Awkwardness is an essential condition


Malcolm Harris reviews Adam Kosko's new book @ The New Inquiry.
Adam Kotsko’s Awkwardness is the kind of criticism — pertinent, witty, sophisticated but without sophistry — in which one can glimpse a culture that doesn’t quite exist. As with the other essays adapted from blogs and published by Zero Books (Nina Power’s One Dimensional Woman, Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, and Dominic Fox’s Cold World, among others), Awkwardness, in a different America, would supplant the dumbed-down pop and self-help schlock atop the nonfiction best-seller lists. Kotsko’s greatest achievement might be this slim volume’s readability; Awkwardness is written for the large audience that will never read it rather than the small one that will and the book is better off for it. Drawing on Martin Heidegger’s idea of boredom, Kotsko argues that awkwardness is an essential condition, the emotional mood of being forced to share the world with people different from us. If boredom is connected to our inevitable anxiety of death, as Heidegger claims, then the equally existential condition of togetherness would have its own mood, one able to transcend even the deepest social divisions. Although his premise is universal, Kotsko focuses on awkwardness in contemporary western entertainment, including the British and American versions of The Office, the extended oeuvre of Judd Apatow, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, all in an engaging 89 pages. Yet despite containing more well-written sentences in its less than 100 pages than a stack of academic texts,Awkwardness trips at the conclusion, finding false redemption in the greasing of the post-Fordist more