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Make It Scream, Make It Burn

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,643 ratings  ·  272 reviews
A new collection of essays about obsession and longing from Leslie Jamison, the New York Times bestselling author of The Recovering and The Empathy Exams. A combination of memoir, criticism, and journalism, Make It Scream, Make It Burn is Leslie Jamison's profound exploration of the oceanic depths of longing and the reverberations of obsession.

Among Jamison's subjects are
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 24th 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
I loved Leslie Jamison’s collection The Empathy Exams in 2014 but have struggled to connect with her work since then, including this book. For the first two sections of this essay collection, I felt like, in each essay, Jamison took a very long, drawn-out time to make one pretty solid point. For example, in her essay “52 Blue,” she draws interesting insights about loneliness and the shared experience of loneliness, but overall the essay felt rather removed and observational. In “Sim Life,” s ...more
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, recs
Incisive and candid, Make It Scream, Make It Burn is Jamison’s strongest work yet. Moving from the external to the internal, the three-part essay collection is thematically structured: the first regards the loneliness and longing of others; the second examines the bond between artists and their subjects, focusing on what it means to represent and engage with suffering; the third explores Jamison’s personal struggles with addiction, romance, pregnancy, and (step)motherhood. Whether the writer’s a ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: because I can't resist
I feel like Jamison has matured in how she views relationships and other people. These essays seem more interested in other people's motivations and quirks than her own, and she comes across as curious and empathetic. In 2007, I wrote an article for an obscure music librarian journal about Second Life and she interviewed one of the same avatars for the essay on Second Life in this collection. "52 Blue" is a favorite in this collection, and I really liked "The Real Smoke" which is about Vegas cul ...more
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
[4.5 stars]
Unsurprisingly, I loved this. Jamison is quickly becoming one of my favorite non-fiction writers, if not my #1. She has this sensibility that others lack, of being able to be within and without her writing simultaneously. The ability to insert herself into the narrative without making it about herself is something I admire as a reader because it allows me to find a deeper, more human connection point to the narrative but still see the big picture she is painting. And of course she doe
Vincent Scarpa
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Leslie Jamison is one of the best nonfiction writers of our time. Reading her on the page is exactly what I want always to be doing.
Rachel León
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(4 big stars, rounded up to 5 because one essay literally made me scream... in this AH, LESLIE YOUR WRITING IS KILLING ME sort of way, which was followed by me reading like three paragraphs over again out loud to soak in her genius.)

This is a solid collection of essays, to say the least. Some of them I definitely want to revisit again. One or two I was like meh, but one or two meh when there are at least five or six that cut me deeply, still equals a stellar collection. Overall, I LOVED it.
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jamison has a very specific essay formula, but it's a very good one, and no-one else writes like this.
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
metaphor always connects two disparate points; it suggests that no pathos exists in isolation, no plight exists apart from the plights of others. loneliness seeks out metaphors not just for definition but for the companionship of resonance, the promise of kinship in comparison.
leslie jamison's writing is incisive and insightful, and, at its best, is marked by a sort of epiphanic explication—as if the construction of her resplendent prose is conjoined with the realizations they are simultaneo
Michael Livingston
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this collection of essays - some autobiographical, some taking a broader lens and some combining the two approaches. Always thoughtful, curious and intelligent, Jamison writes like a dream and manages to be both powerfully emotional and deeply interesting - the first essay about the blue whale and the Las Vegas piece are standouts, but the whole book is just wonderful.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leslie Jamison has become one of my new favorite essay authors. I recently read the essay collection “The Empathy Exams," and “The Recovering,” a book length examination of addiction and recovery. Both books are ones I’ve highly recommended. The essays in “Make It Scream, Make it Burn” are wide-ranging in subject matter - from a blue whale who never found a mate and came to represent loneliness to many people, reincarnation, the historical role of stepmothers, and her personal relationships and ...more
Cassie (book__gal)
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Can I go ahead and anoint myself president of the Leslie Jamison fan club? She’s undoubtedly one of the best essayists of our time. Curiosity and empathy: the two virtues that run like a thread through all her work. She never tells a story about others (or herself) without these two elements. She has a tattoo on her arm that reads: "I am human, nothing human is alien to me”. That should tell you everything you need to know about Jamison’s work; she brings lucidity to the obscure, she ponders the ...more
Casey Cep
Holy Moly! James Agee, Reincarnation, the Loneliest Whale in the World, Vegas Casinos, Border Crossings, the Museum of Broken Relationships -- you name it, and Leslie Jamison has wrangled into this incredible new collection of essays. Seriously, what a thrill to see so much new work from such a wonderful writer.

