STARRED REVIEW
February 2019

How to Disappear

By Akiko Busch

In How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, essayist Akiko Busch offers a wide-ranging meditation on what it means to disappear.

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In How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, essayist Akiko Busch offers a wide-ranging meditation on what it means to disappear. “Invisibility can mean one thing and then the opposite,” she writes in the introduction. “It enables and denies. It has become a loaded idea.” The essays in this collection, with their divergent focuses on nature, technology, identity, creativity and popular culture, beautifully unpack the concept of visibility.

To be seen is foundational to being known, yet humans have devised a stunning array of strategies for hiding in plain sight. Such strategies seem to take a cue from the natural world, which Busch writes about with clarity and precision. Her examples range from the immediately relatable, such as the sounds and sights of a New England forest or a houseplant that appears to be a stone, to the more unusual, such as her observations while scuba diving in the Caribbean. Camouflage, subterfuge and misdirection all animate her examples. Like animals and plants, humans have invented ways to maneuver “our way in and out of one another’s sightlines.”

Meanwhile, closer to our living rooms, we grow increasingly familiar with being constantly surveilled. Traditional conceptions of privacy erode as Big Data renders the minutiae of daily life visible in ways difficult to fully comprehend. Perfectly phrased status updates, photos circulated to hundreds in a single click and increased communication have led to a culture of performance and a pervasive (exhausting) awareness of how we present ourselves. Busch offers a timely and thoughtful exploration of visibility in our current moment. To be seen or to disappear is political, technological and psychological. It impacts how we move through the world and how we occasionally try, like living things always have, to hide. 

 

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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How to Disappear

How to Disappear

By Akiko Busch
Penguin Press
ISBN 9781101980415

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