Harnessing the precision of a surgeon and a poet’s eye for arresting detail, Rachel Z. Arndt plumbs the underside of contemporary American society. Beyond Measure is a fascinating exploration of the rituals, routines, metrics and expectations through which we attempt to quantify and ascribe value to our lives. What does being habitually early or late say about one’s character? How many sleep studies does it take to prove a case of narcolepsy? If the weather outside doesn’t match the forecast, might it “just need to catch up”? With mordant humor and penetrating intellect, Arndt casts her gaze beyond event-driven narratives to the machinery underlying them: judo competitions measured in weigh-ins and wait times; the significance of the elliptical's stationary churn; the standardized height of kitchen countertops; the rote scripts of dating apps; the stupefying sameness of the daily commute. “How much can data tell us?” Arndt asks, challenging us to consider the simultaneous comfort and absurdity of our exhaustively quantified—yet never entirely quantifiable—lives.
"Rachel Arndt’s collection demonstrates beautifully the marvelous ability of the personal essay to carve out of the ordinary events of everyday life a piece of shaped experience." –Vivian Gornick, author of The Odd Woman and the City
"Of all the weights and measures used to gauge the 'human metronome' of the body in time in this meticulous and arresting first collection—its lonely circadian rhythms, desolate states of listless fatigue, and all manner of existential hurry-up-and-wait—Arndt’s elegant and patient syntax, calibrated to keep pace with her attentive interiority, is the most sensitive instrument of all." –Robyn Schiff, author of Woman of Property
"In the grip of Rachel Arndt’s spellbindingly obsessive mind, nearly everything shines with measurability and poetry and disturbing familiarity. She studies bird dissections, sails through a lightning storm, explains the etiquette of scamming Bed Bath & Beyond, kicks ass at a judo tournament, ponders the cultural history of the heights of kitchen counters, and formulates a phenomenology of creeping on people at the gym, and pretty soon while riding these folds of Arndt’s remarkable imagination we realize that her obsession is in fact a cultural obsession, an American predicament, our most curious collective pastime." –John D'Agata, editor of A New History of the Essay
"This first collection of essays from Arndt...is a delight to read.... Her tone is poignant and undogmatic." –Publishers Weekly
"Rachel Arndt’s brilliant debut collection, Beyond Measure, explores the idea of “the quantified self," the movement which purports to grant “self-knowledge through numbers.” Overwriting any sentimentalized notion of a unique and irreducible “I,” the self as the sum of private thoughts, Arndt’s “I” is instead an assemblage of data: sleep stats, Airbnb ratings and Tinder likes, pounds weighed and sweat leaked, to-do lists and domestic routines that function like algorithms. This “I” is the circuitry of feedback loops, the precise circling currents of inputs and outputs, the “I” as digital accumulation….What her obsession with measurement reveals is the fear of being an obsolete machine—a woman without a shape, a kitchen, or a schedule—out of sync and out of time. –Anya Ventura, The Iowa Review
"[T]he essays in Beyond Measure are beautiful in an intricate, knotty way, as in how math is beautiful, or the interior of a mechanical watch; Arndt stacks her stripped-down sentences like bricks, and watching her essays grow bit by bit as one reads is frequently pleasurable.... Once, when reading Beyond Measure on the train, I missed my stop, so engrossed was I in the book. When I got off the train, in the dark and rain and miles south of my normal stop, I momentarily had no idea where I was and had to reorient myself with my phone’s map, like a rube. And isn’t that what all writers want, for readers to be so engrossed in their work that readers leave their lives, at least for a little while, letting the writing take over entirely?" –Kevin O'Rourke, The Collapsar
"A keen, close study of the neuroses attached to everyday living."
"Beyond Measure is a compulsively readable collection that has measurement at its heart." –Jenn Shapland, The Magazine
"From spin-class RPMs to airport ETAs, it’s an obsessive and enlightening look at the way we quantify our lives." –Chicago Splash
"As a whole, Beyond Measure pulls off the surprisingly powerful trick of articulating and then undermining our current metrics for living. Without a point or star value to lean on, I’ll simply say that days after finishing it, Arndt’s collection of essays has me reassessing the world through her eyes." –Timothy Parfitt, punctuate.
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