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Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People


Book Review How to Win Friends and Influence People By Erik Schubert Reviewed by Christopher J Johnson How to Win Friends and Influence People is a title that many are familiar with. The book, in its original incarnation, is not only a classic of the Self-Help genre, it is one of the first of its kind. In it one learns through six ”simple” steps how to move up in the world; some of its themes and ideas for a better and more successful life include...

By Erik Schubert. Lavalette, 2013.
 
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Reviewed by Christopher J. Johnson

How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Erik Schubert
Lavalette, 2013. 88 pp., illustrated throughout, 8½x11".


How to Win Friends and Influence People is a title that many are familiar with. The book, in its original incarnation, is not only a classic of the Self-Help genre, it is one of the first of its kind. In it one learns through six ”simple” steps how to move up in the world; some of its themes and ideas for a better and more successful life include: increase your popularity, be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves, show genuine interest in others, don’t nag or bicker or criticize or condemn, and to remember and frequently say people’s names because, “a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

The current incarnation of this book, photographer Erik Schubert’s version, though it takes perhaps repeated engagement to find a core, does a lot of the things I’ve listed above. Its focus, it seems to me, is Gary Schubert, the photographer's father. Using many of the practices advised in the original book Schubert pays attention to his father’s life, he presents and uses his father’s name, and gives him careful consideration and his genuine interest. This book is a portrait, an attempt to understand a character, for, after all, to understand someone has little to do with studying their face and so much to do with details and the man, in this case Gary Schubert, is in the details.


How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleBy Erik Schubert. Lavalette, 2013.

The photographs represented show us an ambitious person who is forward looking, who has tastes, and who is in a world of people. We’re shown this through objects from Gary Schubert’s life that are representative of his character: several samples of handwritten notes, an email from a co-worker, motivational cassettes, and business attire steps in for the more common portraitures of the human body. How to Win Friends and Influence People is a portrait of the mind presented, so to speak, like a portrait of a snake that does not show us a snake, but rather the skins that it has shed. Here those skins are ephemera, the husks of days, and they do more to help us understand Gary Schubert than most other views of a person could. Via our trash, our possessions, our transitory things (daily notes, clothes, furniture) we build around us a golem, a solid shell that represents our living, breathing bodies. No other book I know represents such a searching look by a son into the life of his father.

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleBy Erik Schubert. Lavalette, 2013.

If the book has a drawback it is this; static objects can seem so devoid of life, especially objects (unlike wood for example) that don’t take on a patina of age, and can seem feckless, without charm — really, just trash. A reader must move past that and think of life in terms of receipts, shoes, trips to familiar places like work and home. It is these things, the mementos of our fleeting existence that, in the end, stand in for us and are left behind to be uncovered by our family and friends. Simple objects tell of not only who we were, but who we wanted to be, and who we were unable to be.

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleBy Erik Schubert. Lavalette, 2013.

It is possible that in my hunger to see, I have filled in the blanks with things that are not there, but I don’t think so. To default on a cursory view of objects in the corporate world — shoes, office chairs, emails, and office notes — would be a shame; something like a tribute to an undershirt, that which is the Geist of the middle-class/middle-American cubical. We shouldn’t admit this theme as the bottom line, but the veneer of that bottom line. Without a deeper, more thought driven angle, Schubert’s book would feel flat, worn images of a worn theme.

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleBy Erik Schubert. Lavalette, 2013.

How to Win Friends and Influence People will fall flat for those not willing to give it the time and thought that it demands in order to be appreciated, but that is only a brilliant irony. It is easy to overlook what Erik Schubert is attempting, in the same manor that it is easy to overlook or misunderstand someone. To engage with Schubert’s book is to engage with the conceptual and philosophical, it is a task. But, if one is willing to listen (in this case, by looking) they will find a new way to look at people, a new way to understand someone and that is a value that we can’t underestimate. Look past the common in these photographs of common objects and, by doing so, see a man standing there, a figure defined by debris.—CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON


CHRISTOPHER J. JOHNSON is originally from Madison Wisconsin. He came to Santa Fe in 2002 and graduated from the College of Santa Fe majoring in English with an emphasis in poetry. He is a freelance writer and reporter.

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