Becca Rothfeld presents All Things Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess, in conversation with Phil Klay

April 2nd
McNally Jackson Seaport

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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 (most recently) Antiquities

"These essays spring from a philosopher's voracious, brilliantly synthesizing mind, and from a poet's love for language that leans always toward rapture." —Garth Greenwell, author of Cleanness

Becca Rothfeld is the nonfiction book critic for the Washington Post, an editor at the Point, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at Harvard. Winner of the 2021 Robert B. Silvers Prize for Literary Criticism, finalist for a National Magazine Award, and the 2024 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Nona Balakian Reviewing Prize, Rothfeld has written for the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the New York Times Book Review, among other publications. She lives in Washington, DC.




Phil Klay is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His short story collection Redeployment won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and his novel Missionaries was one of the Wall Street Journal's best 10 books of 2020, as well as former President Barack Obama's best books of the year. His latest book is Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War. He currently teaches fiction at Fairfield University.




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