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Against Joie de Vivre: Personal Essays

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  147 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
By turns humorous, learned, celebratory, and elegiac, Lopate displays a keen intelligence and a flair for language that turn bits of common, everyday life into resonant narrative. This collection maintains a conversational charm while taking the contemporary personal essay to a new level of complexity and candor.
Paperback, 335 pages
Published April 1st 1989 by Poseidon Press (first published 1989)
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May 22, 2015 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Shelves: own

I bought this a long time ago, when I was essay-obsessed and would read any one you stuck under my nose. I bought those "Best American Essays" collections like they were candy. This title was compelling because I myself, going through a long surly phase, was also taking a stand against joie de vivre. Now, it seems bizarre to me that a person could or would make a living writing essays, and I picked up the unread book, skeptical that Lopate would be able to impress me.

But he does. He often has a
Peter Weissman
Jun 08, 2009 Peter Weissman rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who like personal essays
My daughter bought me this book for my birthday, and I'm glad she did, as was she, since she has a hard time finding things a curmudgeon like myself will appreciate (see the essay "Against Joie de Vivre," which led her to believe I'd enjoy this book).

Given the nature of the personal essay, which the author discusses in "What Happened to the Personal Essay?" there were of course some pieces I preferred to others. He stirred my interest, for example, in Montaigne and William Hazlitt, as progenitor
Luis Reséndiz
la mayor parte del tiempo es una gran cosa, montaigneano y todo, pero al final, creo, durante el ensayo dedicado a la cuestión del sexo, se torna un poquitín demasiado autoalabatorio, como del peor woody allen (uno del que el autor, por cierto, dice despreciar el culto a su alrededor). igual es una cosa menor.
I liked some of these, especially "Chekhov for children," which was my favorite, and "Suicide of a teacher," which was very powerful. Others I liked were "Never live above your landlord," "Modern friendships," "Upstairs neighbors," and "Reflections on subletting." I didn't find any of the others all that interesting, at least not that I recall now looking back over the table of contents at their titles. (There are 19 essays in here.)

One thing that kept striking me as strange while I was reading
Apr 18, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
Phil Lopate writes about some pretty normal things - getting into film, being a downstairs neighbor, his relationship with his landlord, teaching, moving, and the deaths of a couple friends. I had no problem with this being a collection of "personal essays" with the small caveat that I probably wouldn't want to hang out with Lopate (a bit too pretentious and at least at the beginning of the collection, too concerned about his sexual history). That being said, this collection was totally pleasant ...more
Aug 30, 2013 Tim rated it really liked it
Enjoyed Lopate's essays, long and short, especially the ones on essay writing and on friendship. Found his longer essays on teaching in public school - putting on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya with young kids and the suicide of a teacher - to be thoughtful and moving. All of the essays were good, even if a few were more personal than I might have needed, at least about his sexual life. But then, I am against joie de vivre myself.
Feb 15, 2009 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I go back and forth between three and four stars, but a few of these were really good. Some I could have done without, but the momentum picks up in the middle with Chekhov for Children and Houston Hide-and-Seek.
Jan 18, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He's got a good turn of phrase and the brutal honesty of a strong memoirist, but his occasional choice of boring or repetitious topics knocks it out of classic status. Write about more interesting subjects, Phillip Lopate!
Dec 05, 2009 jen8998 rated it really liked it
Quite a range here in this collection of personal essays. Slow to start, the author hits his stride with an essay about teaching and another about living in Houston.
Deonne Kahler
Nov 09, 2012 Deonne Kahler rated it liked it
I liked most of the essays in this collection, and the title essay is terrific - especially if you're a closet curmudgeon like me. Recommended.
Mar 13, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Personal essays, that's what the cover says. Good writing equals good reading, that's what I say. Funny, insightful, profound. Highly recommended.
May 02, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, nonfiction
Been awhile since I've read these essays. But he's good.
I'd place him alongside Anne Fadiman, also MFK Fisher, as among my favorite essayists.
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Phillip Lopate is the author of three personal essay collections, two novels, two poetry collections, a memoir of his teaching experiences, and a collection of his movie criticism. He has edited the following anthologies, and his essays, fiction, poetry, film and architectural criticism have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Essays, The Paris Review, Harper's, Vogue, ...more
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