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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group


BIG IDEAS//small books

Wayne Koestenbaum



Wayne Koestenbaum considers the meaning of humiliation in this eloquent work of cultural critique and personal reflection.

The lives of people both famous and obscure are filled with scarlet-letter moments when their dirty laundry sees daylight. In these moments we not only witness the reversibility of "success," of prominence, but also come to visceral terms with our own vulnerable selves. We can't stop watching the scene of shame, identifying with it and absorbing its nearness, and relishing our imagined immunity from its stain, even as we acknowledge the universal, embarrassing predicament of living in our own bodies. With an unusual, disarming blend of autobiography and cultural commentary, noted poet and critic Wayne Koestenbaum takes us through a spectrum of mortifying circumstances—in history, literature, art, current events, music, film, and his own life. His generous disclosures and brilliant observations go beyond prurience to create a poetics of abasement. Inventive, poignant, erudite, and playful, Humiliation plunges into one of the most disquieting of human experiences, with reflections at once emboldening and humane.



Recently in New York City an arrested man was strip-searched—standard procedure—on Rikers Island. The arraigned man said, "I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes." He...

Praise for Humiliation

“This literary ‘topping from the bottom' is the funniest, smartest, most heartbreaking yet powerful book I've read in a long time.” —John Waters

“Humiliation runs like a rash over the body of all of Wayne Koestenbaum's work; here, he directly addresses the feeling, and the result is one of my favorite recent books: psychologically astute, verbally pyrotechnic, bottomlessly provocative, surprisingly funny, and immensely sad. An extraordinary meditation on nothing less than--I don't know how else to say it--the human condition.” —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

In the Press

Read the Kirkus Review of HUMILIATION . A series of meditations on the concept of humiliation. - Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

Wayne Koestenbaum

WAYNE KOESTENBAUM has published five books of poetry, one novel, and six books of nonfiction. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, he is a distinguished professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center and also a visiting professor in the painting department of the Yale School of Art.

Wayne Koestenbaum


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