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Escape into Meaning: Essays on Superman, Public Benches, and Other Obsessions

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On the spectrum of sophistication, speaking falls somewhere between thinking and writing, but it’s the form of language (or thought) construction we use the most. Some sections are a chimera of long personal experiences and literary analysis where the personal anecdote breaks the logic and makes you wonder "do I feel the same way. In the title essay, “Escape Into Meaning,” he asks the big question: “What in God’s name drove me to watch Lord of The Rings fifty times? A brilliant, wide-ranging essay collection that explores meaning and how we make it with the thoughtfulness and open-hearted generosity that have long been hallmarks of Puschak's writing. Books and the institutions that teach them are indispensable tools, but they serve us best “when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame.

The rest of the essays varied, the one on Superman reading to me like a guy's take on Superman, and I didn't finish the one on Seinfeld--I tried twice to watch some of the show, but both times got to where this loud, boring guy mansplained at the top of his lungs to a captive audience and I flipped the channel both times.

I took it to the mini café near the front, bought a coffee and a scone, and read until my life changed its direction, which took about forty minutes. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints. Instead, Christianity adopted a “vulgar tone of preaching” that commands its followers to “subordinate your nature to Christ’s nature,” that speaks of “revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. Emmy-award winning gadfly Mike Rowe presents a ridiculously entertaining, seriously fascinating collection of his favorite episodes from America’s number-one short-form podcast, The Way I Heard It, along with a host of memories, ruminations, and insights. In these four essays—“Nature,” “The American Scholar,” “The Divinity School Address,” and “Self-Reliance”—Emerson lays out his special brand of transcendentalism.

In between, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while another was plausibly decided by Ralph Nader.

People of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. They are enjoyable to read, and some became my absolute favorite as I agreed with everything he said in those particular essays (plus he cited some of my favorite authors, so yeay!

R. James, from Edgar Allan Poe’s terrifying tale of a doppelganger to Charlotte Riddell’s Open Door that should definitely stay shut, join Stephen as he tells you some truly terrifying tales. He explains the rise and fall of popular comic archetypes such as the Jewish mother, the JAP, and the schlemiel and schlimazel.Sometimes it can be hard to make out when Emerson’s being literal and when he’s using hyperbole as a rhetorical device. This essay reconciled me with my own feelings towards "engaged" comedians like John Oliver who espouse the whole: if you don’t find me funny, you’re stupid and evil shtick. The point of school was to get good grades, and the point of good grades was to get into a good college, and the point of a good college was to get a good job, and the point of a good job was some or maybe all of the following: (a) to make money; (b) to be happy; (c) to be independent and not live at home; (d) to seem desirable to potential romantic partners; (e) to not be the type of person your parents are embarrassed by when they’re at a dinner party and everyone is talking about their kids. Still, as Puschak states at the end, this is the forefront of his published books, and given the quality of his other endeavors, I would be happy to see how he can grow as an author. The critical thing was to cross those checkpoints, and education was just the means to do that, not an end in itself.

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