I'll be interviewing Leslie Jamison on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at 7PM at Politics & Prose. Please join us for a wonderful conversation:

Make it Scream, Make it Burn is a collection of loosely-related essays, many about the author's own life, and others about subjects that caught her fancy. For the most part, these are ordinary people and routine situations; Jamison digs for meaning in things that are often overlooked, and I appreciate that. Her words are lovely, startlingly human, layered with research and years of experience in her craft.

I'm not going to pretend like Leslie Jamison isn't a great writer. She is. But sometime
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, fall-2019
I received an egalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.

Leslie Jamison is such a good essayist, y’all. She weaves together lyrical imagery, well-researched facts, personal narrative and broad context so well in pretty much everything she writes. This collection is organized in a really interesting way, and while the subjects of these essays range from the quirky (the whale Blue 52, the Museum Of Broken Relationships) to the deeply personal (Jamison’s journe
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Leslie Jamison is such a talented nonfiction writer. This set of essays is categorized around 3 categories, which explore Longing, Looking, and Dwelling. Jamison is at her best when she fuses an exploration of a topic with the personal (e.g., the portrayal of step-motherhood in literature and society and Jamison's own experience with step-motherhood) or explores individuals who might not otherwise be considered (e.g., people who feel a kinship with a special blue whale, those who live part of th ...more
Oct 19, 2019 added it
So like. I don’t think this is the type of book made for me. She wrote about lonely whales and not projecting our feelings onto them and David foster wallace and kids who think they’ve been reincarnated... I thought the essays would be organized around a specific topic, but they weren’t. I’d also read at least three of them online, which I suppose wasn’t her fault, but I skipped.

I actually skipped a lot of the essays because she’d start by talking about, like, random men from the 1920s and they
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this collection. Its solid, not showy. It’s thoughtful, it’s well-written. I loved The Empathy Exams and this feels like a talented writer, and her writing, growing and maturing. There’s a warming here, a new subtlety.

I often think essayists overwork their idea of structure but the flow of these essays made sense to me. It goes from reported stories to critique to personal essays.

