My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I think this little book is a burst of brilliance, but I honestly wonder how comic I’m supposed to find it. The reviews I’ve read all say things like WITTY, IRREVERENT, HILARIOUS!!! but I don’t think this recognizes the depths of the comedy’s darkness. The narrator distills Treasure Island down to a set of “Core Values”—BOLDNESS, RESOLUTION, INDEPENDENCE, HORN-BLOWING—and proceeds to demonstrate how a particular cultural ideal of “motivated selfhood” is actually, quite clearly, a form of sociopathy. By the end, I wasn’t even laughing nervously anymore; I was just sad and frightened. That we are a society of bold, resolute horn-blowers, convinced of our independence as individuals, and that this is not just “immaturity” but a form of madness—this realization has in the past made me tired, or angry, but Levine makes it terrifying.