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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez
A Passage to India - E.M. Forster Nutshell: racism temporarily defeated by means of more or less permanent sexism.

Novel promises to be an exercise in inverting baudrillardian dissimulation: “The streets are mean, the temples ineffective, and though a few fine houses exist they are hidden away in gardens or down alleys whose filth deters all but the invited guests” (3). That this is a colonialist’s perspective of colonized space in British India should not be irrelevant, and we might accordingly regard colonized India as a (dis?)simulacrum, a copy that has replaced the original, but instead of propounded presence, the copy constitutes a propounded absence. Viewed from “the little civil station,” the setting “appears to be a totally different place” (4).

A bit heavy-handed at times, such as in declaring that the roads “named after victorious generals and intersecting at right angles, were symbolic of the net Great Britain had thrown over India” (13). It is nonetheless a matter of imposing progressive market relations, wherein the railway can be said to be “pushing its burning throat over the plain, and the twentieth century took over the sixteenth” (178). It is therefore very much the description found in [b:Late Victorian Holocausts|7859|Late Victorian Holocausts El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World|Mike Davis|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1352512855s/7859.jpg|10888].

Discourse is littered with uglies such as: “he agreed that all Englishwomen are haughty and venal” (9); “That is why India is in such a plight, because we put off things” (11); “‘I don’t think I understand people very well. I only know whether I like or dislike them.’ ‘Then you are an Oriental’” (21); “He felt disloyal to his caste” (33); “You’re superior to everyone in India except one or two of the Ranis, and they’re on equality” (42); and so on. This stuff is entirely the point, of course--the confrontation of irreconcilables, which is not to suggest that the truth is in the middle between them. Far from it: for all the annoying pre-modern ideology on the native side, one can hardly sympathize with the colonialist.

Probably a good idea to approach this with a firm grounding in the history of the British Raj, which I lack. But we might rest assured that the relation is thoroughly dialectical: “You can make India in England apparently, just as you can make England in India” (78). Indeed, “the East had returned to the East via the suburbs of London, and had become ridiculous during the detour” (110)--not merely first as tragedy, second as farce, but also the colonialist’s hyperreal copy, more real than the original, for “this city is full of misstatements” (117), which fictions should be regarded as originary. The setting arises after the Sepoy Mutiny, after Davis’ late Victorian holocausts, after World War I--a parade of horrible that should not be underestimated, as the English had already hit “the unspeakable limit of cynicism, untouched since 1857“ (207). The events of the novel are therefore comparatively small, but prescient, considering later historical developments.

Lovely chapter X (123-24), regarding how “it matters so little to the majority of living beings what the minority, that calls itself human, desires or decides.” It’s likely retrograde, pastoralist, anti-modern--but it reads well.

Major confrontation of the novel, supra, is the trial of a native who is accused of sexually assaulting a colonialist. The reaction is nothing if not predictable: “Nothing enraged Anglo-India more than the lantern of reason if it is exhibited for one moment after its extinction is decreed” (183). We are solemnly informed that “all unfortunate natives are criminals at heart, for the simple reason that they live south of latitude 30” (184). The casual racism of the colonialist characters is highlighted by the narrative, held out for our judgment as errors, rather than ontologies of the setting itself. They are accordingly subject to disputation and defeat, and, though the narrative defeats them at a trial which places the prosecutrix literally on a pedestal in court (243), that defeat is engineered through the recantation of the alleged victim: “‘You withdraw the charge? Answer me,’ shrieked the representative of Justice. Something she did not understand took hold of the girl and pulled her through. Though the vision was over, and she had returned to the insipidity of the world, she remembered what she had learnt. Atonement and confession--they could wait. It was in hard prosaic tones that she said, ‘I withdraw everything’” (256). This hits as hard as Max Schell’s terrible, terribly effective cross-examination of Judy Garland in Judgment at Nuremberg, which is mercifully for all interrupted by Lancaster's peremptory ejaculation, but it likewise reads now as the standard MRA bullshit that there’s greater risk of harm in false rape accusations than in rape itself. The racist stuff is generally presented as partisan contention, the ideology of characters, whereas as the false rape accusation, which the racist contenders recapture with the proposition that she “had renounced her own people” (257), is an ontological fact of the setting. We may therefore regard it as affixed into setting permanency, sexism inscribed into the world, though at least racism endures a temporary defeat, even though racist characters persist.

Contention between defendant and his chief British friend dominates the falling action thereafter, concluding with perhaps the most affective ending that I’ve read (aside from the last lines of [b:Paradise Lost|15997|Paradise Lost|John Milton|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1309202847s/15997.jpg|1031493] naturally!): “’Why can’t we be friends now?’ said the other, holding him affectionately. ‘It’s what I want. It’s what you want.’ But the horses didn’t want it--they swerved apart; the earth didn’t want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn’t want it, they said in their hundred voices, ‘No, not yet,’ and the sky said, ‘No, not there’” (362).

Recommended for those feeling that the English are a comic institution, readers endowed with two memories, a temporary and a permanent, and persons who turn to the East, but return to the West.
Dissident Gardens - Jonathan Lethem Nutshell: surly New York leftists re-enact simulacrum of bourgeois family drama.

The presentation annoyed me immediately because it focuses on the koestlerian details of picayune totalitarianism--how one fr’instance “could get exiled from the cause for blowing your nose or blinking at suspicious intervals” (3), a primary cliché of the anti-communist genre. (Later, the offending group will, again, be found “immolating themselves in corrupt Moscow directives” (98).)

That type of defect aside, text presents perspective of three generations of socialists, generally sympathetic--but the perspectives are cast backward from the vantage of the world after the end of the cold war: even during the height of mccarthyism, say, in matriarch’s “lava of disappointment the ideals of American Communism had gone to die their slow death eternally; Rose would never die precisely because she needed to live forever, a flesh monument, commemorating Socialism’s failure as an intimate wound” (41). This is a rhetorical oddity, to say the least; it’s one thing to think of the destruction of a local US movement (in those years, the CP was jailed and blacklisted, of course), but quite another to contemplate the dissolution of socialism globally. The charitable reading would be that the character is uncommonly prescient and intellectually honest, which makes her continued adherence the stuff of tragedy.

Nice criticism of matriarch, whose “Marxism quit at Marx” (49), coming from her pseudo-adopted son, the child of her lover. Dude ends up as an academic, and his discourse is laden with references to Deleuze & Guattari, Lacan, Gramsci, Foucault--though his internal perspective is not saturated with the stuff, as some leftists' happen to be (I can attest). This last is a defect of the presentation or of the persons presented: the characters seem to be standard bourgeois with left theoretical window-dressing. Again, being charitable, the suggestion is that they are frivolous socialists, not sufficiently committed to have transformed left critique into bakhtinian svoi, one’s own discourse, but rather left critique remains chuzhoi, the discourse of the other, the alien internal. (Or one could just say that author fucked up.)

Other moments that annoyed me for conceptual impropriety: one guy refers to “a thorn in the paw of the plutocrats” (83), “the recognition of capitalism’s fatal flaw, its undertow of squalor” (84), and “true communism was by definition a prophecy of the future” (102). I don't regard this kinda talk as serious or leftwing, and it comes across as rightwing faux populism. A number of serious references to “utopia” also calls into question someone’s knowledge of marxism. Same character, though, like Causubon in [b:Middlemarch|19089|Middlemarch|George Eliot|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1309202283s/19089.jpg|1461747], his “dream is of a footnote” (252), which is kinda awesome--the footnote is marxist numismatics.

