The Selfishness of Others

Kristin Dombek

“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. Kristin Dombek’s soul-stethoscope is wholly her own, an instrument of precision and tender curiosity.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

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, the essayist Kristin Dombek finds in the concept of narcissism 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.

About Kristin Dombek

Amy Touchette

Kristin Dombek is an essayist and a cultural journalist. Her essays have been published in The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, the London Review of Books, n+1, and The Paris Review, and anthologized in Best American Essays and elsewhere. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for Nonfiction in 2013.

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