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Things that Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations
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Things that Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  908 ratings  ·  142 reviews
In late 2014, Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, and Daniel Ellsberg travelled to Moscow to meet with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The result was a series of essays and dialogues in which Roy and Cusack reflect on their conversations with Snowden.

In these provocative and penetrating discussions, Roy and Cusack discuss the nature of the state, empire, and surveillance in an er
Paperback, 124 pages
Published October 14th 2016 by Haymarket Books (first published August 5th 2016)
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Sep 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
courtesy: Outlook
4 renegades (3.5, if you please) assemble in a hotel room to talk about war, greed, terrorism, basically all those things that make you anti-national.
The build-up to the conversation was brilliant. But, the conversation itself, well….. how should I put it…..leaves you keep wanting.
As Ms. Roy put it, "what mattered, perhaps even more than what was said, was the spirit in the room."
courtesy: Guardian
How I wish I were there in that room. As a lamp post, perhaps. Darn! Doesn't he stand against the idea of surveillan
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Let me stipulate from the beginning of this review that my objection to it is not because I disagree with the politics of the authors or the two other participants in their discussions: Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden. Debates about the advisability or legality of Snowden's actions, in particular, are grist for a different mill.

No, what annoys me about this slender volume is the smug, self-congratulatory voice in which it is written, as if these precious intellectuals have a corner on the mar
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book just blew my mind. Never thought of the government in this way.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
Want to read more by Arundhati Roy, but maybe next time she could talk to Noam Chomsky (for example) instead of John Cusack? I mean, I was slightly obsessed with John Cusack for a significant subset of the years between 1989 and 2005, and he's not a dummy. But he doesn't quite have the chops for this conversation.
Jen from Quebec :0)
This book was great and I wanted it to be longer! John Cusack and journalist/author Arundhati Roy travel to Moscow and meet with Edward Snowden and also to London to meet with Julian Assange. The book is just composites of their conversations as they discuss things like refugee crises, patriotism, nuclear war, the surveillance state, etc. It is just TOO SHORT though and I felt like there could have been more meat on these bones, if you know what I mean. They were unable to record the conversatio ...more
Cristina Ana
Ahem, I have mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely love Roy, have a lot of respect for Ellsberg, mixed feelings for Snowden (and this book doesn't change them to the better or worse as his input is modest, although he serves as the pretext for the book), and nothing at all (perhaps just some curiosity) for John Cusack, I do think his sister is brilliant, though.

There are limits to such transcript-books, of course, and I guess some of the eyebrow raising paragraphs the book generously pro
Nikhil Kumar
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a world of capitalism, mass surveillance and perpetual warfare, we often give into the common narratives perpetuated by the state and its puppets. ‘The Things That Can And Cannot Be Said’ challenges every aspect of the normal public discourse.

Who defines what can be said? Who defines normal? The most powerful, the most dominant people in society, the powers that be – most importantly, the state. ‘Many acts that are termed extreme go beyond what we currently define as normal, the status quo an
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Required reading; for someone not versed much in international politics or history, it lays bare some of the tidy assumptions I had about nation states and how they inevitably wield power. Short version: It's not pretty.

One of those books that opens up a whole new way of thinking...exhilarating to feel that much closer to the truth, humbled by being able to see what you did not know before.

This book's closing sections on nuclear weapons were particularly hard-hitting for me - as an Air Force off
Chavelli Sulikowska
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thought provoking and entirely relevant little read. An eclectic but brilliant collection of bright minds talking honestly on the most critical social, political and moral topics of our time. Thanks Arundhati and John for talking about all the things that cannot be said that should be said.
Mrinalini Dayal
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I forgot how much I enjoy Roy's writing.
Chittajit Mitra
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book starts with a chapter where John Cusack is the narrator & he imagines a conversation between Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden & Arundhati Roy whom he had met several times in the past. John Cusack recorded several discussions of theirs which helps him to pen down some of the talks. They discussed about patriotism, flags, capitalism, surveillance & the brave acts of Mr. Snowden & Mr. Ellsberg to stand up for the right thing. One fine day John Cusack planned to meet Snowden ...more
Nov 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
“Things that Can and Cannot Be Said” by John Cusack and Arundhati Roy is one of the most disappointing things I have ever read. I think many of the ideas brought up in the text are worth discussing. But it a paranoid, self-congratulatory, shallow, and ultimately futile work that promises much but is at heart “all sound and fury, signifying nothing”

The book is essentially a series of essays built around an “extraordinary” meeting between Cusack (an American actor), Arundhati Roy (an Indian autho
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Arundhati Roy's powerful critique of the world order is often engaging and challenging. I don't always (or often) agree but it's important to read things by authors that challenge your perspective. But this book... Ugh, the presentation of this book - and Cusack's sycophantic responses to what she's saying, even when it's absurd, just made my skin crawl. It made me long for president Trump to start on the book-burnings as soon as possible, and that's not a feeling I want to have, so I stopped re ...more
Ryan Mishap
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Did you know John Cusack was an ardent activist from a long line of lefty agitators? Well, you certainly know that Arundhati Roy is one of the most fierce, intelligent, and compassionate people on the planet, right? Oh, and they went to hang out with Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden in Russia.