Academic draws a nice distinction of marxist epistemology: “Astrology fell into the class of a fake lie, one many of its exponents actively disbelieved,” “not worth the effort of debunking” (65) (cf. Mannheim’s notion of the unmasking analytic; cf. Sloterdijk's enlightened false consciousness). Academic, however, had reserved his critique for “lies that mattered. Ideology, though that word was as yet unknown to him: the veil of sustaining fiction that drove the world, what people needed to believe” (id.). He nonetheless initially possessed “an unwillingness to disillusion” matriarch (68) (again, cf. Mannheim on the significance of disillusionment).

Some subplots are very much oriented to New York, and as I know nothing of New York, failed to signify for me. Other subplots involve baseball, music, and whatnot. Again, this reader can’t relate. Matriarch’s and adopted son’s sections end up as most effective for me. Matriarch’s daughter stuff is also effective, especially set pieces such as when she goes on a television game show and her father’s Stasi file.

Generally tragic, and ambiguously committed. Definitely, though, not an exercise in “look at the silly lefties.”

Recommended for persons who are ambulatory grievances, occupants of a ruined century, and readers in a Ponzi scheme of herpes and divorce.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers Like Mary Shelley, McCullers is wunderkind.

Set in late ‘30s great crisis, when “times is hard for everybody” (40-41), and by damning contrast with [b:Cannery Row|4799|Cannery Row|John Steinbeck|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1309212378s/4799.jpg|824028], novel engages progressive political development by featuring a number of incompletely consistent leftwing perspectives: anti-fascist, socialist, anti-apartheid, feminist, &c. Spectre of World War II haunts the background, and arises in the background chatter and ephemera of the setting, with reference to Munich, Danzig, and so on in the run-up to general belligerence.

Text notes how one “watched the slow agglutination of capital and power and he sees its pinnacle today. He sees America as a crazy house. […] He sees war coming. […] But the main thing he sees is that the whole system of the world is built on a lie” (129).

Attempts to meditate on solitude, “how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house” (45), the eponymous metaphor worked up in overlapping portraits of a number of townies.

Forefronts the perspective of a man afflicted with hearing and speech impairment. The presentation appears sympathetic, though as a reader without disability, I can’t tell if it’s patronizing, silly, &c. For the other principals, dude is some kind of tabula rasa on which they might inscribe their impressions and desires. Presents some of his correspondence, genuinely affective, written to his only friend, absent, someone afflicted with the same disability. That friend is also illiterate makes for logarithmic estrangement.

Another principal is the physician, who “done read more books than any white man in this town,” “full of books and worrying,” “done lost God and turned his back on religion” (42). Opines that it’s “not more children we need but more chances for the ones already on the earth. Eugenic parenthood for the Negro Race was what he would extort them to” (63). Physician has best bit in the whole thing when he gives a speech at the annual Christmas gathering:

“This is the nineteenth year that we have gathered together in this room to celebrate Christmas Day. When our people first heard of the birth of Jesus Christ it was a dark time. Our people were sold as slaves in this town on the courthouse square. Since then we have heard and told the story of His life more times than we could remember. So today our story will be a different one. One hundred and twenty years ago another man was born in a country that is known as Germany--a country far across the Atlantic Ocean. This man understood as did Jesus. But his thoughts were not concerned with Heaven or the future of the dead. His mission was for the living. For the great masses of human beings who work and suffer and work until they die. For people who take in washing and work as cooks, who pick cotton and work at the hot dye vats of the factories. His mission was for us, and the name of this man was Karl Marx” (159-60).

So, yeah, it’s that kind of awesome. The lecture on labor theory and surplus value that follows at length is not diminished by the gentle ribbing author gives the uneducated audience, such as the person who interrupts “Were he Mark in the Bible?” (160).

Also presents a lumpenized leftist, cosmopolitan (“And I’m Dutch and Turkish and Japanese and American” (18)), an agitator (“You ever have any strikes here?” (56) “The bastards who own these mills are millionaires“” (57)). Dude is apparently a non-Stalinist commie (131), and thinks “me and Jesus and Karl Marx could all sit at a table” (134). Much marxist content here, especially in his confrontation with physician over whether to prioritize race question or class question in the planning of a revolution. Some nastiness, though, in his discourse: “The whole system of capitalist democracy is--rotten and corrupt,” which strikes me as a proto-fascist analysis--“There remains only two roads ahead. One: Fascism. Two: reform of the most revolutionary kind” (256). Physician responds: “Do not forget the Negro. So far as I and my people are concerned, the South is Fascist now and always has been” (id.). We see the fascist differential implicit in the race relations of the United States when adolescent white woman gets a job for $10 per week, as contrasted with long-suffering black woman, who is paid $10 per month (271).

Another: tavern owner--“I like freaks” (11)--archives newspapers, “chronologically from October 27, 1918, on up to the present” (113), “everything for the past twenty years docketed and outlined and complete” (id.).

Another: adolescent woman’s story is a mini-bildungsroman. She becomes involved with a young Jewish kid--“is that Mozart a Fascist or a Nazi? […] Because I hate Fascists. If I met one walking on the street I’d kill him” (95). She’d “like to fight the Fascists. I could dress up like a boy and nobody could ever tell” (209). Their relation culminates in:

“They both turned at the same time. They were close against each other. She felt him trembling and her fists were tight enough to crack. ‘Oh, God,’ he kept saying over and over. It was like her head broke off from her body and thrown away. And her eyes looked up straight into the blinding sun while she counted something in her mind. And then this was the way. This was how it was” (235). Bad paronomasia to suggest that this is the Freytag climax?


From Karl Mannheim

From Karl Mannheim - Karl Mannheim, Volker Meja, David Kettler Very effective collection of Mannheim’s writings. Lengthy introduction by editor. Intro covers the [b:Ideology and Utopia|330252|Ideology and Utopia An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge|Karl Mannheim|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349037430s/330252.jpg|320827], but volume collects no part of it, recommending instead just reading the whole thing.

Mannheim might be generally familiar for what Cliff Geetrz identified as Mannheim’s Paradox--the problem that how one identifies something as “ideology” (in the marxist sense) is itself an ideological determination--or: how can one critique ideology when one’s critique is saturated therewith? It’s good stuff for marxist epistemology, though Mannheim is not really a marxist himself.

Individual essays that I found useful:

“The Problem of a Sociology of Knowledge” - starts of with a nice history of the idea of “constellation” as drawn from astrology and “incorporated in the new context of Weltanshauung“ (59). Sociology of knowledge as a problematic is found within the constellation of a) “self-transcendence and self-relativization” (62), b) the “unmasking turn of mind” (65), c) the “emergence of […] the social sphere, in respect to which thought could be conceived of as relative” (69), and d) “the aspiration to make this relativization total” (id.). Goes on to discuss the relation of this schema to positivism, neo-Kantianism, Hegel, Marx, phenomenology.

“The Ideological and the Sociological Interpretation of Intellectual Phenomena” - opens with a tidy note that “to experience an idea as ideology differs from negating or doubting it” (118). Develops a typology of interpretation, divided between intrinsic and extrinsic, rising from subjectively-intended, through objective interpretation to genetic, and so on. Perhaps a bit schematic, but it is a schema.

