In a gloomy hotel room, after reading compulsively about murders, Shawn tries to sleep but is troubled by meandering thoughts and memories that follow one another in an apparently random chain. Ultimately a point of view begins to emerge. In a world dominated by privileged killers, how should we live? What world do we want?
Having recently passed the age of seventy, before which he found it difficult to piece together more than a few fragments of understanding, Shawn would like to pass on anything he's learned before death or dementia close down the brief window available to him, but he may not be ready yet.
"A compelling diagnosis of the world’s injustice but also a very personal response to that injustice."—San Francisco Chronicle
“With wit and wisdom to spare, Night Thoughts is a subversive gem of an essay, which ought to appeal beyond those who already convinced that radical change is needed. Even for those people, a well judged and cleverly argued piece such as this can be restorative and inspiring. Either way, it would surely be beneficial to us all if it received the very wide audience that it deserves.” –Counterfire
“With impeccable logic, [Shawn] gently, but lethally, skewers the complacency of the lucky while highlighting the plight of the less fortunate, including the Muslims living in the slums of European cities, the maid of a wealthy friend, and a boy at a dance who shoots someone flirting with his girlfriend.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Shawn has a way of pulling the reader into conversation, making the experience of Night Thoughts feel like more than moving through an extended essay by an important American playwright and actor. Somewhere, as one reads it, the feeling of friendship appears, as if Shawn has known you for years, and now, late in his life, he's decided to tell you what it's all about."—Shelf Awareness
"There is a sense of urgency about this turn to prose, as if Shawn had begun to sense, despairingly, that it is no longer enough to put words in the mouths of fictional characters, that he can no longer wait around for us to figure out what it is he is trying to tell us."—Long Reads
“[L]ike riffs of free-form jazz.”—New York Journal of Books
Praise for Essays:
“Lovely, hilarious and seriously thought-provoking.”
“Wallace Shawn’s essays are both powerful and riveting. To have such a gentle and incisive soul willing to say what others may be afraid to is considerably refreshing.”
“From a low-earning playwright’s troubles to reflections on why the Palestinians are justified in their resentment of Israel. Wallace Shawn: Fearless!”
—GQ, Best Books of 2009
“It’'s a treat to hear [Shaun] speak his curious mind.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine