How to Escape

Magic, Madness, Beauty, and Cynicism

By Crispin Sartwell

Subjects: Popular Culture, Social And Cultural History, Aesthetics, Art History, General Interest
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438452661, 210 pages, November 2014
Hardcover : 9781438452678, 210 pages, November 2014

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Table of contents

1. How to Escape, 2006
2. Divas, Dudes, Queens, and Studs: Gender and Sexuality as Aesthetic Expressions, 2013
3. Beatles vs. Stones: An Aesthetics of Rock Music, 2011
4. Reactionary Progressivism: Bluegrass and Political Philosophy, 2009
5. Philosophy of Punk, 2002
6. Technology and the Future of Beauty, 1998
7. I Speak for My People: A Racial Manifesto, 2013
8. I Was a Teenage Terrorist, 2005
9. Detritus, 2008
10. Tangled: What If Aesthetic Properties Were Real? 2009
11. Holding on for Dear Life: The Value of Realism in Art, 2012
12. Presence and Resistance: Process in Graffiti Art and Crime, 2002
13. Beauty, Sex, and the Banality of Pleasure, 2000
14. Guns, Dub, Technique, 2008
15. Cynicism: The Characteristically American Philosophy, 2013
16. “Don’t Mean Sheeit”: On the Necessity and Impossibility of Meaning for Life, 2010
Appendix: Art History Lexicon

Passionate and rollicking personal and intellectual essays by philosopher Crispin Sartwell.


Philosopher, music critic, and syndicated columnist Crispin Sartwell has forged a distinctive and fiercely original identity over the years as a cultural commentator. In books about anarchism, art and politics, Native American and African American thought and culture, Eastern spirituality, and American transcendentalism, Sartwell has relentlessly insisted on an ethos rooted in unadorned honesty with oneself and a healthy skepticism of others. This volume of selected popular writings combines music and art criticism with personal memoir about addiction and rebellion, as well as cultural commentary on race, sexuality, cynicism, and the meaning of life.

Crispin Sartwell is Associate Professor of Art, Political Science, and Philosophy at Dickinson College. He is the author of several books, including Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory, Extreme Virtue: Truth and Leadership in Five Great American Lives, and End of Story: Toward an Annihilation of Language and History, all published by SUNY Press.


"Each essay in How to Escape is a personal, opinionated think piece, underpinned by philosophical debate and theory, and the collection builds in energy and intensity, as the subject matter becomes more serious, indeed at times more disturbing … How to Escape is a fine piece of provocation. " — Times Literary Supplement

"Crispin Sartwell deserves to be recognized as the heir to a distinctively American intellectual legacy. Like the American 'cynics' he loves—Twain, Bierce, Mencken—he is fiercely individualistic, deeply antiauthoritarian, and slavishly aligned with no creed or academic discipline. He uses his significant erudition not to escape the ordinary or himself, but rather to let loose riches—of insight, suffering, and beauty—through a relentless examination of life, culture, and reality. Sartwell is also, in my opinion, the best philosophical prose stylist of his generation. His writing—crystalline, vivid, and intoxicating—is an uncontrollable substance. And though Sartwell swaggers, provokes, and sometimes infuriates, he does so with a tacit humility and self-scrutiny, which empowers readers to follow his example and convert their own rage into beauty. " — Elizabeth Walden, Bryant University

"Crispin Sartwell is the most important philosophical voice of his generation. He has risen into the public consciousness in the last two decades due to his controversial views on social, political, and cultural subjects. Through television appearances, journalism, and blogging, along with his numerous scholarly books, he has made a reputation as a thinker of serious thoughts. Yet, there is a lightness to his world that is irreverent, fun, and entertaining. These essays reflect some of his best writing from the past fifteen years. They are highly readable, but they are also profound reflections on the subjects that will draw many of us into deeper ponderings about the meaning of life, or, more to the point, the meaning of our lives. " — Randall Auxier, author of Time, Will, and Purpose: Living Ideas from the Philosophy of Josiah Royce