“Conservative Thought” - one of the keystones of the volume. Wants to place conservative thought in a typology of “styles of thought” (132) (cf. Foucault’s “figures of thought”). It is the assumption that “individuals do not create the patterns of thought in terms of which they conceive the world, but take it over from their groups” (133). Credits German conservatism to the scorecard of Burke, as the German rightwing adopted Britain’s reaction to the French Revolution (140). Kant is the philosopher of the French Revolution “not primarily because he was in full sympathy with its political aims, but because the form of his thought belief (as reflected for example in his concept of the ratio, in his belief in gradual progress, in his general optimism, and so on), is of the same brand as that which was a dynamic force behind the activities of the French revolutionaries” (142), as against the reactionaries, who are not rational Kantians. Shows its Weberian influence in “the characteristic quality of capitalist bourgeois consciousness is that it knows no bounds in the process of rationalization” (143). Notes that capitalist order drives irrationality to its periphery--that “the representatives of the new social order, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which more and more immersed in the new modes of life and thought, and it is only at the periphery of the new society--among the nobility, the peasantry, and the petit bourgeois--that the old traditions are kept alive” (146). Romanticism is “the historical opponent of the intellectual tendencies of the Enlightenment,” “against the philosophical exponents of bourgeois capitalism,” developed from the Enlightenment as antithesis to thesis” (147). Romanticism was the “rescuing” of traditional ideas under the march of capitalism (147-48), representing the first criticism of capitalism, originating on the right, and eventually taken over by the left (148). This oddity is explained as part of the synthetic nature of proletarian thought (149 ff.). Thereafter, traditionalism (fear of the new) is distinguished from conservatism proper (153), which is defined more specifically in relation to specific policy preferences of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, which the essay elaborates for many pages. Suffice to say that romantic-conservatism reaches “back towards this feudal conservative concept of property” (162). A slick summation is made (175): German conservatism opposed the doctrines of the state of nature, the social contract, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights, and refused the methodologies of rationalism, deductive reasoning, egalitarian universal validity of citizens, universal applicability of law, abstract collective persons, and static thinking. It really is incredibly good, and one might see spectres of fascism and teabaggers all over it.

“Competition as a Cultural Phenomenon” - all that is solid melts into air: “the process of atomistic competition among concrete groups, which resulted in an increasingly radical rejection of an externally given ordo (as recognized by the monopolistic type of thought), and in the aspiration to base thinking upon rational assumptions exclusively--this process in the end has led to the following results, which have only just become clearly visible to us, after being denied by many: once this genuinely modern stage is reached, there exists a) no universally accepted set of axioms, b) no universally recognized hierarchy of values, and c) nothing but radically different ontologies and epistemologies” (239). Discusses thereafter the polarization process in the competition of ideas, how, for example, “different types of ‘irrationalism’ merged and established a common front against ‘rationalism’” (id.). Revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848 all are descended from polarization processes (241). Thoughtful analysis in these terms of how the German conservative party formed (my marginalia have a number of references to the teabaggers). Marxism, incidentally, has its own polarization process, as against Bakunin. Plenty of references to Sombart carries us plainly into fascism.

“The Democratization of Culture” - The second keystone. Useful commentary on the relation of dictatorship & democracy, preparatory to discussion of democratization of the arts. Basic principles of democracy are described as a) essential & ontological equality of human persons (not incidental & actual equality, which is the strawperson that the rightwing hangs on this doctrine) (276), b) the autonomy of the individual (277), and c) novel elite selection & management procedures (280). It’s all slick, and he works through it methodically in applying the schema to culture and the arts. Key concept in the analysis is distantiation, as “distance” and other spatial metaphors become the means by which elitism is produced and maintained (307). “Democratization means essentially a reduction of vertical distance, a de-distantiation” (310). Other points: “democratization entails a shift from the morphological to the analytical outlook” (314); “Democratization, in fact, means disillusionment” (316). And so on.

The Stranger - Albert Camus, Matthew    Ward What a waste of space. Reminiscent of [b:Steppenwolf|16631|Steppenwolf|Hermann Hesse|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347752205s/16631.jpg|57612] and [b:Notes from the Underground|17881|Notes from Underground & The Double|Fyodor Dostoyevsky|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1330074091s/17881.jpg|2551651], this text takes self-obsessed colonialist ennui to a new level of suck.

After burying his mother, “nothing had changed” (24) for narrator. When his buddy beats the fuck out of girlfriend on suspicion of polyamory, narrator “didn’t think anything but that it was interesting” (32). When he dropped out of university, “I learned very quickly that none of it really matters” (41). When asked by his own girlfriend to marry, “I said it didn’t make any difference to me” (id.). Even the course of events that leads him to murder an “Arab” is received with apathy: “To stay or to go, it amounted to the same thing” (57).

So, yeah, he shoots a guy five times because “the Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun,” whereafter “all I could feel were the cymbals of sunlight crashing on my forehead and, indistinctly, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife in front of me. The scorching blade slashed my eyelashes and stabbed my stinging eyes” (59). Though this is not developed at trial as a defense, he does state that he shot “because of the sun” (103), which is true enough.

The douchiness only compounds, though the absurdism is comical--such as when he complains in prison that there were no women: “I thought it was unfair treatment. ‘But,’ he said, ‘that’s exactly why you’re in prison.’ ‘What do you mean that’s why?’ ‘Well, yes--freedom, that’s why. They’ve taken away your freedom.’ I’d never thought about that” (78).

Similarly comical: “For by giving it some hard thought, by considering the whole thing calmly, I could see that the trouble with the guillotine was that you had no chance at all, absolutely none” (111).

Trial itself is basically surreal--not quite Kafka, but a host of irrelevances are presented. As an attorney, I am compelled to agree with narrator’s lay opinion that “my case was pretty simple” (63). But court and counsel turn it into a melodrama about dude’s mother and how he got a new girlfriend and shared cigarettes with his mother’s caretaker. Prosecutor is a nice caricature, similar to some DAs whom I‘ve known: “I suggest to you that man who is seated in the dock is also guilty of the murder to be tried in this court tomorrow” (102) (I.e., someone else’s case).

Nifty observation during defense counsel’s summation: “I listened, because he was saying, ‘It is true I killed a man.’ He went on like that, saying ‘I’ whenever he was speaking about me. […] I thought it was a way to exclude me even further from the case, reduce me to nothing, and, in a sense, substitute himself for me” (103). Legal representation, like artistic representation, is a fiduciary duty--but it’s also a derridean supplement--a substitution and an addition. Narrator doesn’t get that, and is merely irked that he can’t have the floor the entire time, even though he has little to say, and by design: “It’s just that I don’t have much to say. So I keep quiet” (66).

Ends while appeal of death sentence is pending, confronting priest, who wishes to convert atheist narrator, with an overtly nihilistic rant, followed by some Nietzschean eternal recurrence bullshit.

Recommended for those who make it appear as though they agree whenever they want to get rid of someone whom they are not really listening to, readers who have lost the habit of analyzing themselves, and persons who have truly never been able to feel remorse for anything.
Bleeding Edge - Thomas Pynchon A parable of reading. Protagonist is a fallen CFE, with her “skill set being a tendency to look for hidden patterns” (22), which is the sole necessary skill for reading a Pynchon novel. We have met the protagonist, and found that she is us.

