This wasn't what I expected it might be, namely an overview of appearances of surveillance in literature and how such scenes and elements have been us...moreThis wasn't what I expected it might be, namely an overview of appearances of surveillance in literature and how such scenes and elements have been used. Instead, the book is much more concerned with examining how literature and surveillance overlap and have aspects in common, such as constantly for better, more accurate ways of representing and making sense of the interior Other. While there are literary examples, there are as many or more drawn from philosophy, law, and other fields, and it's far from an overview of fiction, poetry, etc. and more of an extended consideration of how conceptions of self v. other, interior life, allegory, and so on have changed over time through both writing and surveilling. So while it wasn't the book I thought it would be, it was fascinating and compelling in its own right (despite a few slower bits due to my own unfamiliarity with some of the source material).(less)
This book was strong on offering examples of different ways [mostly Western European, almost entirely men], writers have written about walking, and th...moreThis book was strong on offering examples of different ways [mostly Western European, almost entirely men], writers have written about walking, and those examples were generally compelling. But the book as a whole suffered from something like a lack of ambition: it didn't try to reach any conclusions, or make much connection periods, writers, or ideas about walking — each chapter was themed around walking in nature, the pilgrimage, etc. but there was little tracing out of how one period led to another. There was also little attention to how the actual writing these walkers did was impacted by walking, or how literature overall was impacted. So the book ended up as a list of examples with a lack of argument or conclusions — there isn't even a concluding chapter to wrap it all up, in fact, so the book just ends — so while it's often quite interesting it also quite low in its stakes.(less)
It was a joy to go back to the Tintin stories and look at them through a new lens. The earlier chapters here, regarding political contexts and especia...moreIt was a joy to go back to the Tintin stories and look at them through a new lens. The earlier chapters here, regarding political contexts and especially the roles transmission, (mis)reception, etc. play in the stories were most compelling to me. Some of the later sections (the Castafiore's Clit chapter, in particular) felt a bit strained at times: just as fascinating, but a bit further from the text, which wasn't a problem but it did make them feel a bit less "urgent" (for lack of a better word).(less)
Very mixed feelings about this book. Schulman's interpretations of examples ranging from Verne and Huysman to Echenoz, Tati, and Queaneau were convinc...moreVery mixed feelings about this book. Schulman's interpretations of examples ranging from Verne and Huysman to Echenoz, Tati, and Queaneau were convincing and often enlightening, particular his argument that whereas earlier eccentrics (ie, 19th century) were marked by their willful, resistant lack of control, modern eccentrics—like Toussaint's character Monsieur, or Tati's M. Hulot—are marked by their insistence on taking control of time and space rather than being overrun by them. On the other hand, the argument is made so ahistorically that it the longer it went on the more its interpretative bubble felt artificial. There's no engagement of culture, politics, economics, etc. beyond the pages or frames of his examples, not even to consider the relationships between these characters and archetypal figures like the flaneur, or between these stories and the derivée, or the politics of 1968, and so on.
This was particularly frustrating in terms of gender, a factor Schulman acknowledges ignoring completely but excuses because he's adhering to 19th century definitions of the eccentric and asking how they've persisted or adapted a century later, and those 19th century definitions were only ever about men. Which may be true, but repeating that earlier omission only exacerbates the problem rather than avoiding it. So I was left distracted by wondering if these types of eccentricity are even available to female characters, as the character of the flaneur wasn't available a century earlier, which led me to wonder about any number of other omissions acknowledged and otherwise. Which is not to say any book is responsible for covering everything a reader might ask for, but in this case the admitted avoidance of significant complications undercut the whole project a bit, at least for me.(less)