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)
Having heard great thinks about Christopher Hitchens as a writer and rhetorician, I was excited to read a work by him. Ultimately, I came away mostly...moreHaving heard great thinks about Christopher Hitchens as a writer and rhetorician, I was excited to read a work by him. Ultimately, I came away mostly disappointed.
The Good--Hitchens' research is extensive, and his writing is easy to read. He does a good job establishing that many people throughout history have done terrible things in the name of religion and also effectively argues against claims like a particular religion has an exclusive hold on morality.
The Bad--I found Hitchens' rhetoric sorely lacking. For example, Hitchens never clearly defines his key concepts. Furthermore, when he does find examples where religious figures did something ethical and admirable, he essentially says "That doesn't count" with little explanation. For instance, Martin Luther King Jr. heroically fought for civil rights "as a profound humanist." Because "no supernatural force was required to make the case against racism," the fact that he was a minister is inconsequential. Somehow, Hitchens knows that, to put it in scientific terms, if we changed this variable, the outcome would remain the same. He makes a similar move in regards to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose beliefs, according to Hitchens, weren't religious but "an admirable but nebulous humanism." Although some Christians risked their lives to help Jews in Nazi Germany, their actions can't be associated with religion because they weren't doing so on advice from the pulpit (evidently, Hitchens has access to all messages delivered from Nazi Germany pulpits). It's interesting that Hitchens criticizes (and rightfully so) the Mormon church for posthumously baptizing untold numbers of people who never self-identified as Mormons, but he feels comfortable redefining religious figures like King and Bonhoeffer as humanists whose religion doesn't really matter much.
I was disappointed to find that God Is Not Great belongs in that giant heap of books in the religion-atheism debate that fails to fully engage and treat fairly the side of the issue it is attacking, criticizing the obviously problematic but avoiding grappling with the meaty issues. Thankfully, there are philosophers such as Derrida, Badiou, Eagleton, and Agamben (the latter two who are/were atheists) who are doing/have done just that.(less)
So much about this book seemed forced. The songs a character likes often passes for character development. The "experimental" parts of the book seem p...moreSo much about this book seemed forced. The songs a character likes often passes for character development. The "experimental" parts of the book seem pointless (and this coming from a person who loves experimental fiction)--I basically skipped the second half of the graph section. And the text conversations are painful in so many ways, none of them on the emotional level. I was really looking forward to reading this but was extremely disappointed.(less)
Thoroughly researched, but I frequently found myself wishing Davis did more with all the information she presents. The presentation to analysis ratio...moreThoroughly researched, but I frequently found myself wishing Davis did more with all the information she presents. The presentation to analysis ratio seems extremely one-sided in favor of the former. To make matters worse, she frequently piles on information that does not move the argument along and instead documents a characteristic or tendency that she has already firmly established. There are some interesting moments interspersed throughout but not as many as there could have been given the rich information Davis was able to find.(less)