If that ain't enough to intrigue, I must therefore harangue you into reading this accessible, deadly collection of conversations and thoughts.

Consider yourself harangued. Go read now.

It's short--I read it
Peter Abolins
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I personally liked this book, and would recommend it to anyone who is open to the idea that "everything is not what it seems".

A lot of different thoughts are covered, and while not all of the thoughts are nicely wrapped up with a socially accepted conclusion, you are definitely left thinking that even if the world is currently a mess, there are at least some people who recognize that and are prepared to voice their concerns.
Camille McCarthy
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The by-line on Goodreads is very misleading - it's actually by Arundhati Roy AND John Cusack, and it's about a trip they took with Daniel Ellsburg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War) to visit Edward Snowden in Russia. It is a very short but very personal book, mostly containing transcriptions of conversations between Roy and Cusack. It is very deep and the information is conveyed in conversations, so it is very accessible. I really liked intimacy of the book.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Cusack and Roy are excellent. I'm going to keep this near me so as to re-read at every opportunity. There is so much insightful commentary in every section, from both the authors and Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden are amazing to 'meet' in the flesh, as such.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics
Most of us are more familiar with seeing John Cusack on the movie screen (whether as actor or as credited director) as opposed to seeing him on the political scene. In Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations, he has accomplished something intriguing—a conversation between Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, and Edward Snowden, exiled leaker of NSA strategies, moderated by radical activist writer Arundhati Roy and himself.

I find myself very much in sympathy with
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating and engaging recount of conversations between Arundhati Roy, John Cusack, Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, about the state of the fucked-up world we live in. And to add insult-to-injury and rub salt into the wound Donald Trump is president of the UnitedStatesofuckingAmerika. I am glad that Roy forsook practicing architecture and writes.
Hoda Marmar
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
4 stars for the things that should be said and were said, and looking forward to hopefully hear about the other stuff that weren't said in these recordings.
Teresa Hjellming
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fast read. Barely tips a toe in but still thought provoking.
Wade Arthur
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Little new information here for me, but it's fun to eavesdrop on a conversation between three earnest and inspiring people (and John Cusack, who is fine).
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still excellent!
Mar 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting, observant, evidently good for culling quotes and slapping sticky notes onto poignant passages. Not incredibly expansive, though I certainly learned new things. In short, an unexpected motley of intellectuals hammering out thoughtful examinations on nationalism, surveillance, whistle-blowing, capitalist rebranding, NGO-ization, etc.; though John Cusack's presence seemed mostly like a perfect avenue for him to drop punctual, screenplay-worthy quips on stately affairs rather than to fo ...more
Bineydeep Singh
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The kind of situation we have in India in the year 2018, don't think many people will like the book. in fact, people consider Roy a villain already. but having said that, it's an amazing book to read, gives a good perspective to things all over the world.
Megha Sreeram
Feb 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Basically this is an account of the dialogs, the exchanges between Ms. Roy, Mr. Cussack, Mr. Snowden etc.

There is considerably less about the internet surveillance and about the ethical and moral parts of it. There is just too much of Ms. Roys take on what India is and what it should have been, which is at times deplorable to read.

I would personally would have loved to read more about Mr. Snowden and Mr. Assange.

A disappointing read.
Natasha Samani
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Let me start this saying that I love John Cusack. I might have watched the movie Serendipity so many times that I may know the lines by heart.
If John Cusacks character in Serendipity or High Fidelity was a real person who I knew I would have married him. Plus he lived in Chicago and I also lived in Chicago….I lived in LA and so did he…. it’s just too perfect. If only he could notice me….
A couple of day’s ago Arundhati Roy was trending on Twitter which reminded me to preorder her new book “The M
Nafis Faizi
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it to get the context of some of these incisive and scorching remarks (apart from the useful discussion on justice versus human rights.

''There is no alternative to stupidity. Cretinism is the mother of fascism''
''Every isolated idea that doesn't relate to others, yet taken as true is not just bad politics, it is somehow fundamentally untrue''
''We can decide the most convenient place to airdrop history's markers. History is really a study of the future, not the past.''
''The great irony is th
Suezelle D'Costa
Absolutely loved it. The conversations are not just enlightening, but enriching. This book made me very, very angry - not at the authors, but at the corporates, careless governments. And I would confidently say that because the two giant firms called out in the book happened to be my clients at one point. I chose to run away.

Anyone who is truly concerned about the world, about the human race, should read this took. It can be completed in under two hours (without a break).
Frederick Gault
Interview with Edward Snowden by John Cusack, Arunhhati Roy and Daniel Ellsberg. This is heavy stuff - an interview conducted in exile by a whistle blower that Hillary Clinton has stated needs to be "brought to justice". Brings into sharp focus the question; If the United States considers you a traitor for telling the truth to the public, then who is the government working for?
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Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer who is also an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.

For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.

“We're told, often enough, that as a species we are poised on the edge of the abyss. It's possible that our puffed-up, prideful intelligence has outstripped our instinct for survival and the road back to safety has already been washed away. In which case there's nothing much to be done. If there is something to be done, then one thing is for sure: those who created the problem will not be the ones who come up with a solution.” 3 likes
“History is really a study of the future, not the past.” 2 likes
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