Jessica Weisberg discusses her new book, Asking for a Friend: Three Centuries of Life, Love, Money and Other Burning Questions from a Nation Obsessed.
Praise for Asking for a Friend
"Rich with insight and surprising facts, Jessica Weisberg's ingenious appraisal of America's guidance-givers doubles as a wholly unexpected history of our national psyche. At long last, the lowly advice column gets its due!"―Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own
"An oddly soothing antidote to the millenarian terrors of today, Jessica Weisberg's history of ordinary American anxiety is as warm, funny, entertaining, and chattily insightful as the advice-dispensers she portrays. In the centuries before the internet, these were the ones we turned to with questions so obscure, embarrassing, weird, or mortifyingly personal that only a stranger would do."―Larissa MacFarquhar, author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Urge to Help
"Jessica Weisberg's hilarious, enlightening odyssey through the history of advice columns chronicles the evolution of our anxieties over how to act. However weird or offensive some of our questions have been, it's heartening to know that at least we've always been trying. A surprising and delightful read."―Mac McClelland, author of Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story
About Asking for a Friend
A delightful history of Americans’ obsession with advice–from Poor Richard to Dr. Spock to Miss Manners
Americans, for all our talk of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, obsessively seek advice on matters large and small. Perhaps precisely because we believe in bettering ourselves and our circumstances in life, we ask for guidance constantly. And this has been true since our nation’s earliest days: from the colonial era on, there have always been people eager to step up and offer advice, some of it lousy, some of it thoughtful, but all of it read and debated by generations of Americans.
Jessica Weisberg takes readers on a tour of the advice-givers who have made their names, and sometimes their fortunes, by telling Americans what to do. You probably don’t want to follow all the advice they proffered. Eating graham crackers will not make you a better person, and wearing blue to work won’t guarantee a promotion. But for all that has changed in American life, it’s a comfort to know that our hang-ups, fears, and hopes have not. We’ve always loved seeking advice–so long as it’s anonymous, and as long as it’s clear that we’re not asking for ourselves; we’re just asking for a friend.
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