What is Real?

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Once we thought of Disneyworld as the place where authenticity was out the window in exchange for a whirl of magic castles and make-believe.

Now, the whole world can seem that way. Themed restaurants, McMansions, virtual life and multiple personas online — we live in a world where authenticity (whatever that means exactly) can feel overwhelmed by slick substitutes and made-up realities.

Pictures can be photoshopped, performances can be lip-synched, and the exotic destinations we visit can be about as real as packaged tours and paid local dancers. We have Olive Gardens that are not gardens and whole towns that are themed to please.

So, what is real? What is deeply, indisputably authentic today? And why do we long for more of it, in our world and ourselves?

This hour, On Point: essayist Richard Todd on the search for the authentic.

You can join the conversation. Where do you find real authenticity today? Where do you find its opposite? Do you long for the "unfeigned" in relationships? In life? Share your thoughts.Guest:

Joining us from Amherst, Massachusetts, is Richard Todd, a longtime literary editor for The Atlantic Monthly and Houghton Mifflin and a lecturer at Goucher College. He’s author of the new book "The Thing Itself: On the Search for Authenticity."


Read an excerpt from "The Thing Itself"

This program aired on August 18, 2008.


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