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‘My adult life can be divided into two distinct parts,’ Eula Biss writes, ‘the time before I owned a washing machine and the time after.’ Having just purchased her first home, she now embarks on a roguish and risky self-audit of the value system she has bought into. The result is a radical interrogation of work, leisure and capitalism.
New York Times bestselling author Biss brings her approach to the lived experience of capitalism. Playfully ranging from IKEA to Beyoncé to Pokémon, across bars and laundromats and universities, she asks, of both herself and her class, ‘In what have we invested’?
‘A major achievement. Having and Being Had, rather than leading through narrative, turns individual words and phrases, like capitalism, consumers, great America, husbandry, art and work, into fields of inquiry in order to frame a life. With astute consideration, this expansive and intimate accumulation asks the questions that touch all our lives.’
‘Eula Biss is known for stepping off the plank into turbulent waters that others might fear or avoid, armed with wry wit and a radical lucidity. Having and Being Had continues this journey, offering us a probing tour of capitalism and class that sidesteps posturing and jargon in favor of clarity, humility, and incitement.’
‘No contemporary writer I know explores and confronts her own societal responsibilities better than Eula Biss. In Having and Being Had she unpacks capitalism as a lived practice of a thinking person. She makes you surprised and delighted by the way she extracts complex ideas from mundane situations.’
‘In this witty, genre-bending book, Eula Biss smashes the taboo against talking about money with exhilarating results. Her investigation ranges from the strictly financial to the broadly philosophical as she accounts for her life with disarming honesty and grace.’
‘Eula Biss’s prescient new book gave me new language for things I didn’t know I felt about money, capitalism, and my place inside of an economy that always requires so much of me and gives back so little. A brilliant, lacerating re-examination of our relationship to what we own and why, and who in turn might own us in ways we didn’t know we consented to—what could be more necessary now?’
‘Having and Being Had is an artful masterpiece. In it, Eula Biss takes the ordinary—work, money, gardening, family—and strips it of ordinariness. In undressing life as such, she troubles the relations that bind us to objects, to property, and shows us the true cost of debt.’
‘A stylish, meditative inquiry into the function and meaning of 21st-century capitalism…this eloquent, well-informed account recasts the everyday world in a sharp new light.‘
‘[Having and Being Had] has turned the interrogative mode into a sound…This is an essential book for our out-of-control times of greed.’
‘Biss marvels at the uncertainty and discomfort people display when assigning costs and value to their work—and the way these discussions are further burdened by problems of race and gender, particularly in terms of how slavery and marriage turned people into property…A typically thoughtful set of Biss essays: searching, serious, and determined to go beyond the surface.’