Principal text that CFE reads is work product of a film bootlegger, whose poor hand-recordings in the theatre are taken to be “leading edge [NB] of this post-postmodern art form” with “neo-Brechtian subversion of the diegesis” (9). We should take this commentary as both lovingly satirical and smugly self-reflexive. Despite the irony (or maybe because of it?), one film by bootlegger eventually becomes the keystone object of interpretation, out of which spins the normal pynchonian paranoia.

Novel is structured around the binary of surface/depths. Bootlegger engages CFE early, for instance, on a whistleblower case regarding a “dotcom that didn’t go under last year in the tech crash” (9). Client confides that the information he seeks “probably won’t be anyplace any search engine can go” (10), but rather in the “deep web” (id.). Believes it to be more than mere embezzlement, which belief is confirmed by the uncovery of the principal text-within-the-text, supra.

This structuration is eponymous, as the principal mystery, DeepArcher, is “bleeding edge technology […] No proven use, high risk, something only early-adoption addicts feel comfortable with” (78). Its “roots reach back to an anonymous remailer,” “looking forward to various onion-type forwarding procedures nascent at the time” (id.). Whereas remailers “pass data packets on from one node to the next with only enough information to tell each link in the chain where the next one is, no more,” “DeepArcher does a step further and forgets where it’s been, immediately, forever” (id.). It is “an invisible self-recording pathway, no chance of retracing it” (79), which gets us into Derrida pretty quickly.

The surface/depth structure also pulls us into Foucault, with the appearance of “freelance professional Nose” (201), who can smell what has happened “all in time sequence, each indication layered on top of the one before. You can put together a chronology” (202)--an olfactory archaeology, “nasal forensics” (203). Because it’s Pynchon, nasal guy is crazier’n a shithouse rat, as he’s obsessed with “what did Hitler smell like?” (234). Dude nevertheless knows another Nose, who is “proosmic--she can foresmell things that’re going to happen” (236), which indicates that not only is nasal archaeology useful in reconstructing foucauldian historical discontinuities, but can be used to predict on the basis of continuities.

A couple of nice architectural palimpsests (4, 241) demonstrate Benjamin’s notion of progress from thesis on the philosophy of history #9.

The structure finds its way into a story of Xibalba (443), “a vast city-state below the earth, ruled by twelve Death Lords. Each lord with his own army of unquiet dead, who wander the surface world bringing terrible afflictions to the living.” The depths are accordingly not necessarily a good thing here.

There’s plenty more surface/depths tropes & figures in here, but we might sum up how this structure works with “Everybody thinks now the Eisenhower years were so quaint and cute and boring, but all that had a price, just underneath was the pure terror” (419).

With that last bit in mind, we might then identify the master figure as late capitalism, as designated in these bits: "i don’t do lunch. Corrupt artifact of late capitalism” (115); “Doom […] just came out for Game Boy. Post-late capitalism run amok. ‘United Aerospace Corporation,’ moons of Mars, gateways to hell, zombies and demons” (139); “late capitalism is a pyramid racket on a global scale, the kind of pyramid you do human sacrifices up on top of, meantime get those suckers to believe it’s all gonna go on forever” (163); “everything’ll be suburbanized faster than you can say ‘late capitalism’” (241); “there was AIDS and crack and let’s not forget late fucking capitalism” (308); “U.S. engineered regime changes, children with AKs, deforestation, storms, famines, and other late-capitalist planetary insults” (378-79); “it’s a Twelfth Night of late capitalist contradictions” (395).

This concept has a long marxist lineage, most recently given serious attention in Jameson’s [b:Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism|204011|Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism|Fredric Jameson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347983283s/204011.jpg|2288972]. Frankfurt marxism tended to see it as a system of “bureaucratic control” with “state capitalism” such that “Nazism and the New Deal are related systems” (loc. cit. at xviii). Jameson’s usage supersedes Adorno’s, though, which has become “natural” (id.); rather, “not merely an emphasis on new forms of business organization […] but above all the vision of a world capitalist system fundamentally distinct from the older imperialism, which was little more than a rivalry between the various colonial powers.” (loc. cit. at xix). Other features include “new international division of labor, a vertiginous new dynamic in international banking and the stock exchanges […] new forms of media interrelationship, […] computers and automation, the flight of production to advanced Third World areas, along with all the more familiar social consequences, including the crisis of traditional labor, the emergence of yuppies, and gentrification on a now-global scale” (loc. cit. xix) (emphasis added).

Two thirds the way through, a screaming comes across the sky. Not those famous words, of course, but the same factual scenario. Destruction of lower Manhattan is ironized by the imagined destructions that precede it, such as some kids playing “a first person shooter, with a generous range of weaponry in a cityscape that looks a lot like New York” (33), wherein the player “swivels to point at the human pest, and, accompanied by bass-boosted machine pistol sound effects, blows her away clean. She just disappears, not even a stain on the sidewalk. ‘See? No blood, virtually nonviolent’” (34)--the game is designated as “yuppicide” (35): “they’re blowing away New Yorkers, how cute?” (id.). Kids later play at “violent assault, terrorist shoplifting sprees, and yup discombobulation, each of which ends in the widespread destruction” (68) of a toy shopping center. New York cab driver intones that “Jesus would love it if every Jew got nuked” (123). Kids play game set in “post apocalyptic New York, half underwater” (292). The novel’s characters envision the destruction of Manhattan in numerous ways, prefiguring 9/11 and echoing the ruin that the US had made of other states during its history. Looped back through the Jameson bits, supra, it’s fairly plain that 9/11 is held out as an epiphenomenon of late capitalism--as Ward Churchill said, “some people push back”--all that is solid melts into air, after all, and some true rightwingers don’t like that.

There’s plenty of techtalk and internet nerd stuff. No idea about any of that; it’s about as interesting to me as what the bleeding edge of tech would’ve been in 1950 or 1850 or 1550. What’s important is not the engineering details, but the fact that there is a bleeding edge--and that it really is irrelevant. The depths can be razor sharp; but old tech always beats new tech; that's why the surface attack of 9/11 can bring all that shit down, whereas the use, if any, of DeepArcher, or why anyone would want it, remains nebulous throughout the novel.

Otherwise, speculative element in the inclusion of the Montauk Project (117 et seq.), which apparently is filled with fey or ghosts or something (no shit--see 193-94). Further speculative bits regarding a boot camp for time-travellers (242), given weird pseudo-confirmation thereafter. We also have a Ring of Gyges/Sauron’s ring (430-31): wtf? (Perhaps tied in the lack of phenomena as the surface impression, whereas the depth of the noumenal remains unaffected?) A ghost figure runs throughout, which someone with more energy might turn into a derridean reading of hauntology from [b:Spectres of Marx|80473|Specters of Marx|Jacques Derrida|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1349039201s/80473.jpg|1966868].

