xiv + 274 pages
Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy
Awaken the Social Assassin Within
Edited by Mark Ralkowski
Volume 69 in the Popular Culture and Philosophy® series
“Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy will help you ‘plumb the depths’ to discover and embrace the Larry David within you. If you ‘stop and chat’ with anybody about the book, you’re guaranteed to get a ‘verbal response’. ‘In the interest of full disclosure’, the book is a little ‘saucy’, but its ‘cashew-raisin’ balance is not ‘askew’, so it won’t ‘hurt your neck’. It might even help you ‘kvell’ your way out of your ‘gefilte fish blues’. ‘Having said that’, I’m not one to ‘push lobster’, so the most I can do is ‘recommend’ the book. The glossary of Curb-isms alone will make you ‘ebullient’.”
—Misha Chkhenkeli, Professor of Mathematics, Georgian American University
“Sometimes it’s easy to wonder whether Larry is actually human. He certainly gives us an alien’s perspective on our lives. This book helps us see that, odd and out of place as Larry may seem to us, we are the strange ones. We just haven’t appreciated our strangeness fully! Thanks to Larry, and thanks to the authors of this book, now we can.”
—Lindsay Loewer, Discovery Channel
“Perversities reveal themselves in different ways. It is certainly not news that the carefully buried thoughts and desires roiling under our surfaces often ooze around the bounds of containment, whether we want them to or not. Perhaps this is the appeal of Larry David: his personality doesn’t so much ooze, as gush, the feelings and thoughts that so many of us keep tightly bound—or ever realize are present in the first place. Is he sick? Perhaps. Is he insane? Maybe. Whatever Larry’s derangement, our pleasure in the spectacle is perhaps the most perverse and interesting part of it all. The authors of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy invite you to have a look through that mirror. So come look, you perverts! You know you want to.”
— Matthew F. Giudice, MD
“How much do you have to stretch the meaning of the word ‘philosophy’ to make it fit Curb Your Enthusiasm? Not too far, if we listen to the provocative chapters in this terrific book. Whether exposing how petty our annoyances are or how arbitrary our preferences, Larry David’s rapier-sharp dialogues are mined for their ethical and psychological insights. If only philosophers would occupy themselves more with the practical challenges of overcoming the ego’s shortcomings or loosening its embrace of cultural biases, as do this book’s authors.”
— John Bussanich, Professor of Philosophy, University of New Mexico
Mark Ralkowski is an assistant professor of philosophy and honors at The George Washington University. He is the author of Heidegger’s Platonism and the editor of Time and Death: Heidegger’s Analysis of Finitude.
In one of HBO’s promotional videos for the eighth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David appears as Godzilla, walking through the streets of New York City, terrorizing everyone who sees him. People scream and run for their lives. Larry, meanwhile, has a quizzical look on his face and asks, “What, are you people nuts?”
There’s something very apt about this image. It captures one of Larry’s defining characteristics. But what exactly is it? What makes Larry a monster, and why doesn’t he know that he’s a monster? Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy discusses philosophical answers to these questions.
Most of Curb Your Enthusiasm revolves around Curb-Larry, the character that the real Larry David plays on HBO’s popular television series Curb Your Enthusiasm: his values and outlook on life, his unusual ways of interacting with people, his inability or unwillingness to conform to the world, and his relationships with others, including the real Larry David who plays him.
Some of the chapters discuss ethical and existential issues, such as whether Larry is a “bad apple” or perhaps worth emulating. Others talk about sexuality, religion, and race relations. There’s a chapter on enthusiasm itself, another on giving gifts, and one on the philosophical significance of Larry’s piercing stare into other people’s eyes.
Larry is not a typical philosopher: he doesn’t ask questions about free will, or wonder whether the world outside our minds really exists. But that’s only because he’s more like Socrates than Descartes. Larry is a philosopher of the everyday. He describes us, and he tries to liberate us. He questions the value of our values, and recommends new ones. He tells us bitter truths about the way we live our lives, and he says and does the things that most of us wish we could. There’s something heroic about his independence from social conventions, and there’s something tragic about his tendency to hurt people with his frankness, which is rarely malicious.
In the end, though, Larry is a healer. As he turns our world upside down, trivializing what we find important and obsessing over things we find trivial, he offers us consolation. He shows us that it’s okay to be a monster. Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy tries to figure out whether that should concern us. It also helps fans make sense of Larry David's world.