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David Shields and Caleb Powell
I Think You're Totally Wrong: A Quarrel
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-385-35194-2
Publication Date: 01-06-2015
264 Pages; $25.95
Date Reviewed: 01-18-2015
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Index:  Non-Fiction

Dissonance is the name of the game, on every level. Humans are an arguing species, and what sets us apart is that our disagreements don't always end in death. But dissonance casts a wider net than mere argument. It can be as subtle as a whisper or as loud as a roar. And the best bickering reaches not a conclusion, but evokes an unease in the audience.

Prep for unease as you open up 'I Think You're Totally Wrong,' the book-length argument between David Shields and Caleb Powell. It's a work filled with contradictions from stem to stern. It's certainly unlike just about any other book in recent memory. but equally certain is that books such as this have a long and health history. You'll pick this up and think, rightly, "This is weird and daring," and then read it and feel like you're hanging out with two old friends — and you are, or will be.

'I Think You're Totally Wrong' is a transcript, lightly edited (so we're told) or a long weekend the Shields and Powell spent together yakking. The arguments and the book itself are largely unstructured. To this end, then, you might think that the book is only as interesting as the men, and they are certainly captivating speakers on varying ends of a variety of spectrums.

Looking at what's in evidence here is pretty simple. The transcript format makes the book easy and fun to read. Chances are you'll whip through it faster than the average thriller. (Unless you leave it behind at the bookstore in disgust, or throw it across the room, both of which for some readers will be perfectly reasonable reactions.) But make no mistake, these are two engaging, witty guys, who don't have to try at all to be funny or insightful. It just happens on the page when they speak, and the book itself is a remarkable testament to the power of human speech. You may walk away thinking, "Forget the guns, break out the megaphones."

But the real meat of the matter is what happens inside the reader, internalizing a book-length argument between two intelligent and generally respectful opponents. This is where disagreement leaves off and dissonance takes over. This is where you, the reader, become part of the conversation.

By reading 'I Think You're Totally Wrong,' you internalize opposing points of view, perspectives that may yet be at odds with your own. You become the pressure chamber for all that disagreement, and in doing so, you de-pressurize your own fixations. You may not agree with either speaker, by but the end you may not agree with the version of yourself who started the book, either. It's a humbling, healthy and very human experience.

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