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Having and Being Had
$35.00

Having and Being Had

By Eula Biss
336 pages
Hardcover
September 2020

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND NPR

“A sensational new book [that] tries to figure out whether it’s possible to live an ethical life in a capitalist society. . . . The results are enthralling.” —Associated Press 

A timely and arresting new look at affluence by the New York Times bestselling author.

“My adult life can be divided into two distinct parts,” Eula Biss writes, “the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after.” Having just purchased her first home, the poet and essayist now embarks on a provocative exploration of the value system she has bought into. Through a series of engaging exchanges—in libraries and laundromats, over barstools and backyard fences—she examines our assumptions about class and property and the ways we internalize the demands of capitalism. Described by The New York Times as a writer who “advances from all sides, like a chess player,” Biss offers an uncommonly immersive and deeply revealing new portrait of work and luxury, of accumulation and consumption, of the value of time and how we spend it. Ranging from IKEA to Beyoncé to Pokemon, Biss asks, of both herself and her class, “In what have we invested?” 

“Sharp and snappy. . . . Having and Being Had picks apart the ethics behind our capitalist society, culminating in a powerful look at the ways in which we assign value to the people, places and things that comprise our lives.” Time

“Incisive, impressive and often poetic . . .The marvel of this book, and of Ms. Biss’s prose in general, is the spare and engaging way she interrogates such complex and abstract concepts. With references to Adam Smith and Dire Straits, Karl Marx and Scooby-Doo, she turns what is essentially a chronicle of white guilt and anxious privilege into a thoughtful and nuanced meditation on the compromises inherent in having a comfortable life.” The Wall Street Journal

“Curious, sharp, funny (truly) and full of questions we, as a society, have forgotten how to ask about how we spend, what we buy [and] why we work.” —NPR



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