cover image All Things Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess

All Things Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess

Becca Rothfeld. Metropolitan, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-84991-5

Washington Post book critic Rothfeld’s erudite debut collection muses on the merits of indulgence. In “More Is More,” Rothfeld likens the spare storytelling in “fragment novels” by such authors as Kate Zambreno and Jenny Offill to the decluttering ethos espoused by Marie Kondo, critiquing both for prioritizing utility over sentimentality. Individuality, she suggests, is achieved through the accumulation of things (friends, fears, and phobias, for instance) one doesn’t need. “Wherever You Go, You Could Leave” derides the recent mindfulness vogue and contends that though some people might find the mental exercises soothing, the movement’s emphasis on tranquility and acceptance serves to divert attention from the material inequalities and unjust labor conditions that stress people out in the first place. Elsewhere, the author pushes back against a recent spate of books decrying the “rough, casual, and extramarital sex that the sexual revolution legitimated” and posits that the ostensibly restrained films of French director Éric Rohmer “trade in unfamiliar forms of exaltation,” brimming with tenderness rather than overt sexuality. Rothfeld has a knack for aphorism (“There is nothing more foreign to justice than love”), and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch her idiosyncratic arguments unfold. This is a triumph. (Apr.)