Just read through the first of seven sections. I do not know how to criticize poems.
If our task as writers is to defamiliarize, then how is this (fro...moreJust read through the first of seven sections. I do not know how to criticize poems.
If our task as writers is to defamiliarize, then how is this (from "My Unopened Life"):
The bowl of the spoon collects entire rooms just lying there next to the knife. It makes brief forays into the mouth delivering cargoes of ceilings and convex portraits of teeth posing as stalactites of a serially extinguished cave.
I like the enjambments: the odd use of the prepositional "next" and "into" at the ends of lines 2 and 3 of this stanza seems to add energy to the movement of the line.
If we are to give credence to the google ranking algorithm - an algorithm that says "something is more or less important depending on the importance o...moreIf we are to give credence to the google ranking algorithm - an algorithm that says "something is more or less important depending on the importance of other things that link to it" - then we cannot avoid Marx: too many great thinkers have been greatly influenced by him, and entire fields of study, such as sociology and critical theory, either began with him or were deeply influenced by his analyses.
I myself, being the children of refugees from Stalin, had to always fight an aversion to Marx simply because of the blind, almost superstitious ideologues that attached his name to their movements. Anytime someone believes that "X is true because Z says it is" has lost me. And they've really lost me when they begin killing millions of people because of what they believe Z wanted.*
But this, I'm seeing, is unfair to Marx the philosopher. He was a product of a passionate, romantic age, that era right after the French Revolution, and the unfilled promises of that event drove, in one way or another, all of the people of his age. We know what he couldn't have known: the romanticism of the 19th century morphed - some would say inevitably - into the murderous horrors of both the Soviet revolution and the Third Reich. But what of Marx himself?
It seems that the failure of large-scale state socialism has been a blessing for Marx: he can decoupled from the high strung ideological debates of most of the 20th century and be seen, not as the prophet of a movement, but as a subtle, complex, interesting, and dynamic philosopher (which is to say, changeable and open to many interpretations).
And his work can be examined without fear; you can even be a Marxist and believe in free markets, if you wish. His ghost won't come and throw you in a Gulag. Marx, himself seeing the fanatical tenor of the movements rising in his name, famously declared, "I am not a Marxist." (From what little I've been able to get, he had a professed contempt for the kind of moralist thinking being used to justify the means of those movements, and he saw where it would lead and that it would not work.)
Marx famously named the notion of ideology itself and is called the first sociologist, because he pioneered the analytical techniques used to study social arrangements. So, in one sense, he created a field of inquiry that had at its root questions about fairness and freedom.
Although this book does not go so lowbrow as to note this, Marx's notion of ideology is given a wonderful allegorical treatment by the first "Matrix" movie, a Marxist film if there ever was one. Not only is all that we see and believe in social life a constructed hallucination, but it is our energy and desire that is being used to power the apparatus of that common hallucination. I think the filmmakers wanted us to get this: why else would they have Neo open a book by Baudrillard, an avant garde Marxist philosopher himself? In any event, it was Marx's great passion to free people from that hallucination, or at least to become aware of the apparatuses being used to build it.
Much of that ideology-generation happens in literature - consciously or unconsciously - and because of his subtle and insightful analyses, critical theory owes a great debt to Marxist thought, indeed they seem to vine around each other from root to crown. There are riches to be had in this branch of critical theory and I myself would like to explore it quite a bit more than I have.
* I think it is a great irony, maybe a telling historical paradox, that although state socialism did fail, where they were not in power, Communists, especially in America, did a great deal of good.
Even more of an irony is how much more prosperous and humane our own free market society became because of their influence. (Although much work remains.) Communists and Socialists were the primary forces behind the movements that led to these things we all like: 1) having weekends off and workdays limited to 8 hours rather than the 12 or more that was the norm in the late 19th century; 2) free public education through High School; 3) protection of children from unfair labor practices; before those laws were passed, many children as young as ten were not going to school but working impossible hours in coal mines and factories. A right wing Supreme Court tried to abolish the laws designed to protect them, but that time at least, progressives did carry the day; and 3) higher wages and benefits.(less)
The title is too modest, this book seems to me a useful and excellent survey, although if I had to choose between them, I'd take the Stephen Bonnycast...moreThe title is too modest, this book seems to me a useful and excellent survey, although if I had to choose between them, I'd take the Stephen Bonnycastle book, "In Search of Authority", which does the same work even more strongly.
The "Very Short Introduction" books, as a whole, are very useful.(less)
I don't know if this is a great novel or a well written one. Perhaps if I were to read it now, I'd have an entirely different opinion of it. It was a...moreI don't know if this is a great novel or a well written one. Perhaps if I were to read it now, I'd have an entirely different opinion of it. It was a book that introduced me to the teachings of the Stoics, Epictitus in particular, teachings I have to believe Wolfe admires and which he illuminates very well in this novel.(less)
In brief, this book is one case where I'd urge readers of this review to go find more interesting reviews of it to read, I imagine this one has spawne...moreIn brief, this book is one case where I'd urge readers of this review to go find more interesting reviews of it to read, I imagine this one has spawned passionate comments from thousands of readers and writers. The beginning two sentences read like a revelation:
"Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading, at dawn fast over the mountains split."
I wish I could remember those lines each morning when I wake up. The curious thing is that the book itself reads like an extended poem, or a prose poem, and I don't know how it can be categorized. I love the book simply for those first two sentences - that's enough, actually, for me, and I could stop there and be happy with it.(less)
This is an anthology of short fiction intended for writers. It is a large collection of very strong short stories categorized by the point of view in...moreThis is an anthology of short fiction intended for writers. It is a large collection of very strong short stories categorized by the point of view in which they are told. It's interesting not only for the many possible points-of-view it explains (and there are many more than I would have imagined there being) but for the excellence of the work included. If I have any complaint, it is that this volume is in an old-fashioned paperback form with small print on smallish pages.(less)
The novella included in this collection "Hunger Strike" is very intriguing for the questions it raises but doesn't answer. It is as beautifully writte...moreThe novella included in this collection "Hunger Strike" is very intriguing for the questions it raises but doesn't answer. It is as beautifully written and haunting a piece of fiction as I can remember and completely transporting.(less)