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The book "All Things Are Too Small" by Becca Rothfeld is a remarkable and stimulating collection of essays.

The book “All Things Are Too Small” by Becca Rothfeld is a remarkable and stimulating collection of essays.


Ecca Rothfeld is a highly energetic and impactful individual. Prior to reading All Things Are Too Small, I was not familiar with her work and was caught off guard by the immense power and scope of the book. She is an American journalist who writes for prestigious publications such as the New Yorker, New York Times, and Washington Post. In addition, she is also a philosopher, polemicist, and a clever writer. In her thought-provoking and sophisticated collection of essays, she challenges many of the modern assumptions that we accept without question. She particularly questions the widespread promotion of minimalism as an ideal for our living spaces, literature, and even ourselves.

According to Rothfeld, excess is the key to success, and she includes a wide range of examples in her initial essay discussing the desire for more. These examples include the extravagant character Oliver Twist, the 13th-century mystic Hadewijch of Brabant (after whom the essay is titled), Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick, and literary critic James Wood. She even takes the time to sympathize with a man she observed in a restaurant who consumed three plates of pasta in rapid succession, remarking that he wouldn’t have needed a third serving if the restaurant had larger portions available.

Without fail, Rothfeld, who embraces diversity, does not forget to launch a harsh criticism towards an easy target: decluttering expert Marie Kondo. She expresses her confusion towards Kondo’s controversial method of “sparking joy” and quickly getting rid of anything that elicits complex emotions or thoughts. Rothfeld, on the contrary, constantly relies on critical thinking. She opposes the idea of a blank slate and questions how simply disposing of old T-shirts can lead to personal rebirth. She ponders whether filling local landfills is enough to achieve widespread equality. And there is much more to her critiques. She eloquently mourns the simplification of contemporary literature, believing it has resulted in egocentric, overly edited, and fragmented novels. She includes a respectful but unimpressed essay on Sally Rooney and her politically neutral writing.

I enjoy attempting to simplify and understand the importance of mindfulness, which is like decluttering one’s mind. However, this did not hinder my pleasure in reading her essay, which challenges traditional ideas about mindfulness. She shares her experience of feeling “virtuously bored” while meditating and her disinterest in focusing on her own breathing. Most importantly, she criticizes the notion that meditation promotes a sense of helplessness and encourages people to accept the unfairness in their lives. In a world full of inequality, she argues that it is unacceptable to expect individuals to simply cope with unfair circumstances. Mindfulness assumes that our dissatisfaction is always a result of our own thoughts and not external factors such as systemic injustice.

In other places, Rothfeld discusses sensitive subjects such as sex, beauty, desire, and consumption. One standout piece is “The Flesh, It Makes You Crazy,” which delves into her own lust for her spouse. I couldn’t help but wonder how he would react to this confession (imagining him sitting in an armchair, covering his eyes). This leads to the question: can you have too much of a good thing? Rothfeld critiques writers Christine Emba and Louise Perry for their puritan beliefs and highlights the unique and unruly nature of eroticism, which cannot conform to any specific language. She exposes the constricting conservatism of Emba and Perry’s views and the oppressive effects of their prudish ideals.

In the acknowledgments section, Rothfeld expresses gratitude to her editor for entrusting her with the freedom to write passionately. Her extraordinary achievement in this book about indulgence is her ability to compel readers to never utter the phrase “less is more” again. However, it must be admitted that, in spite of her vibrant writing, Rothfeld could have effortlessly trimmed a few of these essays. This is because, as a talented and assertive iconoclast, she also has the capability to become what she hopes to avoid: a comprehensive miniaturist.

Source: theguardian.com