Although these were mostly written for different publications they feel of a piece. I trusted and
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would walk over hot coals for Leslie Jamison. She somehow manages to turn subjects that seem vaguely cliché into entirely original and deeply profound meditations—I was particularly blown away by "52 Blue" and "We Tell Ourselves Stores in Order to Live Again." BUT the best essay in this collection is by far the last one, "The Quickening," where she juxtaposes her former eating disorder with her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. I've read it 3 times now and it's made me sob each time.
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
Leslie Jamison seems like a lovely person, so it pains me a little that I didn’t enjoy this collection as much I had expected. I had read some of the essays in other places, and those were stand-outs (especially "Museum of Broken Hearts" and "The Quickening"), but the rest felt predictable somehow. And the conclusions always follow the same note: Short emotive sentence. Short emotive sentence. Impact. Some nice stuff here; some mediocre stuff as well.
This collection is a mix of journalistic endeavors and personal essays. I usually prefer one or the other rather than a blend because organization can feel clunky and uneven. That was the case here. IMO, the strongest essays were the first and last, “52 Blue” and “The Quickening,” respectively.
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Make it Scream, Make it Burn is an essay collection by Leslie Jamison that’s divided into three sections entitled Longing, Looking, and Dwelling. The opening essay of the first section—"52 Blue”—is one that I think of often. It describes a whale whose frequency is unprecedented and who, thereby, becomes an object of acute human interest. As is common for our species to do, many tender and relatable storylines are consigned to the whale’s unusual call, in order to find in it some company for our ...more
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This collection is so insightful and thought-provoking! It is divided into three sections Longing, Looking and Dwelling. Jamison, a masterful essayist weaves together personal narrative with well researched fact. The subject matter within these essays are interesting, quirky and at times deeply personal. Themes of lonliness, obsession, loss, marriage, relationships, motherhood, and more. I appreciated her objectivity in each essay. You can feel her curiosity and connection to her subjects and th ...more
Nicole Wagner
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
A book of essays. What about? Challenging perceptions, ultimately. The limitation of our own gaze. How journalism captures these limits and shares them out with their skewed areas of focus. If you can keep the theme in your mind as you're reading, this will make more sense. Otherwise this comes across as a bit scattered, a bit forced. I even considered not finishing it, because I lose patience with collections of essays. They tend not to give me enough to get invested, and then I have to move on ...more
Callum McAllister
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leslie Jamison is the greatest living American essayist. This is much in the same vein as The Empathy Exams and The Recovering. More personal than the Empathy Exams and feels more together - more so that the essays are pointing towards the same thing. Early on I was hoping that there would be a move from the analytical reportage of the early essays to a more personal tone, which happened and fantastically so. A great collection.
A few years ago when Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison’s debut essay collection, was published I absolutely loved it. Now having read Jamison’s most recent essay I wonder if I have changed or Jamison’s approach but I think it’s rather the former.

But let me get into Make It Scream Make It Burn: First of all, this is not a bad book. Jamison most certainly can tell stories and write. When she dives into the complexities of human relationships, dreams, desires – just the messiness that is human life – t
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-books
3.5 stars
I will always read anything that Leslie Jamison writes, mainly because I loved everything that she has written in the past. That said, this collection was maybe not my favorite. As always, the essays were extremely well written but some of these felt dated and one I am sure that I read before in a magazine (which is weird, because I don’t read a lot of magazines). Some were very good, some didn’t really hold my interest for the entire piece. So, while this was a perfectly enjoyable coll
Peter Knox
Leslie Jamison is one of those writers that I'm going to read every time they publish something, something she earned with The Empathy Exams and rewarded me with The Recovering.

So naturally I looked forward to reading this new collection of her essays. But on the heels of TEE, it's a difficult followup that I found somewhat uneven to enjoy and much closer to the type of collection like Pulphead by JJS - some academic reviews, more impersonal criticism - instead of the fire hot crackling writing
Darcia Helle
Leslie Jamison has a way of being introspective with a topic, then flipping it inside out so we see it as she does and, maybe, we also see ourselves in the reflection there.

The writing is, simply put, perfection. Jamison's word choices, her phrasing, and the rhythm of her sentences create a lyrical, emotive beauty.

While I didn't connect as strongly with all the essays, I found each one engaging. A large percentage held me captive, and a few had me closing the book afterward in a sort of meditati
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My lasy book of 2019 and my first book of 2020. I originally started reading this during the early haze of motherhood. I forgot about it as I retreated more and more to my phone. I’m so glad I willed myself to read one more book.

For people who love Jia Tolentino’s writing but felt a little too old for it and for women who love Teju Cole’s... I love how her essays weave into one another. You have to read it chronologically and it comes out like a memoir.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am writing these notes based solely on my reaction to and enjoyment of Leslie Jamison’s essays, rather than an assessment of the quality of her writing (I think she’s great.)

I want to re-read several of her essays, particularly “The Museum of Broken Hearts”, which was one of the most haunting pieces I’ve ever read. “52 Blue” will stay with me for a long time. And “Sim Life” was a look into a world that I know nothing about, a weird and entertaining piece.

In the third section of the book, the e
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