This book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampl...moreThis book made me nostalgic of the good ol' days of Western imperialism. Ah, nothing like waking up to the markets of the former Ottoman Empire, sampling the Asian teas from the top of a pagoded camel, smiling at your Mohammedean fez-headed domestic servant condescendingly... ahh...
Apparently, Imperialism can be a good thing. Countries of old British colonialism were given decent infrastructures (in exchange for total subserviance), not to mention America's two big post-occupied nations of Japan and Germany... Ferguson, after going through an exciting history of America's imperial escapades up to World War II, gives the reader a good sense of post World War II America as the almost-Empire--always nervous to utter the "E"-word, always one foot in and one foot out of the pool. "We're going to leave any time now" seems to be the American mantra Day 1 of any occupation.
Ferguson was actually able to sway my personal stance on the Iraq war, though it would not be a popular opinion among most Post-Mid-Term Election Americans. Unfortunately, the last third of the book lags as Ferguson begins to show the economic side of imperialism, and me, not one for the numbers, was admittingly a bit lost.
Still, a good book to learn about Free Trade, Liberal Empires, and somber realities. (less)
Reading for the second time para book club. Here are some of the ideas/questions I pretentiously sent out to everyone (my kind of big takes on The Cor...moreReading for the second time para book club. Here are some of the ideas/questions I pretentiously sent out to everyone (my kind of big takes on The Corrections):
"I distrusted book clubs for treating literature like a cruciferous vegetable that could be choked down only with a spoonful of socializing." – J. Franzen, Why Bother?
1. Last time Heidi talked about Zizek and this is what I have been able to find (exclusively on wikipedia). This is my Chip impression:
"In his deployment of the category of "ideology", Žižek finds the notions of ideology in Marx "The German Ideology" - which center on the notion of "false consciousness" - to be irrelevant in a period of unprecedent subjective reflexivity and cynicism as to the motives and workings of those in authority. (See The Sublime Object of Ideology) It can be argued however that Žižek's most original aspect comes from its insistence that a Lacanian model of the barred or split subject, because of its stipulation that individuals' deepest motives are unconscious, can be used to demonstrate that ideology has less become irrelevant today than revealed its deeper truth."
We also talked about Zizek's ideas of the "Western white male gaze" which forces everyone to conform to Western White Male standards—"minority lit (African-American, Jewish, Indian, etc. (all literary subcategories)), "The Egyptians treat their women with…", objectified women—and on this note, I am having a tough time figuring out how to talk about Denise. Though I find Gary and Chip to be in conversation with larger social forces, Denise seems too real—the tone of her section is different, softer and more sympathetic. I also do not know how to talk about her sexuality (and then being a self-conscious western white male I really don't know how to talk about her sexuality) and then I wonder if a western white male can adequately write females? Thoughts on Franzen's characterization? How do you talk about Denise?
2. We've focused on Franzen's conflicts of the personal and the social—see Why Bother? :
"I didn't know that Philip Roth had long ago performed the autopsy [of the social novel], describing 'American reality' as a thing that 'stupifies…sickens…infuriates, and finally…is even a kind of embarrassment to one's own meager imagination. The actuality is continually outdoing our talents…'" (Why Bother 59)
"Writing is a form of personal freedom. It frees us form the mass identity we see in the making all around us. In the end, writers will write not to be outlaw heroes of some underculture but mainly to save themselves, to survive as individuals." – Don DeLillo (Why Bother 96)
In what ways does The Corrections play between the social and the personal? Franzen depicts a hyperized culture that is continually assaulting the individual… He lets his characters blame their faults on society. Are there bigger ways that the social and the personal conflict (besides Chip blaming everyone else for his girl problems)? Did we talk about this with Enid and Alfred?
3. The characters seem to be battling meaninglessness, disorder, and nothingness. "They could hardly wait to tell him he was nothing" (636); "For the second time in an hour, somebody was clinging to him, as if he was a person of substance, as if there were something to him" (628); "I'm going to die if I stay past Sunday. I will literally cease to exist." (633); "He'd betrayed nothing." (13); "He needed a monument to his need" (10); "It seemed to him, as he silenced the TV and hurried into the kitchen, that he was failing even at the miserable task of falling properly apart" (89); "The shame and disorder in his house were like the shame and disorder in his head" (96); "Gust after gust of disorder" (3). Just a few. [Page #'s may vary]. How is the novel handling meaningless, disorder, and nothingness? What is meaningful, order, and somethingness?
I snagged this off of my boss's shelf in my recent obsession with minority conflict and I was not dissappointed. Forman lays out Black-Jew relations d...moreI snagged this off of my boss's shelf in my recent obsession with minority conflict and I was not dissappointed. Forman lays out Black-Jew relations during most of this century with a keen eye for large sociological trends. The book focuses on how Blacks are seen through Jewish eyes; sometimes partner, sometimes persecutor, and always a rival for the coveted "minority" status in America.
While Jews tend to assimilate and then reach back to their roots, and thus, become Un-American, Forman argues that Blacks were seen as moving in the opposite direction--that in order to gain American status they needed to seperate themselves behind ethnic walls. Jewish writers began thier careers as American writers and they would only have been discovered as such. Black writers began thiers with "black" books before being accepted as "writers" without a hyphenation. He documents the rise of the Jewish left and its militant alliance on Black Power and the rationalizations of Anti-Semitism. He introduces the neo-conservatives and their reactions to the New Left liberal frenzy. All throughout this book is the story of the self-conscious Jewish community, struggling to be the middleman between Black culture and White culture and being flatly rejected by both.
"While the Jewish neoconservatives were more forthright in admitting the limitations of their program for Jewish culture, both movements [New Left] were singularly committed to achieving political objectives consonant with Jewish safety and freedom, rather than the search for Jewish meaning in modern America."
It is a sad thesis; that Jewish groups were so preoccupied with their safety and political clout in America, neglected their Jewish culture and religion. Forman warns of the cold reality of Judaism today--that lost in the discussion of minority rights and the American public square, they have neglected to include the "Judaic" and Jewish religion remains outside of the American consciousness. (less)
A very concise manifesto of America's major ills, the most chronic our inability to curb our habits of over-consumption. Knocks down everything you ho...moreA very concise manifesto of America's major ills, the most chronic our inability to curb our habits of over-consumption. Knocks down everything you hold dear and then proceeds to give you very few answers on how to fill those gaps...
Informative, but loses because there are no accompanying maps of Israel - Palestine or the Allon Plan, which is cited throughout. A good critical look...moreInformative, but loses because there are no accompanying maps of Israel - Palestine or the Allon Plan, which is cited throughout. A good critical look at the beginning of the settlement movement, but a terribly misleading title, which makes me suspect that the author was afraid of what the reaction to his book might be. Follows individuals but doesn't give a good overall picture of the major settlements, and only spends a few paragraphs in the epilogue talking about the current manifestation of the settlements as commuter cities. Though seemingly balanced, does not do a good job talking about how the settlements constrict Palestinian movement.
Overall a good read, but I suggest further reading to round out what you might be missing as you go through Accidental Empire. (less)