | May 25, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061456438, Hardcover)

Whether he's on Broadway or at the movies, considering a new bestseller or revisiting a literary classic, Daniel Mendelsohn's judgments over the past fifteen years have provoked and dazzled with their deep erudition, disarming emotionality, and tart wit. Now How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken reveals all at once the enormous stature of Mendelsohn's achievement and demonstrates why he is considered one of our greatest critics. Writing with a lively intelligence and arresting originality, he brings his distinctive combination of scholarly rigor and conversational ease to bear across eras, cultures, and genres, from Roman games to video games.

His interpretations of our most talked-about films—from the work of Pedro Almodóvar to Brokeback Mountain, from United 93 and World Trade Center to 300, Marie Antoinette, and The Hours—have sparked debate and changed the way we watch movies. Just as stunning and influential are his dispatches on theater and literature, from The Producers to Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, from The Lovely Bones to the works of Harold Pinter. Together these thirty brilliant and engaging essays passionately articulate the themes that have made Daniel Mendelsohn a crucial voice in today's cultural conversation: the aesthetic and indeed political dangers of imposing contemporary attitudes on the great classics; the ruinous effect of sentimentality on the national consciousness in the post-9/11 world; the vital importance of the great literature of the past for a meaningful life in the present.

How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken makes it clear that no other contemporary thinker is as engaged with as many aspects of our culture and its influences as Mendelsohn is, and no one practices the vanishing art of popular criticism with more acuity, humor, and feeling.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:09 -0400)

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A collection of essays that mostly appeared in the New York Review of Books in which the classicist/critic looks at contemporary culture through its movies, books and theater.

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