Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World
By Naomi Klein
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2023
Naomi Klein has gifted us with a book that describes, analyses and reflects the vertigo that so many of us are experiencing. There is a sense of gyroscopic spin as climate, politics, culture, belief and doubt swirl about us and within our minds. The internet, social media, hot and cold wars and fears of apocalypse, raging wildfires, along with the pandemic have all contributed to our sense of disorientation, even of nausea, much like sea-sickness.
And yet out of all this spinning confusion, Klein has drawn hope of calm and settling.
Have you ever had a stranger greet you by a name not your own? Or have you ever suspected that you have a double, someone like you but not REALLY like you? In fact, very, very different from you in important ways, but so like you that friends and others confuse the two of you and even blame you for your doppelganger’s actions and statements?
That has been the awful experience in recent years of progressive Canadian author Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and many other great books. Klein has been haunted by the public presence of “The Other Naomi”, the formerly-liberal author and public speaker Naomi Wolf.
In recent years, Wolf has veered rightward into what Klein calls “The Mirror World”, becoming a Fox News guest, a close chum of right-winger Steve Bannon and a “War Room” regular.
Like “RFK Jr.” (Robert F Kennedy Jnr), Wolf is a notorious anti-vaccine campaigner, while Klein is a supporter of the COVID-protective vaccination efforts.
Being mixed up with The Other Naomi is a personal and professional nightmare for Klein, and she details this with wry humor in this candid memoir/political commentary. Klein reveals how she coped with the horror, and suggests how we all might cope with the doppleganger threat of our apparently-dissolving society.
Doppelganger is a true-life Jekyll and Hyde story, and one that Klein broadens into thoughtful commentary on our social reality.
We now live in a world where Twitter has become X, an indicted ex-President refuses to concede the 2020 election, a Kennedy family scion pushes vaccine conspiracies and former rebel-rapper Ice Cube has signed up to the Republican right-wing camp.
Klein ultimately sees the way out of our dizzying, overly-individualised, societal tailspin through determined, collective, cooperative — and anti-capitalist — action.
“Even, (especially), uncomfortable coalitions”, she advises.
Klein’s detailed argument along those lines in her final chapters gives this book its deepest value. She envisions a corrective to the distress of social vertigo, writing: “The known world is crumbling. That’s okay. It was an edifice stitched together with denial and disavowal, with unseeing and unknowing, with mirrors and shadows. It needed to crash. Now, in the rubble, we can make something more reliable, more worthy of our trust, more able to survive the coming shocks.”
Doppelganger is scary and funny all at once. Very generously personal and revealing. It’s one fine, fast, often hilarious, yet profoundly significant, read.