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Reviews for Doppelganger

by Naomi Klein

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Klein’s sociopolitical commentary takes a personal turn when she realizes she is being conflated with Naomi Wolf. While Wolf went from outspoken feminist to a regular on Steve Bannon’s War Room, Klein has held her place on the democratic socialist, environmentally concerned left, which fights for “social policies that are inclusive and caring.” Attempting to untangle the knot between seriousness and ridiculousness that defines both doppelgängers and conspiracy theories, Klein dives deep into the work of cultural figures such as Sigmund Freud, Philip Roth, and bell hooks, and she explores the many distortions and doubles we do battle with, from our bodies to our children to our online engagement. Simultaneously, she immerses herself in the narratives of the “the other side” espoused by Wolf. Klein’s prose is tight and urgent, almost breathless, evoking both laughter and dismay and entrancingly matching the mounting frenzy of seeing your public self morph into someone else—or of watching conspiracy theories take hold, particularly in the destabilizing context of the pandemic. Braiding cultural criticism with a charitable attempt to humanize the “Other Naomi,” Klein excavates legitimacy beneath sensational fears and exposes the failures of both sides of so many of the world’s binaries. Some issues, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, fit less snugly into her doppelgänger theme than others, and the second half of the book is sometimes overstretched and repetitive. Still, the author’s comprehensive and nuanced treatments of these issues are valuable and compelling in their own rights, and she shows us how to conduct conversations that resist binary thinking, distill the truths of dividing lines, and create a path to collective action on the pressing issues of our time that embraces the porousness of unnecessary borders. Rather than undermining Klein’s work as a “serious” writer, this book reinforces it, to readers’ benefit. A disarming and addictive call to solidarity. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In this striking meditation on contemporary political ideology, journalist Klein (This Changes Everything) explores unsettling resonances between her progressive beliefs and those of feminist turned right-wing conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf. Klein recounts her annoyance over the tendency for commentators to confuse her with Wolf (who like her is a Jewish woman known for writing “big-idea books”), and her alarm as her “doppelgänger” veered rightward during the Covid-19 pandemic, embracing antivaxxer and Stop the Steal conspiracy theories and becoming a frequent guest on Steve Bannon’s podcast. On this bleakly comic happenstance Klein hangs an analysis of right-wing populism, particularly the antivaxxer movement, as a warped mirror image of her own anticapitalist convictions. She goes on to find doppelgängers at the heart of other political ideologies, arguing, for example, that Nazism was the doppelgänger of a genocidal Western colonialism, and that Israeli Zionism views Palestinians as malignant doppelgängers much as antisemites view Jews. Klein’s writing is perceptive and intriguingly personal, but the doppelgänger theme begins to feel slightly overextended, with too many variations muddling the metaphor. However, by articulating such an expansive view of the uncanny, Klein’s mesmerizing narrative reflects the unique anxieties and modes of analysis that have come to dominate the online era. Like Klein’s previous books, it’s a definitive signpost of the times. (Sept.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Naomi Klein (On Fire, 2019) and Naomi Wolf share a profession and a first name but not much else. Wolf’s right-leaning politics, punditry, and pseudo-expertise on everything from COVID vaccines to culture-war issues proved to be problematic for Klein when media consumers wrongly attributed Wolf’s views to Klein. Wolf became, in Klein’s words, her doppelgänger, which she defines as a “person whom the world confuses with you but who is not actually you and yet can impact your life in profound ways.” Although Klein explores this phenomenon through what could charitably be called a fixation with Wolf, her arguments transcend her personal experiences to probe more universal manifestations. Dualities exist throughout societies, spawning conspiracies that sow discord and distrust. In an era when identity theft is commonplace and emerging AI technology grows more sophisticated, the notion of such shadow presences is one that needs to be taken seriously. With alternative-fact-fueled rhetoric undermining essential institutions, Klein recognizes that an individual's vulnerability to malignant outside influences is symptomatic of widespread threats to cultural norms. Her provocative thought exercise illuminates the myriad ways taken-for-granted balances can be upended and calls for heightened awareness of the dangers of identity erosion on both large and small scales.