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We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

We Learn Nothing: Essays - Tim Kreider

This is a perfectly respectable essay collection; I bounced off of it when trying to read it straight through, but when I started skipping around reading whatever appealed most at the moment, I wound up enjoying it. Kreider has a lot of thoughts about life, family, friends, lies people tell themselves, and what’s really important, and shares them through a series of thoughtful and well-written (if slightly wordy) essays. Standouts for me were “Sister World” (in which Kreider, an adoptee, meets his biological family for the first time as an adult and bonds with his newfound sisters), “Chutes and Candyland” (about a friend who came out as transgender in middle age, and Kreider’s struggle to accept as a woman someone he’d only known as a man; the friend is Jennifer Finney Boylan and I look forward to reading her own book), and “The Anti-Kreider Club” (about the weird lack of fanfare around the end of friendships: one person stops speaking to the other, who isn’t supposed to seek answers or acknowledge this at all).

Overall not a groundbreaking collection, but a worthwhile one. One of these essays, “The Czar’s Daughter,” has also appeared in modified form in a Radiolab story, which you can listen to here. In its melancholy and generosity, its portrayal of deep and meaningful connections between essentially lonely people, it’s a fair representation of the collection.