Athena's Reviews > The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism

The Selfishness of Others by Kristin Dombek
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Some parts of this short book are very good. Dombek is excellent at parsing established theories of narcissism and self-centeredness, from the myths of Narcissus and Echo through Rene Girard, Alice Miller, and the latest edition of the DSM. The close readings she offers are concise and eloquent, clarifying ideas that have been misunderstood or forgotten. I found Dombek's discussion of Girard and mimesis particularly fascinating (I haven't read anything by him), and she seems most enchanted by him too. Girard proposes that we fashion our individuality by imitating others, so that we are all mutually constituted--but we tend to react violently when reminders of our imbrication with one another tear through our sense of a unique, discrete, authentic self. And the way we learn to be ourselves through others doesn't mean we learn to care about those others. (I'm paraphrasing secondhand, so I'm sure I'm distorting Girard's actual ideas at least a little.)

After these discussions, the book slowly collapses in a way that left me disappointed and confused. Dombek's writing turns lofty, rambly, and, well, self-centered. I don't know if she intended this to be some kind of experimental practice of writing as a selfish/other-centric dialectic in the vein of Chris Kraus or Sheila Heti. In any case, I wasn't into it at all.
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Reading Progress

July 29, 2016 – Shelved
July 29, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
September 12, 2016 – Started Reading
September 20, 2016 –
September 21, 2016 –
September 22, 2016 –
September 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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