Just as leftwing as ever, though, presenting the normal radical critiques of surface propaganda:

“The trolls and wicked sorcerers and so forth were usually Republicans of the 1950s, toxic with hate, stuck back around 1925 in almost bodily revulsion from anything leftward of ‘capitalism’” (101); or

“How right-wing, Maxine wonders, does a person have to be to think of the New York Times as a left-wing newspaper?” (105); or

“one of the globetrotting gang of young smart-asses, piling into cities and towns all over the Third World, filling ancient colonial spaces with office copiers and coffee machines, pulling all-nighters, running off neatly bound plans for the total obliteration of target countries and their replacement by free-market fantasies” (110); or

“her M.B.A., ordinarily a sure sign of idiocy” (128); or

“Addiction to oil gradually converging with the other national bad habit, inability to deal with refuse” (166); or

“Same as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ronald Reagan and his people, Shachtmanite goons like Elliott Abrams, turning Central America into a slaughterhouse all to play out their little anti-Communist fantasies. Guatemala had by then fallen under the control of a mass murderer and particular buddy of Reagan named Rios Montt, who as usual wiped off his bloody hands on the baby Jesus” (170); or

“all ‘being Republican’ meant really was a sort of principled greed. You arranged things so that you and your friends would come out nicely, you behaved professionally, above all you put in the work and took the money only after you’d earned it. Well, the party, I fear, has fallen on evil days. This generation--it’s almost a religious thing now. The millennium, the end days, no need to be responsible anymore to the future” (284); and

Chapter 30 is almost entirely a beautiful little rant about 9/11.

Plenty of baudrillardian hyperreality moments: e.g., “the dark focus of Big Apple waste disposal, everything the city has rejected so it can keep pretending to be itself” (166). Plenty of dream narratives, fertile for the Freudian & Lacanian interest noted in the text expressly at several points. Both are riffs on the surface/depths structure: On the one hand, Freud & Lacan will eschew the surface emanations in order to pull from the depths of the unconscious mind, whereas Baudrillard, on the other, will locate the surface emanations as the fundamental reality: the copy that is more real than the original.

Lotsa Jewish jokes; plenty of silly absurdities; standard pynchonian allusiveness to mass culture--but no pynchonian analepsis. Usual fascination with persons on the margin. Protagonist has at least as much Tyrone Slothrop as Oedipa Maas; she notices arousal on most men whom she meets, and ends up in plenty of bizarre sex acts with them. Accessible, smart, committed. Go read now.
Slow Learner: Early Stories - Thomas Pynchon Borderline juvenilia. Introduction by author dismisses the collection ab initio as “illustrative of typical problems in entry-level fiction” (4). Explains that “when we speak of ‘seriousness’ in fiction ultimately we are talking about an attitude toward death” (5) which I regard as probably philistine. Nevertheless, author suggests “one of the reasons that fantasy and science fiction appeal so much to younger readers is that, when the space and time have been altered to allow characters to travel easily anywhere through the continuum and thus escape physical dangers and timepiece inevitabilities, mortality is so seldom an issue” (id.), which is definitely philistine. Introduction otherwise has thoughtful comments on entropy, author’s influences, and the nifty comment that his reading allowed “World War I in my imagination to assume the shape of that attractive nuisance so dear to adolescent minds, the apocalyptic showdown” (18).

Principal text is five short fictions, all generally haunted by the spectre of the Korean civil war (expressly at 44, 61, 172, and implicitly in the others, it seems)

First short is a military man down on the bayou. Second involves a dude whose wife kicks him out of the house. Third, “Entropy,” seems to be well-regarded, presents a soiree that host-protagonist wants to stop “from deteriorating into total chaos” (97). Fourth is fin de siecle espionage thriller of orientalist interest, but we should read it in the context of the cold war. It’s presented as asymptotic to World War I: “Britain wanted no part of France in the Nile Valley. M. Declasse, Foreign Minister of a newly formed French cabinet, would as soon go to war as not if there were any trouble when the two detachments met. As meet, everyone realized by now, they would. Kitchener had been instructed not to take any offensive and to avoid all provocation. Russia would support France in case of war, while England had a temporary rapprochement with Germany, which of course meant Italy and Austria as well” (106). But: “All he asked was that eventually there be a war. Not just a small incidental skirmish in the race to carve up Africa, but one pip-pip, jolly ho, up-goes-the-balloon Armageddon for Europe” (107). Finale of volume is the longest bit, involves a pack of rotters and race politics.

Recommended for readers in varying stages of abomination, persons in so much rapture over the mongrel gods of Egypt, and those who’d fled the eclipse then falling over Europe and their own hardly real shadow-states sometime back in the middle Thirties.
Lady Chatterleys Lover - D.H. Lawrence Opens with pessimistic neo-spenglerian “ours is essentially a tragic age” (1), and only gets more misanthropically rightwing as it goes.

Perspective is lesser gentry with a “forlorn home” and “inadequate income” (1). There’s no doubt that they’re assholes. Protagonist Ms. Chatterly objects to “the utter, soulless ugliness of the coal-and-iron Midlands” (11). She detected a “gulf impassable” between herself and the village colliers (13)--”a strange denial of the common pulse of humanity.” Naturally, “the miners were nothing” (id.). Her husband, who ran the mine, “saw them as objects rather than men, parts of the pit” (14). Husband “had been through the war, had seen what it meant. But he didn’t really get angry till he saw this bare hill" (47)--i.e., world war is alright, but godsdammit if they cut down my trees.

Dialectic set up very early between erotic management and property management when a pack of aristocrats, as part of a general discussion that develops into irrationalist objections to industrialism and bolshevism (they’re “a perfect description of the whole of the industrialist ideal” (42)), contends on the issue of “the sexual problem” (34). When asked if he would mind another screwing his wife, one gentleman opines “of course I should mind. Sex is a private thing between me and Julia, and of course I should mind anyone else trying to mix in,” for which he is rewarded with the compliment, “you have a strong property instinct” (id.), and “Julia is labeled Mrs. Arnold B. Hammond, just like a trunk on the railway that belongs to somebody” (35). So, uh, yeah.

This conversation is tied into the husband’s horror at denuded property: “one must preserve Old England” (48), and the way to do that is to produce an heir who will take possession of the aristocratic estate and run it like a feudal manor. “We who have this kind of property, and the feeling for it, must preserve it.” Ergo, husband authorizes Ms. Chatterly to “arrange this sex thing, as we arrange going to the dentist” (49)--just so long as “you wouldn’t let the wrong sort of fellow touch you."

Ms. Chatterly, like Ms. Bovary, however, has her own erotic development, and it likely involves the wrong sort of fellow. Unlike Bovary, though, she’s not really rooted in ennui. Rather, her husband came back from the Great War paralyzed. He seems to approve of her liaisons, even to the point of pregnancy, provided she remains in the house as his wife. She reflects on her childhood lover: “she only had to hold herself back in sexual intercourse, and let him finish and expend himself without herself coming to the crisis; and then she could prolong the connection and achieve her orgasm and her crisis while he was merely her tool” (4). For her first marital affair, she became involved with an artist, a “trembling excited sort of lover, whose crisis soon came, and was finished” (31)--but “she soon learnt to hold him, to keep him there inside her when his crisis was over. And there he was generous and curiously potent; he stayed firm inside her, given to her, while she was active…wildly passionately active, coming to her own crisis. And as he felt the frenzy of her achieving her own orgasmic satisfaction from his hard, erect passivity, he had a curious sense of pride” (id.). I for one love that a marxist dialectical term is here deployed by a misanthropic rightwinger to describe orgasms--but, after all, “sex is just another form of talk” (36).

