We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

First ImpressionsWe Learn Nothing book cover
We Learn Nothing, by Tim Kreider,  hooked me from the first sentence  and held me in its grip all the way through to the last. Honest, irreverent, and hilarious – it’s an examination of  whether or not we have the ability to grow from past experience. Are we doomed to repeat our own personal histories again and again?

Drive-by Summary
This is a collection of highly personal essays based on the life experiences of author and cartoonist Tim Kreider.  It ranges in subject from surviving a throat-stabbing, to nursing an aging parent through severe illness; suffering from extreme love-sickness, to how good anger can feel when it consumes us, and much more. It is a delightful, and at times heart-breaking, blend of humor,  cynicism, and self-awareness. A deeper look into the relationships and experiences one finds oneself enmeshed in and what we gain from them.

My Favorite Character
Tim Kreider has charmed me. I find his perspective and sense of humor deeply refreshing. In  We Learn Nothing, Kreider introduces us to a motley and fascinating cast of characters. By turns they are charming, brave, exasperating, and sometimes deeply flawed. I recognized friends of my own in his friend Skelly, estranged family members in the crowd at the Tea Party rally he infiltrates, and even myself, as I followed him on his journey of hope, disappointment, and truth-seeking.

Words to Live By
“There’s a fine line between the bold romantic gesture and stalking. The tricky crux of the matter is that it depends to a great extent on how that gesture is going to be received – which factor, unfortunately, the impetuous suitor/obsessed stalker has lost all ability to gauge. A friend of mine reports that all the women he’s polled have been enthusiastic advocates of the bold romantic gesture, but this, he suspects, is because they’re all automatically picturing John Cusack making it, not Steve Buscemi or Peter Lorre or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Often  you don’t know whether you’re the hero of a romantic comedy or the villain on a Lifetime special until the restraining order arrives.”

Recommended For
I would recommend this book for anyone in need of a laugh, and particularly, for those to whom it’s beginning to seem as if life is nothing but a series of repeated mistakes. Fans of Augusten Burroughs’ work will appreciate the wit and humility of the writer, combined with the  odd characters and situations he puts on display.

Final Say
What I learned from We Learn Nothing is that I am a huge fan of Tim Kreider’s work. His stories are a gift, his cartoons are brilliantly drawn (though I recommend a magnifying glass to read the print, as it’s very fine), and this book is not nearly long enough.

You can pick up a copy of We Learn Nothing at the
Bellingham Public Library.

— Jenni


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