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A moving and original literary approach to self-understanding through social media
"The hunger for a feeling of connection that informs most everything I've written flows from a common break in a common heart, one I share with everyone I’ve ever really known."—Note Book
Every single morning since early 2007, Princeton English professor Jeff Nunokawa has posted a brief essay in the Notes section of his Facebook page. Often just a few sentences but never more than a few paragraphs, these compelling literary and personal meditations have raised the Facebook post to an art form, gained thousands of loyal readers, and been featured in the New Yorker. In Note Book, Nunokawa has selected some 250 of the most powerful and memorable of these essays, many accompanied by the snapshots originally posted alongside them. The result is a new kind of literary work for the age of digital and social media, one that reimagines the essay’s efforts, at least since Montaigne, to understand our common condition by trying to understand ourselves.
Ranging widely, the essays often begin with a quotation from one of Nunokawa’s favorite writers—George Eliot, Henry James, Gerard Manley Hopkins, W. H. Auden, Robert Frost, or James Merrill, to name a few. At other times, Nunokawa is just as likely to be discussing Joni Mitchell or Spanish soccer striker Fernando Torres.
Confessional and moving, enlightening and entertaining, Note Book is ultimately a profound reflection on loss and loneliness—and on the compensations that might be found through writing, literature, and connecting to others through social media.
This essay collection from Princeton professor Nunokawa (Tame Passions of Wilde) provides an uneven but winning look at how people connect, or attempt to connect, in person and online. The essays, selected from postings Nunokawa has made using the Facebook Note app, are short and typically inspired by quotations from, among others, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre, Nunokawa's mother, and Nunokawa himself, as well as song lyrics and dialogue from TV shows and movies. Nunokawa often discusses his mother and father, old friendships and relationships, and his impression of himself. Other selections deal with literature, looking at what it can teach us. Not every essay is successful; some are overwritten, others are insubstantial, and several are repetitive. Sometimes, the inspiration seems more meaningful than the essay it inspired. But Nunokawa's emphasis is on process rather than product, and on continuing to attempt to connect with the reader regardless of whether Nunokawa succeeds. The sheer number of essays about 250 might put off some readers, but there's a pleasure to be found in simply picking up this book and taking a chance that any given entry might hit the mark.