They’re among us, but they are not like us. They manipulate, lie, and cheat. They may be irresistibly charming and accomplished. But narcissists are empty. No one knows exactly what everyone else is full of—some kind of a soul, or personhood—but whatever it is, narcissists do not have it. Or maybe they’re too full of themselves; experts disagree. But one thing is for sure: they don’t have empathy. And we do.
A philosophical, poetic, and quietly funny inquiry into the narcissism “epidemic,” The Selfishness of Others accounts for how a rare clinical diagnosis became a favorite complaint about our friends, lovers, family members, politicians, and the whole millennial generation. Writing with equal parts skepticism and compassion, essayist Kristin Dombek finds in the concept of narcissism a repository for our deepest fears about love, gender, new technologies, and the nature of the self. A meditation on the troubling problem exploited by the online self-help industry—how do we know things about others at all?—this book argues that when we spend our time in moral diagnosis, we risk sacrificing the kinds of empathy that matter most.
"When it comes to the vital essayistic subject of What It’s Like To Be Alive in Our Time, Kristin Dombek is one of the smartest and most thoughtful writers out there. Her work is always considered, erudite, savvy, personal, and wide-ranging. She really took one for the team by doing a whole book on narcissism—an occasion for gratitude and celebration. --Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed
"The Selfishness of Others is the strangest and most wonderful book I’ve read this year. It sees with visionary clarity in muddy waters. Love, hatred, psychology, egotism--it plunges us into their mysteries. A tour de force and a masterpiece of comic intellect." --Mark Greif, author of Against Everything
“I read this book in a day—spellbound, blinded even to my own reflection in the darkened subway windows—and I was grateful it was so compelling, because I was already impatient for everyone else I knew to read it too. Dombek’s soul-stethoscope is wholly her own, an instrument of precision and tender curiosity.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams