An insider’s odyssey through counter-culturalism, consumerism, and the social surveillance state
In This All-at-Onceness, Julie Wittes Schlack takes us on a vivid, personal journey through the political and cultural movements that have shaped every generation from the Baby Boomers to the Parkland kids. She examines the unlikely and twisting relationship between idealism and engineering that has promised a future of progress and hope, but only occasionally delivered on it, and asks why. From the civil rights and ant-war movements to the birth of Second Wave feminism, from the wintery ‘70s to the shiny rise of corporate culture in the ‘80s, from the democratic early days of the Web to today’s social surveillance state, Wittes Schlack tells a story about idealistic energy and how it travels through time.
Personal and political, intimate and informative, bracing and comic, these linked essays take us to an abortion mill in rural Quebec, the Michigan home of numerous UFO sightings, an abandoned Shaker village, the dust-clogged air of garment sweatshops in Allentown, a philanthropic corporate breakfast, and a dystopian market research conference. They ask: Are we at the gates of the digital Promised Land? Or are we exiles wandering in the desert with only tweeting Kardashians for company?
A thoughtful, witty, and evocative recollection of a life and the convictions that energized it. —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Whether she is portraying the intimate mysteries of childhood or examining the tenacious realities of corporate culture, Julie Wittes Schlack writes beautifully and incisively about our human journey in modern times. This All-at-Onceness is an accumulating achievement, a thought-provoking meditation on the way time changes each of us, and technology changes all of us.
– Jane Brox, author of Silence: A Social History of One of the Least Understood Elements of our Lives
These essays are smart – intellectually ambitious and unrelentingly perceptive – but what really makes them stand out is how surprisingly beautiful they are, too, if beauty can be understood to encompass humor and wonder and tenderness and ferocity, and a tireless, urgent sense of search.
– Leah Hager Cohen, author of Strangers and Cousins
This book gives us not just a time-lapse look of a world wiring our nervous systems, but of a narrator who’s uncannily found herself deep inside the how and why. From McLuhan to moonwalks, satellite beaming to branding, This-All-at-Onceness is a walk on the wild side of the cultural psyche, its chaos of connections. Julie Wittes Schlack has a laser instinct for stories and the sharp, often mordantly funny, details that subtly reveal them. A must read.
– Alexandra Johnson, author of The Hidden Writer
You can read Julie’s interview with JewishBoston here.
On the cusp of sixty, after a lifetime of supporting the aspirations of others, would-be artist Tina Gabler is feeling a sense of urgency to take her own ambitions seriously and put her creative talents to the test. Temporarily unattached, Tina takes a position with former prime-time news anchor, Peter Bright at his home in the Thousand Islands. Aging and frail, Peter is trying to finish a book about the decline of objectivity in photojournalism — a meticulously documented exposé of iconic but staged photographs that defined “reality” for an increasingly lazy and credulous public that, Peter believes, demands stories more than facts.
As Peter’s research assistant, Tina tracks down not just the provenance of his photos, but also the unidentified child in a Roman Vishniac photograph and Peter’s estranged daughter, a Cree girl he adopted during the notorious “Sixties Scoop” in Canada. But in trying to create happy endings for other people’s children, she must reexamine her relationship with her own father, and the quest for collective versus personal achievement that has brought her to this unsettled moment.
Funny, searching, and gorgeously written, Burning and Dodging entertains as it reveals how the stories we construct about others support the stories we tell about ourselves.
Advance Praise for Burning and Dodging
A vivid and moving novel by an award-winning writer working with deep reserves of insight, heart, and mind. … Julie Wittes Schlack joins Anne Tyler, Alice Munro, and Colette in exploring the challenges for a single woman facing urgent questions in mid-life. – James Glickman, author of Crossing Point
Burning and Dodging is brimming with philosophical debates, like a marvelous dinner party where every guest is fascinating. Most fascinating of all is Tina, Julie Schlack’s funny, restless, acerbic heroine …This is an enormously intelligent and compassionate look at how talking and listening create empathy. –Suzanne Berne, Orange Prize-winning author of The Dogs of Littlefield
Witty and forthright, luminous and compelling, Burning and Dodging explores the nuances of friendship, family, and whether art can both stage and capture truth. Captivating and sharply insightful, it’s a novel not to be missed. –Karla Huebner, author of In Search of the Magic Theater
Burning and Dodging is smart, sophisticated, and with so much for the reader to ponder about … the hard but necessary work of defying someone else’s dreams for us so that we can discover our own. – Janet Pocorobba, author of The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me