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How to Disappear

Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency
Narrated by: Gabra Zackman
Length: 6 hrs and 6 mins
5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

It is time to reevaluate the merits of the inconspicuous life, to search out some antidote to continuous exposure, and to reconsider the value of going unseen, undetected, or overlooked in this new world. Might invisibility be regarded not simply as refuge but as a condition with its own meaning and power? The impulse to escape notice is not about complacent isolation or senseless conformity but about maintaining identity, autonomy, and voice.

In our networked and image-saturated lives, the notion of disappearing has never been both more alluring. Today, we are relentlessly encouraged, even conditioned, to reveal, share, and promote ourselves. The pressure to be public comes not just from our peers but from vast and pervasive technology companies that want to profit from patterns in our behavior. A lifelong student and observer of the natural world, Busch sets out to explore her own uneasiness with this arrangement, and what she senses is a widespread desire for a less scrutinized way of life - for invisibility. Writing in rich painterly detail about her own life, her family, and some of the world's most exotic and remote places, she savors the pleasures of being unseen. Discovering and dramatizing a wonderful range of ways of disappearing, from virtual reality goggles that trick the wearer into believing her body has disappeared to the way Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway finds a sense of affiliation with the world around her as she ages, Busch deliberates on subjects new and old with equal sensitivity and incisiveness. 

How to Disappear is a unique and exhilarating accomplishment, overturning the dangerous modern assumption that somehow fame and visibility equate to success and happiness. Busch presents a field guide to invisibility, reacquainting us with the merits of remaining inconspicuousness, and finding genuine alternatives to a life of perpetual exposure. Accessing timeless truths in order to speak to our most urgent contemporary problems, she inspires us to develop a deeper appreciation for personal privacy in a vast and intrusive world.

©2019 Akiko Busch (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

“Coming upon [How to Disappear] was like finding the Advil bottle in the medicine cabinet after stumbling about with a headache for a long time.... For [Busch], invisibility is not simply a negative, the inverse of visibility. Going unseen, undetected, overlooked: These are experiences with their own inherent ‘meaning and power’; what we need is a ‘field guide’ for recognizing them. And this is what Busch offers, roaming from essay to essay in a loose, associative style, following invisibility where it takes her.... Inconspicuousness can be powerful - this may be Busch’s most radical point, especially at a moment when we’re conditioned to think power means yelling louder than everyone else in your Twitter feed, or showing the world in Instagram how you’re living your best life.... Silence and invisibility, [Busch insists], are part of our everyday lives - the place our mind wanders when we’re in the shower or out jogging, the feeling we get looking out the window of an airplane, the pleasure of becoming a stranger on a bustling city street. We take these pauses, these moments of exhalation, for granted, but we should clutch them close. They are our armor against the onslaught.” (Gal Beckerman, The New York Times Book Review, cover review)

“As the world grows ever more connected, it's imperative that voices preaching caution without hyperbole come to the fore. How refreshing, then, to read Akiko Busch's How to Disappear, which perfectly threads the needle.... [The book] isn't interested in providing a road map for getting off the grid, but in exploring the various ways humans do disappear, whether it's from view or simply into themselves.... Philosophical and thoughtful, How to Disappear beautifully illuminates the ways we choose to hide.” (Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review)

“These are by no means ‘notes’ but rather fully formed and often powerful explorations of the many realms and levels of invisibility to which one might aspire or withdraw.... With a tone that is more evocative than provocative, Busch meaningfully celebrates value where it goes unseen by others.” (Kirkus)

“Busch’s exploration of her subject is free-associative, wide-ranging, and poetic in its own right.... Busch offers a path to quiet dignity that is rich and enlightening.” (Publishers Weekly)

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-08-19

Thought-provoking, engaging, beautifully narrated

This book is so thoughtfully written and well-researched. Gabra Zackman's nuanced, heartfelt, and respectful narration is spot-on.