I think when people talk about existentialism, they are talking about one of two things: the actual philosophy, and—more generically—books that ‘feel’ and are labeled as being existentialist.
Existentialism, since like Jr. year in highschool, has always been ‘cool,’ like the Smiths or the Cure, for smart and depressed people. I’m not saying I was or am smart or depressed, just that certain books made me feel less lonely, which is weird because those books and authors seemed really lonely. I guess it’s the whole ‘read to know you’re not alone thing.’
Academic existentialism is dry, difficult to understand, and makes me feel more lonely. I tried reading Being and Time, and Being and Nothingness by Heidegger [see Pink’s] and Sartre, respectively, but it was sort of like math. Every time they said a sentence, they tried to prove it using other sentences which they then had to prove. I lost track of what they were arguing (at me) about. It’s like arguing with a girlfriend, without the boobs. Most philosophy is this way: noble and boring.
The existentialism I like are the books that people call existentialism. I will name them and talk about them briefly after the break.