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Adam Bornstein Claudia Manly 26 October 2011 Writing 2121F Bright-Sided Argument Bellow-Standard Abstract: In a second year media

centered writing course we were tasked with the assignment of reviewing a book in conversation with two other reviews of the same book. The assignment was intended to force us to deal with writing from different mediums within the same piece. I reviewed Bright-Sided, a book about the philosophy of overwhelming positivity that has penetrated and clouded our society, and critiqued it in context with two reviews from the New York Times. It is hard to find solace in Todays predominantly positive society if you have a negative outlook. Barbara Ehrenreichs 2009 novel, Bright-Sided, not only gives sanctuary to these kind of thinkers but reasons to encourage them. In great length, she takes on the positive thinking philosophy that has become the dominant ideology in American Society. She explains how a critical attitude would be more useful than a positive one in such forums as medicine, business, and religion. Her argument is as straightforward as the subtitle suggests: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. That being said, some believe that her complacent analysis and use of substandard examples keep her from digging deeper into an otherwise clear and undisputable argument. Although further analysis will reveal that this may not be the case. Her first chapter is viewed as one of the most enlightening, because it comes through the lens of her own personal experience with breast cancer. Identifying herself as a Doctor in Biology she explains that, as Hanna Rosin- a New York Times reviewerputs it, Flimsy medical research claims that cheerfulness can improve the immune

Bornstein 2 system. This belief has consumed the entire breast cancer culture making them worship the power of positive thinking and to scorn anything that threatens it. Barbara explains the merit in taking a critical and cynical stance on this disease. She then goes on to demonstrate how having such an attitude in the breast cancer community would make you need to, run, not walk, to some counseling(Ehrenreich). To show the extremity of this positive outlook she quotes a fellow cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong, stating that cancer [was] the best thing that ever happened to me. This is a powerful statement but another New York Times reviewer, Janet Maslin, notes that she goes out of her way to find benighted individuals whose perniciousness helps her accentuate the negative. If these reviewers had there way, digging deeper would uncover that, after all, Ehrenreichs inspiration for Bright-Sided came from her year of dealing with breast cancer (Rosin). This Draws out a hypocritical contradiction in that getting a best seller from cancer would make her view the disease in the same way that Lance does. This is not the case since she has written 17 books beforehand, and, her evidence supporting the flaws of positive thinking on both the scientific and cultural sides of the disease are already so thorough. The next chapter moves on to uncover the role of positive thinking in business. We learn of the countless motivational speakers that swear by the powers of magical thinking. After clearly establishing the absurdity of such beliefs (and disproving the widely acclaimed self-help book, The Secret) she supplements her argument with caustic discourse with insignificant individuals affiliated with the ideology. Maslin complains that she is simply too smart for this bottom-feeding and to be using cheap shots, easy examples, [and] research recycled from her earlier books to accentuate her point. This is

Bornstein 3 nothing more than over analysis of her sarcastic attempts at humour, which are only secondary to her main points. I would be more concerned with her broad theory about the way corporate culture exploits positive thinking in order to get the most out of its workers. I dont exactly buy this part of her argument, but the book doesnt suffer much for the overreaching (Rosin). Nonetheless, each chapter clearly reaffirms her main argument concisely using legitimate evidence, regardless of how old it is. Even though she is writing to an academic audience, her exposition of the idiocy in some business coaches is meant to be laughable and not the basis of a shallow argument. As the positive thinking model worked its way into the Church reviewers can relate more, and begin to point out her unwillingness to report more extensively on the patrons rather than the preachers. Her own values make it easier for her to infiltrate and ridicule an Osteen sermon than to ask parishioners about their responses to such gibberish (Maslin). Rosin uses her own experience in prosperity churches to prove that millions of Americans feel truly empowered by the notion that through the strength of their own minds alone they can change their circumstances. A lot of this criticism is because readers forget that she is not writing to the truly self-confident, or those who have in some way made their peace with the world and their destiny in it (Ehrenreich, 12); a statement that she makes in her introduction. Although her book is full of politicized speech and weak examples, there is no debating that false optimism is a relevant danger. Each of her chapters concisely upholds her argument with in depth analysis, proving that we need to be critical of this positive thinking ideology. In doing so, she explains, we can avoid major problems without having to exhibit a negative attitude.

Bornstein 4 References Ehrenreich, Barbara. Bright-Sided. Metropolitan Books: New York, 2009. Print. Maslin, Janet, Up to Her Neck in Pink Ribbons and Smiley Faces. New York Times, 12 October 2009: C6. Print. Rosin, Hanna, Happy Days. New York Times, 8 November 2009: BR7. Print.