The major problem I have with this work is that it often oversimplifies the criticism and writers it argues against. For instance, Hungerford argues t...moreThe major problem I have with this work is that it often oversimplifies the criticism and writers it argues against. For instance, Hungerford argues that "the very autonomy of the text in de Man's account threatens to replace, or rather to erase, not only the writer, then, but also the text's own existence as writing" (65). However, in his work on autobiography, de Man argues not that the text replaces the writer, but that it determines the writer just as much as the writer determines the text. They don't replace one another so much as continually produce one another. This complexity is also missing when she claims that Roth "turns persons into texts" (139) and not the reverse. If people can be turned into texts, it seems clear one ramification is that people are textual, which opens up the possibility of personifying texts.
In this same vein, she reads the use of personification by Felman in discussing Holocaust survivor Simon Srebnik's return from the dead as "no longer metaphoric and abstract but real . . ." It's fairly clear that Felman does not believe she is resurrecting Srebnik but his experience. Personification, after all, is figurative.
Her reading of "Maus" also reduces Spiegelman's complex work to a simplistic text. She argues that Art's calling her dad a murder because he burned his mother's diaries posits that people and texts are the same thing, yet she misses that we don't have to view this use of "murder" as literal but rather as an accusation of figurative killing. In writing about Art's use of another's memory to depict some scenes, she claims that "In the practical work of forging narrative connections with the past, then, one’s own memory becomes irrelevant; someone else’s narrative provides the material for one’s own" (91). However, the work instead seems to be arguing that our memory is dependent upon others' memories. Our memory is both ours and others'.
There are other problems I have with the book, particularly her dismissal of the problems that arise from a Bellow character comparing the Holocaust to a Native American slipping and falling to his/her death as well as her choice not to engage with how Roth's "Operation Shylock" complicates her claims about his fiction. Overall, an unsatisfactory work.(less)
A post-apocalyptic zombie book set in Baton Rouge. If you're looking for much of a plot, this isn't the book for you. Because the novel takes place in...moreA post-apocalyptic zombie book set in Baton Rouge. If you're looking for much of a plot, this isn't the book for you. Because the novel takes place in a world in which zombies are a quotidian part of life, the novel focuses on daily habits and the mundane and includes numerous philosophical musings on the undead, their civil rights, undead-ness, etc. The footnotes at times interrupt the plot while not adding much to the text, but otherwise, I enjoyed the re-casting of the zombie novel into the everyday. As a Baton Rouge native, I connected with the locations, but I have no idea how much of it had to do with my familiarity with the city. (less)
My favorite personal account from an American in China so far, Chinese Lessons focuses on the rise, conclusion, and long-term consequences of the Cult...moreMy favorite personal account from an American in China so far, Chinese Lessons focuses on the rise, conclusion, and long-term consequences of the Cultural Revolution and the rise of Chinese capitalism since. The book reports the Cultural Revolution through the author's classmates at Nanjing University, some of whom were among the perpetrators of the violence and oppression, some of whom lost family members via extremely violent means, and some of whom were affected in less extreme ways.
Pomfret admirably juggles telling their stories and his time in China, including his coverage of the Tiannamen Square protests and his subsequent deportation from China due to his attempts to gather information on the events. Pomfret creates a persona the reader can easily relate to as he speaks of many of his classmates with admiration and concern while also expressing his utter confusion at how some of them can support the very party that inflicted emotional and physical pain on their families and themselves. As a result, Pomfret is able to illustrate the complexities and contradictions of China, a country run by a Communist Party that brutally persecuted some of its top leaders and now espouses socialism while embracing capitalism. (less)
This book has all the positives and negatives of NPR reporting. Gifford's research results in interesting theories on why China is developing and evol...moreThis book has all the positives and negatives of NPR reporting. Gifford's research results in interesting theories on why China is developing and evolving as it is. Unfortunately, it also has moments where Gifford tries to do too much with too little. For example, he claims that a KTV worker/prostitute sings her sadness through a karaoke performance, communicating so much he can't understand. It's a tad melodramatic. However, the former outweighs the latter, and Gifford manages to produce a very readable book without reducing the many complexities of modern China.(less)
Derrida's last interview can be useful as an introduction to his work or a look back. When considered as the former, it is a clear, brief overview of...moreDerrida's last interview can be useful as an introduction to his work or a look back. When considered as the former, it is a clear, brief overview of the concepts important to his work. As the latter, Derrida's retrospective examination of his own work provides fresh insight to it.(less)
An informative look at the rapid transformation of the Chinese economy and culture since its opening up. For example, the sudden explosion of car cult...moreAn informative look at the rapid transformation of the Chinese economy and culture since its opening up. For example, the sudden explosion of car culture in China helped me to understand the apparent lack of driving laws (they exist but don't seem to matter much), the constant traffic, and the indifference of pedestrians to oncoming traffic. What I like best is that Gerth, like Jonathan Watts, is quick to note the West's complicity in the ever-worsening environmental problems in China, foregoing any simplistic expressions of superiority.(less)