Vivid, surprising, and utterly timely, Akiko Busch's How to Disappear explores the idea of invisibility in nature, art, and science, in search of a more joyful and peaceful way of living in today's increasingly surveilled and publicity-obsessed world
In our increasingly networked and image-saturated lives, the notion of disappearing has never been both more enchanting and yet fanciful. Today, we are relentlessly encouraged, even conditioned, to reveal, share, and self-promote. The pressure to be public comes not just from our peers, but vast and pervasive technology companies, which want to profit from patterns in our behavior. A lifelong student and observer of the natural world, Busch sets out to explore her own uneasiness with this arrangement, and what she senses is a widespread desire for a less scrutinized way of life - for invisibility. Writing in rich painterly detail about her own life, her family, and some of the world's most exotic and remote places - from the Cayman Islands to Iceland - she savors the pleasures of being unseen. Discovering and dramatizing a wonderful range of ways of disappearing, from virtual reality goggles that trick the wearer into believing her body has disappeared and to the way Virginia Woolf's fictional Mrs. Dalloway feels a flickering of personhood as an older woman, Busch deliberates on subjects new and old with equal sensitivity and incisiveness.
A unique and exhilarating accomplishment, How to Disappear is a shimmering collage of poetry, cinema, memoir, myth, and much more, which overturns the dangerous modern assumption that somehow fame and visibility equate to success and happiness. Busch presents a field guide to invisibility, reacquainting us with the merits of the inconspicuousness, and finds genuine alternatives to the typical life of perpetual exposure. Accessing timeless truths in order to speak to our most urgent contemporary problems, she inspires us to develop a deeper appreciation for personal privacy in a vast and invasive world.
“Coming upon HOW TO DISAPPEAR was like finding the Advil bottle in the medicine cabinet after stumbling about with a headache for a long time…For [Busch], invisibility is not simply a negative, the inverse of visibility. Going unseen, undetected, overlooked: These are experiences with their own inherent ‘meaning and power’; what we need is a ‘field guide’ for recognizing them. And this is what Busch offers, roaming from essay to essay in a loose, associative style, following invisibility where it takes her…Inconspicuousness can be powerful - this may be Busch’s most radical point, especially at a moment when we’re conditioned to think power means yelling louder than everyone else in your Twitter feed, or showing the world in Instagram how you’re living your best life…Silence and invisibility, [Busch insists], are part of our everyday lives - the place our mind wanders when we’re in the shower or out jogging, the feeling we get looking out the window of an airplane, the pleasure of becoming a stranger on a bustling city street. We take these pauses, these moments of exhalation, for granted, but we should clutch them close. They are our armor against the onslaught.” (Gal Beckerman, The New York Times Book Review, cover review)
“An impressive look at myriad, diverse examples of invisibility.” (Library Journal)
“As the world grows ever more connected, it's imperative that voices preaching caution without hyperbole come to the fore. How refreshing, then, to read Akiko Busch's How to Disappear, which perfectly threads the needle…[The book] isn't interested in providing a roadmap for getting off the grid, but in exploring the various ways humans do disappear, whether it's from view or simply into themselves…Philosophical and thoughtful, How to Disappear beautifully illuminates the ways we choose to hide.” (Shelf Awareness for Readers, starred review)
"In this provocative series of essays, Busch examines how social media and the surveillance economy have redefined the way we live….Throughout, she asks important questions about the consequences of hypervisibility.” (BBC Culture, Ten Books to Read this February)