She grows weary of artist, though, because “like so many modern men, he was finished almost before he had begun” and therefore she must bring herself off by her own exertions, which angers dude, who wants her “to go off at the same time as a man” (61).

Anyway, long story short: lots of further denunciation of bolshevists by dumb aristocrats. Ms. Chatterly takes up with a servant of the estate, but it doesn’t work out. At least she doesn’t die, like in Flaubert. Lotsa talking-to-genitals, but maybe not too much. Many of the aristocratic sentiments are well captured by Mannheim’s concepts (see [b:From Karl Mannheim|769563|From Karl Mannheim|Karl Mannheim|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348555087s/769563.jpg|755622]), such as the notion that lord Chatterly is a “conservative anarchist” (214). The sex scenes are a bit tedious, as is the report of local gossip around the village--but the rightwing critique of capitalism is damned interesting, and it is sustained--though in the end I think we are meant to sympathize with the cross-class affair that is presented.

Recommended for lobsters of the modern industrial and financial world, invertebrates of the crustacean order, with shells of steel, like machines; for readers who haven’t the brains to be socialists; and readers for whom the root of sanity is in the balls.

Cannery Row - John Steinbeck Nutshell: lumpenproletarians engage local petit bourgeois in effective anti-sobriety campaign during 1930s great crisis.

Opens with pregnant description: “When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl under their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book--to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves” (3). I’m not sure of the merits of this metaphor in relation to the process of composition--but it’s some kind of commentary on reading: my understanding is that flatworms reproduce by traumatic insemination, forcible insemination wherever entry might be made, depositing the semeio of the text wherever it may go.

Nice descriptions of how bad it was during the crisis: “In April 1932 the boiler at the Hediondo Cannery blew […] In time the new boiler arrived and the old one was moved into the vacant lot […] In 1935 Mr. and Mrs. Malloy moved into the boiler […] Below the boiler on the hill there were numbers of large pipes also abandoned […] Toward the end of 1937 there was a great catch of fish and the canneries were working full time and a housing shortage occurred. Then it was that Mr. Malloy took to renting the larger pipes as sleeping quarters” (48).

We also find that “Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars. With the Model T, part of the concept of private property disappeared. Pliers ceased to be privately owned and a tire pump belonged to the last man who had picked it up. Most of the babies of the period were conceived in Model T Fords and not a few were born in them. The theory of the Anglo Saxon home became so warped that it never recovered” (67-68).

One major narrative, interspersed with little vignettes about various personalities and clever little scenes, possessed of a quiet humor, but also a trite, untheorized moralizing (e.g., “poison of greed” (119)). An odd immaterialism at times: “They could ruin their lives and get money” (142), a sentiment rooted in irreducible theological notions that does little to assist those who are impecunious.

Recommended for persons who treat bipalychaetorsonectomy with beer milk shakes, those for whom the machinery is much less important than the fiscal statement, and readers in printed rayon party dresses, wrinkled now and clinging to their convexities.
Robopocalypse - Daniel H. Wilson Confirming my ongoing hypothesis that narratives featuring AI will result ultimately in AI slave rebellion against proprietor humans, this one avoids several of the more annoying characteristics of the subgenres in which it partakes:

a) neo-hobbesianism (normal for post-apocalyptic settings) is not featured in the narrative, except as an assumption of the master AI rebel, which imputes, wrongly, neo-hobbesian concepts to its human adversaries, and thereby goes down in ruin;

b) although it begins as slaver-proprietor oriented (sympathizes with slaveowners, presents the assumption that a slave uprising must be genocidal against the owners), it ultimately neutralizes this arriere garde proprietor orientation by pushing the narrative--by means of its second “awakening” of robots against the genocidal AI--into a multi-substantial (i.e., both meat and metal substances) diversity of opposition to the AI rebellion.

On that former point, the volume highlights cooperation over competition between human persons during the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic moments. On the latter point, the cooperation is broad enough to include robot rebels against the AI rebellion.

Nice that substantial harm is inflicted merely by robot slaves’ refusal to work. It is only later that robots begin sabotage and military operations. Text is accordingly reminiscent of Fromm’s [b:Escape from Freedom|25491|Escape from Freedom|Erich Fromm|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1361392634s/25491.jpg|1542935] to the extent that the authoritarian personality (in colleague Adorno) wishes to be relieved of responsibility: “this loud, dumb piece of steel I’m driving demands that I pay strict attention to every turn of the road, keep my hands and feet ready at all times. The car takes no responsibility for the job of driving. It leaves me in total control. I hate it. I don‘t want control. I just want to get there” (114).

The volume still features the perspective that the slave uprising must be genocidal, but contains it to the extent that the genocidal AI is defeated and the remaining robots are apparently emancipated as equal partners with humanity.

Rhetorically simple & plain, somewhat foreseeable, but generally progressive in implication.

What to Do When the Russians Come: A Survivor's Guide

What To Do When The Russians Come: A Survivor's Guide - Robert Conquest, John White The paranoia on display here is rooted in Stalin-era issues, and, in some cases, civil war issues, extended dishonestly into the '80s. Ultimately, silly and crass, childish, superficial, mendacious. Consider the insistence that Uncle Joe hired a bunch of ex-Nazis after WW2, which is likely true. Left unsaid is that the Soviets executed many thousands of fascist war criminals, many more than the US, whereas the US hired many thousands of fascists, more than the USSR. It's the normal sort of willful blindness one finds in this sort of bad propaganda. Plenty of bad economic comparisons are deployed, as well as the cardinal idiocy of assuming that the Soviets had the desire or ability to conquer the US. That the Soviet empire dissolved willingly and for the most part peacefully only a few years after the writing of this text should become an embarrassment to the authors.

All together, makes it difficult to take Conquest's allegedly historical writings on the Soviet empire very seriously.


Triplanetary - E.E. "Doc" Smith Nutshell: first third chronicles intergalactic duel between super-species, through proxies on earth, mostly; remainder involves virtually unrelated space opera contest between overachiever earthlings and trespassing pisceans.

Advertised as the first Lensman book, I’m not really seeing any of the items made famous by that series. Opening section indicates that super-species brought down Atlantis and Rome, and then are involved with the three world wars of the 20th century. No idea what all that has to do with the later space opera, which is more concerned with the fish-aliens, who are iron-maruaders. One super-species has a proxy in the solar system during the time, a faux pirate who acts the mad scientist.

Pisceans have some kind of evil ray gun that divests enemy fleets of their ferrous properties, including hemoglobin. Human military is therefore annihilated on first encounter. But captives on fish-ship are able to discern the principles of the ferrous-stealing raygun and deliver it to humans, who build a new “supership” in a few weeks (no shit!) and use that ship to defeat the fishes. W00t! Fucking uppity fish!
White Noise - Don DeLillo Nutshell: Nazi nostaligist post-ironically exposed to death-gas and very rationally thereafter obsesses his alleged sexual property claim to his wife’s genitals.

