Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Samuels)

I don’t know how many essays make an anthology, but 20 David Samuels’ essays is definitely too many. I had to drag myself through the last few. There’s definitely a voice here – a cynical tone that grows wearisome and mocking by the time you arrive at the last titular essay about a dog track. Samuels writes well about music and his piece about the modern Woodstock is a highlight of the collection. “The Making of a Fugitive” is a troubling piece about those who advocate killing doctors who perform abortions. Throughout the collection, Samuels seems to have an odd obsession with race, particularly African-Americans. In “400,000 Salesman Can’t be Wrong” and “Bringing Down the House,” the African-Americans are named by race. Everyone else, we are meant to presume, is white. In “Life is Full of Important Choice,” Samuels offers the single most disturbing line that I’ve read in a while. Speaking of his Brooklyn neighborhood a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he writes, “It was as if the ashes from the tower had fertilized our neighborhood” (256). That line made me shudder (and continues to do so); the book itself made me yawn.

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