Feature

Also of interest...in unpleasant feelings

Humiliation by Wayne Koestenbaum; The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson; Yuck! by Daniel Kelly; My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos

Humiliationby Wayne Koestenbaum (Picador, $14)Wayne Koestenbaum’s half-good book will “make you squirm” in two different ways, said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. In the good half, you’ll be unsettled by Koestenbaum’s highly evocative analysis of the ways we are “mesmerized by every variety of public shame.” The book’s other, cringe-worthy half is an “exercise in auto-humiliation.” As the author airs his own shameful proclivities, the book becomes “a high-pitched guided tour through the shallows of one psyche’s soiled laundry.”

The Art of Crueltyby Maggie Nelson (Norton, $25)Maggie Nelson begins her wide-ranging study of cruelty in art by asking if depictions of violence “can still make a visual impact in an already bludgeoning media environment,” said Rachel Syme in NPR.org. Nelson is an erudite tour guide, taking readers into varied territory, from Francis Bacon’s paintings to the “pedophile-persecuting” TV show To Catch a Predator. “Not for the squeamish reader,” The Art of Cruelty is also “not an easy text to dive into.” But “once begun, it’s difficult to ignore.”

Yuck! by Daniel Kelly (MIT Press, $30)“We all have things that disgust us irrationally,” said Mandy Van Deven in Salon.com. Daniel Kelly’s new study of “the moral significance of disgust” explores the reasons why we find cockroaches or chitterlings or even cotton balls repugnant. Though disgust “initially helped keep us away from rotting food and contagious disease,” when the emotion is allowed today to play a role in the creation of social policy,” it “might actually cause more harm than good.”

My American Unhappinessby Dean Bakopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24)“Here’s a short list of some of the things that might make you miserable,” said Margaret Wappler in the Los Angeles Times. “Food courts. ATM surcharges. Health care. That Cracker Barrel opening out near the highway.” Zeke, the protagonist of Dean Bakopoulos’s new novel, is the head of a project charged with creating “an inventory of American unhappiness.” The character’s ruminations on American miseries read like an “act of tough love” for an ailing country.

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