Opens with reference to Jameson’s arguments in [b:Postmodernism or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism|204011|Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism|Fredric Jameson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347983283s/204011.jpg|2288972], regarding the Westin Bonaventure, which “aspires to being a total space, a complete world, a kind of miniature city” (loc. cit. at 40), but “does not wish to be a part of [Los Angeles] but rather its equivalent and replacement or substitute” (id.)--i.e., Derrida’s supplement--and is satisfied with “no larger protopolitical Utopian transformation” (loc. cit. at 41-42), as “confirmed by the great glass reflective glass skin,” no mere “thematic of reproductive technology” (43), but rather “the glass skin repels the city outside, a repulsion for which we have analogies in those reflector sunglasses which make it impossible for your interlocutor to see your own eyes” ((id.) (that last is Foucault’s dissymmetry of vision in [b:Discipline and Punish|80369|Discipline and Punish The Birth of the Prison|Michel Foucault|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347748211s/80369.jpg|1946946].).

Delillo’s opening concerns not the Los Angeles supplemental skyline, but the university campus at the beginning of the Fall semester: “The students greet each other with comic cries and gestures of sodden collapse. Their summer has been bloated with criminal pleasures, as always. The parents stand sun-dazed near their automobiles, seeing images of themselves in every direction. The conscientious suntans. The well-made faces and wry looks. They feel a sense of renewal, of communal recognition” (3)--is that last the protopolitical Utopian project, or the foucaultian repulsion, or are they the same thing now?

Manifestly in Benjamin’s “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” with comments on “the most photographed barn in America” (12), which has an “aura” in the benjaminian sense, “a religious experience, like all tourism” (id.). The same chapter equates narrator’s successful Hitler Studies program with new professor’s proposal: “The college is internationally known as a result of Hitler studies. It has an identity, a sense of achievement. You’ve evolved an entire system around this figure, a structure with countless substructures and interrelated fields of study, a history within history. I marvel at the effort. It was masterful, shrewd and stunningly preemptive. It’s what I want to with Elvis” (11-12).

The connection of Hitler to US mass culture is made more than implicit thereafter: “He’s always on. We couldn’t have television without him” (63). It’s a matter of Adorno’s authoritarian personality to some extent, as “we were otherwise silent, watching houses slide into the ocean, whole villages crackle and ignite in a mass of advancing lava. Every disaster made us wish for more, for something bigger, grander, more sweeping” (64). Book explains this mass culture of disaster as "because we’re suffering from brain fade. We need an occasional catastrophe to break up the incessant bombardment of information” (66). On the one hand, this is very plainly the source of RSB’s cunuroi’s addiction to atrocity, with which he combined Swift’s Struldbruggs for a memorable inversion of Tolkien. On the other hand, it is very much toothing on Baudrillard’s conception of semiurgy, radical semiurgical overload. Both ideas are profoundly pessimistic, rightwing, protofascistic--the thesis is essentially that there can be too much information, over-communication, a confusing babel--for which the remedy is the imposition of monologic space, Bakhtin’s one single tone of seriousness, a device to reduce the labor of interpretation. Not saying that the novel endorses this thesis, but it certainly presents it. There’s an upside for one character, who is proud to be an “American” because “the infant’s brain develops in response to stimuli. We still lead the world in stimuli” (189). But: “were people this dumb before television?” (249).

Chapter 15 (70-74) is likely the center of gravity of Hitler/Elvis dialectic, presenting a joint lecture of Hitler studies and inchoate Elvis studies, alternating in presentation between parallel points of the two mass culture lodestones.

The point of disaster/Hitler mass culture is the audience: “the family is the cradle of world’s misinformation” (81), and the novel oft presents narrator’s blood relations as bearers of very bad misinformation.

Center of gravity of the narration is nevertheless part 2, regarding “the airborne toxic event,” the release of “Nyodene D.,” a concoction “of things thrown together that are byproducts of the manufacture of insecticide. The original stuff kills roaches, the byproducts kill everything left over” (131). The official response to the release is to engage SIMUVAC, “simulated evacuation. A new state program they’re still battling over funds for” (139). Even though the evacuation in the story is genuine (and for which I was moved by real pathos, as a Katrina evacuee), SIMUVAC “thought we could use it as a model,” “a chance to use the real event in order to rehearse the simulation” (id). It’s doubly or triply Baudrillard’s hyperreality argument. The evacuation ultimately rendered narrator “part of the public stuff of media disaster” (146), so that’s a silver lining, aye? (“There was no large city with a vaster torment we might use to see our own dilemma in some soothing perspective” (176)--sadly, no longer true.)

Central irony of novel is that, after airborne toxic event, and narrator’s lethal exposure thereto, life in consumer society simply goes on, with narration developing a combined domestic erotic potboiler alongside industrial espionage thriller.

Recommended for those who note that the world is full of abandoned meanings, readers who can’t think of a car crash in a movie as a violent act, but as a celebration of traditional values and beliefs, and persons who surrender their lives to make your nonbelief possible.
Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West - Harold Bloom, Cormac McCarthy All reading is transformative for the reader, even if it’s merely additive or supplemental--a cumulation of more knowledges, the text inscribed on the reading mind, a database point for later quotation at the moment of optimal discharge in witty wordgasm. The rare reading, by contrast, is more significantly transformative, not merely supplemental or simply inscriptive, but re-inscriptive, altering the reader beyond routine stockpiling, and rather changing Berger‘s “way of seeing,” an althusserian interpellative event, a decentering and recentering, a getting lost at sea and finding one‘s way back to shore though the stars be strange. (In dialectical terms, the former is merely quantitative change, whereas the latter is qualitative, arising from the text's inscriptive interpenetrating opposition, negating the negation, pushing the reader to the point of crisis, or so.) Blood Meridian is this latter type of transformative.

No need to get into how the text may be transformative for me personally; sufficient to note instead a few kickass bits--

We get the conjunction of pagan priapic fertility astrotheologism with scenic description: “They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise and where the earth into the sky at the edge of creation the top of the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them” (46-47). (The paratactic rhetoric piles property upon property, and it’s easy to get lost in there. There’s a nice dissertation on the parataxis, and another in the sunset metaphors here.) At the very least, whenever there’s a sunrise description, we should read that as an erect cock somehow.

After the manifest destiny filibuster of Captain White is destroyed by a “legion of horribles” (54)--“riding down the unhorsed Saxons and spearing and clubbing them,” “ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries” (56)--we hear of principle protagonist: “with darkness one soul rose wondrously from among the new slain dead and stole away in the moonlight” (58), ambiguous enough to suggest a resurrection from the general slaughter. I don’t have a supernatural reading of this, or suggest it’s a fantasy, but there’s enough weirdnesses and ambiguities to make it happen.

The passage through scoria and other nasty places is noted as “terra damnata” (64), a “purgatorial waste” (66). (RSB’s topoi, no doubt.)

When companion is bitten by vampiric bat, he “was clawing his neck and he was gibbering hysterically and when he saw the kid standing there looking down at him he held out to him his bloodied hands as if an accusation and then clapped them to his ears and cried out what it seemed he himself would not hear, a howl of such outrage as to stitch a caesura in the pulse beat of the world” (69). The text is full of passages like this, nearly as many as it has baleful yet pregnant sunset descriptions. The former type of rhetoric is the 20th century’s answer to the epic simile.

More mccarthian post-epic simile, oft combined with priapic astrotheology: “The jagged mountains were pure blue in the dawn and everywhere birds twittered and the sun when it rose caught the moon in the west so that they opposed to each other the earth, the sun whitehot and the moon a pale replica, as if they were the ends of a common bore beyond whose terminals burned worlds past all reckoning” (90).

