All Things Are Too Small
Essays in Praise of Excess
by Becca Rothfeld
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Pub Date 02 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 03 May 2024
Henry Holt & Company, Metropolitan Books
A glorious call to throw off restraint and balance in favor of excess, abandon, and disproportion, in essays ranging from such topics as mindfulness, decluttering, David Cronenberg, and consent.
In her debut essay collection, “brilliant and stylish” (The Washington Post) critic Becca Rothfeld takes on one of the most sacred cows of our time: the demand that we apply the virtues of equality and democracy to culture and aesthetics. The result is a culture that is flattened and sanitized, purged of ugliness, excess, and provocation.
Our embrace of minimalism has left us spiritually impoverished. We see it in our homes, where we bring in Marie Kondo to rid them of their idiosyncrasies and darknesses. We take up mindfulness to do the same thing to our heads, emptying them of the musings, thoughts, and obsessions that make us who we are. In the bedroom, a new wave of puritanism has drained sex of its unpredictability and therefore true eroticism. In our fictions, the quest for balance has given us protagonists who aspire only to excise their appetites. We have flipped our values, Rothfeld argues: while the gap between rich and poor yawns hideously wide, we strive to compensate with egalitarianism in art, erotics, and taste, where it does not belong and where it quashes wild experiments and exuberance.
Lush, provocative, and bitingly funny, All Things Are Too Small is a subversive soul cry to restore imbalance, obsession, gluttony, and ravishment to all domains of our lives.
“Becca Rothfeld, one of our finest critics, writes with the boldly sensuous lyricism of DH Lawrence and the pugnacious brilliance of Irving Howe. In All Things Are Too Small ideas sing, jostle, sweat and brawl. In no other writer is the life of the mind such a raucous, exhilarating joy.”
—Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment and Uncertain Ground
"It seemed at one time that the legendary New York intellectuals and the luminaries of Partisan Review were definitively matchless and could have no successors or replicas. Becca Rothfeld alone is refutation: she not only equals their prowess, she ventures beyond their boundaries into queries never before dared or dreamed. There is no aspect of contemporary civilization or literary engagement that eludes her eye and her voice — nor could Lionel Trilling have predicted so elastic a body of insights."
—Cynthia Ozick, NBCC- and PEN-award winning author of Antiquities