Carl's Reviews > Surface Tensions: Searching for Sacred Connection in a Media-Saturated World

Surface Tensions by Nathan  Roberts
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's review
Mar 25, 2016

it was amazing
bookshelves: edited

A media-saturated culture is a disorienting environment.

Here we are.

Sometimes we're having fun. Sometimes it’s crushingly depressing. Sometimes we're Raiding with our Guild or in the middle of the Tweetstorm and we feel like we're caught up in something bigger than ourselves and the sense of belonging is transcendent. Sometimes we're just alone despite the crowd, the light, and the noise. A lot of the time, for one reason or another, we can’t even.

So Nathan’s book is about that confusion, about being caught in the network that connects us to each other. Basically, by telling his story, he gives one answer to the question: how does this media-saturated environment shape us as people, and shape our relationships to others?

This thing was a pleasure to edit.* It's a memoir by a pastor’s kid that is primarily about what it feels like to be a person fully engaged in the world in the social media age. (Specifically, Nathan really, really loves movies.) It's thoughtful, and touches on a lot of different kinds of media—social media, yes, but also music, films, art, theater, podcasts, standup comedy etc. It deals a little bit with the difference between “Christian” and “secular” media, but it’s not dogmatic. It’s less about making arguments about what we should do, and more just about what it has been like to grow up today awash in SO MUCH media around us all the time. This isn’t really didactic. It’s not Nathan’s dissertation (though he’s studying media at Harvard). It's his story.

Nathan is really funny, so this is also a really funny book, and Nathan is an excellent writer, so on top of all of that, it’s beautifully, interestingly written (I mean, just wait until you seen how he uses semi-colons...).

There are awkward relationships with messy breakups, sibling rivalries (view spoiler), and lots of battles with authority figures (some of these even get resolved—which is not to be taken for granted!). I think readers will appreciate feeling like they’re having a long, deep, close conversation with a really smart friend who has watched a ton of shows, read a lot of books, made a lot of mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and who knows how to tell a funny story that hits you in the feels. That's my feeling, anyway.

*I edited this book and I'm really proud of the work that Nathan did here.

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