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Book Review: How to Disappear

Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

by Akiko BuschPenguin Press
reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner
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How to Disappear book cover

“If you get engaged to someone not on Facebook, did it really happen?” This post from an affianced woman, showing off her new sparkler, sums up the modern era rather perfectly. These days, every foamy cappuccino or vacation snorkeling expedition becomes fodder for a mini photo-shoot and is offered up for commentary. Our lives are prepped for public consumption, and we clamor for attention—that is, perceived affirmation. In such an environment, does anonymity still hold any value? 

Absolutely, posits Akiko Busch in her lovely new book, How to Disappear. Busch, who has been on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York, has previously written several essay collections, and her work has appeared in numerous national magazines and newspapers. In her latest, she lyrically explores the concepts of being seen and unseen, and what it means to be visible. In doing so, she shares wide-ranging perspectives, from psychological states, literary references, advances in physics, examples from nature and technology, and stories from world myth. Ultimately, she suggests that having a jardin secret—a psychic cloister—is a key to happiness when living in a raucous world. 

She suggests that having a jardin secret—a psychic cloister—is a key to happiness when living in a   raucous world.

“Becoming invisible is not the equivalent of being nonexistent. . . . It is nuanced, creative, sensitive, discerning,” Busch writes. “Above all, it is powerful.”

What boundaries with the external world will you wish to create after reading Busch’s book? Will you want to be more of a blank page, a mystery, a whisper? Up to you, but I suspect you’ll have a renewed desire to pull a cloak of invisibility around yourself once in a while. —KDW  


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