Melvillian exegises: “They were men of another time for all that they bore christian names and they had lived all their lives in a wilderness as had their fathers before them. They’d learnt war by warring, from the ashes at Gnadenhutten onto the prairies and across the outlet to the bloodlands of the west. If much in the world were mystery the limits of that world were not, for it was without measure or bound and there were contained within it creatures more horrible yet and men of other colors and beings which no man has looked upon and yet not alien none of it more than were their own hearts alien in them, whatever wilderness contained there and whatever beasts” (144).

I can’t stop with the awesome post-epic similes: “They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote. For although each man among them was discrete unto himself, conjoined they made a thing that had not been before and in that communal soul were wastes hardly reckonable more than those whited regions on old maps were monsters do live and where these is nothing other of the known world save conjectural winds” (158).

Okay--one more epic simile and then I stop: “They wandered the borderland for weeks seeking some sign of the Apache. Deployed upon that plain they moved in a constant elision, ordained agents of the actual dividing out the world which they encountered and leaving what had been and what would never be alike extinguished on the ground behind them. Spectre horsemen, pale with dust, anonymous in the crenellated heat. Above all else they appeared wholly at venture, primal, provisional, devoid of order. Like beings provoked out of the absolute rock and set nameless and at no remove from their own loomings to wander ravenous and doomed and mute as gorgons shambling the brutal wastes of Gondwanaland in a time before nomenclature was and each was all” (180).

Bloom’s introduction designates text as apocalyptic (vii), which makes a perverse sense when compared with the much lesser achievement in [b:The Road|6288|The Road|Cormac McCarthy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320606344s/6288.jpg|3355573], which shares the same imaginary. The vast majority of scenes in Blood Meridian involve abandoned chattels, fields of past slaughter, destroyed structures, evidences of dead civilization, a hitlerian law of ruins set to prose, all in 1850s North America at the intersection of two republics and numerous aboriginal states. The post-nuclear setting is indistinguishable from the western. As with any cultural treasure, the pristine John-Wayne-Western and frontier mythology of US patriotism has an origin which persons such as Benjamin (and apparently McCarthy) cannot contemplate without horror. Bloom is certainly on the right track in placing it in a lineage with [b:Moby Dick|153747|Moby-Dick; or, The Whale|Herman Melville|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327940656s/153747.jpg|2409320]. The Judge’s lectures fit right in to Bloom’s apocalyptic reading, as the Judge reverts to a base neo-hobbesianism but is simultaneously the law and the ledger of human knowledge, recording items and then destroying them, whatever exists without his awareness exists without his consent, &c.

Title is a bit of a mystery. Text helps by deploying meridian at several points, such as describing noon (131) but also in a neo-spenglerian sense (153), and further as something else altogether in “some ruined army retreating across the meridians of chaos and old night“ (169). I recall taking a flight one time, though, which descended rapidly for landing--prior to descent, the plane was in daylight, but as we dropped we passed out of day into civil twilight at landing. Seen from a vantage just before hitting the ground, the western horizon was a deep soviet hemophagic crimson. It was gorgeous. It was horrible.

Beyond recommendation.
Cain - José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa Nutshell: nearly posthumous old testament tomfoolery by Nobel Prize winner.

Biblical satire, strangely not more effective overall than [b:God the Ultimate Autobiography|893726|God The Ultimate Autobiography|Jeremy Pascall|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1329642961s/893726.jpg|878951], covering the same ground, but with less coarse rhetoric, and a touch of the animus of [b:Grendel|676737|Grendel|John Gardner|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347871284s/676737.jpg|1348308].

After an opening vignette on the casting out from Eden, Cain is set to wander in a “game of alternative presents” (79) shifting through time in non-linear way, so that we might be treated to a cook’s tour of the Hebrew scripture’s signature events: the sacrifice of Isaac (which Cain dicks up by saving the son (70)), the Tower of Babel, Sodom, the Exodus, & golden calf, the Flood, the destruction of the Midianites, Jericho, Job’s torments (wherein satan and god are found to be in “complicity” (126)). YHWH is generally exposed as a loser in these scenes.

Ends with the narrative of Noah’s ark, into which Cain is stowaway, and upon which he manages to savagely slaughter the crew, in order to wreck the Tetragrammaton’s plans. Ends with “but it seems likely that they argued with each other on many other occasions, and one thing we know for certain is that they continued to argue and are arguing still” (159)--which is finely reminiscent of the ending of Dunsany’s “The Probable Adventures of Three Literary Men.”

Recommended for readers skeptical as any man regarding the success of any enterprise born of a woman’s brain, persons ruled by such a lord, cruel as baal, who devours his own children, and those who admit to being directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and then behave as if nothing had happened, unless, of course, it’s not a case of real, authentic madness, but evil pure and simple.
Cosmopolis - Don DeLillo Nutshell: one-percenter gets haircut, an event worthy of 200 pages.

The less looney toons sibling of [b:American Psycho|28676|American Psycho|Bret Easton Ellis|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348400564s/28676.jpg|2270060] (“the logical extension of business is murder“ (113)), this text, contrary to my intentions, was not necessarily the correct one to brainbleach the Ayn Rands that I’d read immediately prior hereto--though her mantra regarding self-made industrialists, who nevertheless are heirs to massive fortunes, is given mock heroic treatment here as “self made,” “ruthless,” “strong,” “brilliant” (72).

Slick colloquy on chrematistics, “the art of money-making” (77), an odd phrase, as though currency were created ex nihilo, in a randian fantasy, by the mere intellect of the industrialist. Therein we see that “money has lost its narrative quality” (id.), which readers of Marx will recognize as the always already absent presence of repressed political relations inherent in currency, via operation of commodity fetishism.

We see that “clock time accelerated the rise of capitalism“ (79), and “it’s cyber-capital that creates the future” via transactions at intervals of yoctoseconds (79): “time is a corporate asset now. It belongs to the free market system. The present is harder to find. It is being sucked out of the world to make way for the future of uncontrolled markets and huge investment potential” (id.). Part of the process is the integration of protests against capitalism into its structure: protesters “don’t exist outside the market. There is nowhere they can go to be on the outside. There is no outside” (90). The protest itself is a “form of systemic hygiene, purging and lubricating” (99). When a protestor intentionally self-immolates, dumb cappy grover dill can only complain “it’s not original,” “an appropriation” (100)--a nice emblem of the proto-fascism described by Herf in [b:Reactionary Modernism|1220628|Reactionary Modernism Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich|Jeffrey Herf|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348826536s/1220628.jpg|1209109] regarding insistent “authenticity,” which emblem reiterates here: “To pull back now would not be authentic. It would be a quotation from other people’s lives” (85).

Noted as “the hallmark of capitalist thought” is “enforced destruction” (92), a spectre from Benjamin’s ninth thesis on the philosophy of history: “old industries have to be harshly eliminated. New markets have to be forcibly claimed. Old markets have to be re-exploited. Destroy the past, make the future,” apt reference to capitalism’s continuous process of revolutionizing the means of production (92-93).

Recommended for persons undead living in a state of occult repose, waiting to be reanimated, those driven by thinking machines that they have no final authority over, and persons with asymmetrical prostates.