Announcing Killing Cool

I am happy to announce the publication of my book Killing Cool: Fantasy vs. Reality in American Life.

Due out September 2014

Now published

The book is about the way in which many Americans live in a fantasy, creating a fantasy self and a fantasy version of reality. This false self is often based on an artificial sense of life that is pasted over one’s real sense of life. Examples include people who try to be cool or chronically ironic, macho or ultra-femme, but there are hundreds of other types. Such people do not live in reality, often do not have a firm sense of what reality is, or possess a firm sense of the reality of other people.

I deal with many variations in eleven essays. In the title essay I treat two types of Cool and how they both depend on a mystical notion of the Zeitgeist or spirit of the age. In “Sex and Power, Hugs and Wonder” I discuss a pair of erroneous, and common, theories of values: one that says that our values are basically those of animals and one that says that our values are basically those of children. “Faith and the Bubble Universe” deals with ways in which Christianity can entail a kind of fantasy world and the nature of legitimate versus illegitimate error. “The Vampire and the Last Man” examines the troubling popularity of vampire stories and attempts to ferret out its causes. The concluding essay, “The Sleeper Awakes,” offers three ideas that could help the reader better live in reality.

The approach of the book is autobiographical and compassionate. My observations grow out of my own experiences and I share those experiences in an effort to make philosophy, psychology and culture criticism approachable. And although Killing Cool is technically a work of ethics, I do not moralize or condemn, but instead offer understanding for the people who trap themselves in boxes–and try to light the way out of them. I point out a lot of problematic character types in American society, but I suggest methods for growing out of them, too.

If real reform is to come to society, I believe that Killing Cool is a good place to start. Arguing about politics is to little avail when the arguers are living in a fantasy world: They will not hear the arguments anyway. The way to break the logjam is to entice people into choosing reality. Then we can have a real discussion.

Killing Cool is available on Amazon as both a paperback and a Kindle ebook. You can preview the book there.

Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions and feedback. If you are interested in reviewing the book, please contact me for a reviewer’s copy at keefner.books@hotmail.com.

Drawing from Experience

Killing Cool is a personal book for me. Almost every part of it comes from my own experience or the experience of others I knew first-hand. When I wrote some of the original drafts I used an impersonal, almost academic style, and as a result it wasn’t accessible and inviting. I realized, with the help of my best critic, my wife Stephanie, that I had to put more of myself and my discovery process in the essays.

The reason that I didn’t do this in the first place is that I learned to write and think from Ayn Rand. She sometimes injected a personal note into her essays, but most of the time her style was, well, objective. It worked for that writer and that audience, but not for me and mine.

And I have something different to say. As I wrote more essays in my new style, I realized that I was implicitly making a point: we all have things in our experience that would be interesting, perhaps even unique, if we tried to identify them. I don’t think Rand’s approach, for all its value in other ways, encourages people to get in touch with their impressions. So it was fortuitous that I came up with another approach that I hope will let me convey my observations effectively. I am also excited by the prospect of hearing about some of my readers’ original perceptions!