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BOOK REVIEW: Selfie
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Selfie

Author: Will Storr

BT 201709 BOOK 01 编辑
      威尔•斯托(Will Storr)是一位获奖记者和作家,他的文章和评论常常见诸于《卫报》、《纽约客》等知名报刊杂志。他还同时担任记者和作家的培训讲师、自由撰稿人、摄影师和编辑,工作内容丰富且在每个领域都成效卓著。目前著有《Selfie》(自拍)、《THE HERETICS》(持异端者)、《THE HUNGER AND THE HOWLING OF KILLIAN LONE》(吉莲•劳恩的饥饿与嚎叫)、《WILL STORR VS THE SUPERNATURAL》(威尔•斯托尔大战超自然力量)四部书。

      今天我们要一同来了解的正是威尔•斯托的新书《Selfie》。无论是在东方还是西方,无论是在大城市还是小城区,人们尤其年轻一代显示出更多的爱自拍的倾向。在过去那个没有前置手机镜头的时代,自拍几乎是不存在的,或者说不会是一种日常行为。威尔•斯托没有简单地对现下都市男女的行为进行简单批评或者评价,而是从古希腊时期的社会形态和精神影响开始追溯——彼时的希腊尚有个人主义精神,作者在书中提及了很多有关希腊时期的内容。此外,威尔•斯托也注意到在中国,大家需要在集体中共同协作,在加利福尼亚,人们需要与邻居和睦相处才能生活得更好。虽然这些集体精神依然存在着,但是并未能阻止“自拍”这种带有个人主义的行为流行开来。

      威尔•斯托在书中并未给出一个明确的立场或是试图纠正这一行为,他在书中提到,大部分人通常都是好的,但是他也注意到,同情与宽容在社会的土壤中迅速生长,但同时看上去却是从未有过的冷漠无情。

BT 201709 BOOK 02Will Storr


Will Storr’s new book Selfie is extremely timely, asking and attempting to answer many questions pertinent to our current selfie-taking generation. Fortunately, it isn’t a cynical look at the narcissistic ways of the young. (That could only be a sterile cliché, Socrates having groused similarly 2500 years ago). Rather it examines the Western sense of the self from the time of Ancient Greeks through to its modern, digitally-connected sense doubly descended from San Francisco – from the esteem-enhancing Bay Area hippies and the libertarian would-be ubermensch of the online era.
 

In a number of excursions Storr examines some outliers – Dominican monks in a Scottish abbey; a London gangster who cracked up and found God; a rumination on the success of Donald Trump; and Storr himself writes of undertaking a deprogramming class to find his “real” self. These stories and characters give flesh and blood to theories and academic papers.
 

Storr really starts his account in Ancient Greece. He locates the initial sense of Western sense – individual and economically self-reliant - in the economies of the various Greek city-states. This socio-economic molding of the self he repeats several times: he sees the socially-predicated Chinese self as coming from the rich paddy fields where everyone had to work together and he sees the smiling can-do positivity of modern Western society a result of the Californian suburbs where one had to get along with one’s neighbors to get ahead. This might all be true, but it’s curious not to locate this idea as Marx’s notion of society formed by the means of production.
 

Storr then traces the modern narcissism through the affirmation school (which he demonstrates was based on extremely shaky academic foundations) to modern capitalist idea that one can do anything if one just tries hard enough. Not surprisingly, the young and successful have swallowed this almost whole, but the collateral damage for those who strive to present a perfect image and fail is heavy indeed.
 

Instant judgments on our images and self-projections make empathy, complexity and understanding more difficult than ever. Likewise, trolling and instant hate-mobs have crossed from 4chan and Twitter to everyday political discourse. Storr wisely makes no attempt to advise redress. He lives on a simple conversation suggesting that people are, generally, good. But as his book recognizes, empathy and tolerance grow in the soil of society and that seems to be getting ever stonier.
 

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