This is an interesting and exciting book that goes beyond the standard identity-politics discussion in a way that I think urban British thinkers are p...moreThis is an interesting and exciting book that goes beyond the standard identity-politics discussion in a way that I think urban British thinkers are particularly able to do, because we are more integrated and multicultural in everyday life than the US, and less old-fashioned and institutionally racist than many continental countries.
A LOT of quotes from the sample:
It will make the case for expanding and extending the realm of subjects and topics we talk about when we talk about race, for race is important to aspects of our lives that we don’t usually think about in racial terms. Rather than regard race as the possession of particular groups or individuals, I suggest that it is more useful to think of race as a practice we are all invested in ‘doing’
One of the things that this book is invested in working against is the propensity of work on race to trade on the illusory guarantee of racial embodiment or the rhetoric of experience. While it is customary and good practice to acknowledge one’s social and cultural situatedness, this situatedness does not necessarily afford knowledge or understanding that is permanently closed off to others. Certainly, my status as a self -hating left-wing ambivalently ex-working class whitey intellectual [from a highly multicultural area of London*] will have had some bearing on some of the things I have found it interesting to write about in this book, and it will have brought with it its own insights and oversights, but this is not to suggest that I am any more or less qualified to write about race than anyone else. Race is not a ‘minority’ subject, and its importance is something I very strongly feel we should all work to understand better: race is everybody’s business.
A longstanding and still very common belief that people hold about race is that it is something that will eventually go away. For some, this belief is based on the anti-racist conviction that assigning people to different races is simply not a valid thing to do, and that through education and understanding we will get to the point where we no longer categorize one another in these terms. For others, it is someone’s personality; that once we get to know what they are ‘really like’ then their racial identity doesn’t matter any more and we stop thinking of them in those terms. Because in both cases it is felt that ideas about race – and particularly the negative and destructive ideas associated with racism – stem from ignorance and unfamiliarity, the suggestion is that race is something we can overcome, get around or see beyond.
once we are able to acknowledge that race is about more than just racism – which will necessitate some critical thinking about the position of racism in a lot of existing race theory – then we are better placed to think in a less judgmental sense about the profound ways in which we’re all mixed up with race . This involvement we all have with race does not necessarily result in racism.
This book accordingly sets itself against some approaches (admittedly now rather old-fashioned, but still very dominant) that are committed to thinking about race primarily as an identity that people ‘have’: that we are either born with it, or that it is given to us (willingly, or otherwise) by others. These kinds of approach do not always rule out thinking about the racial meanings of things like music and clothes, but they tend to think of music and clothes as expressing or commenting upon those pre-existing racial identities. In other words , while in these approaches there is a relationship between race and aspects of consumer culture, racial meanings are necessarily thought to come before consumer culture. In these approaches, consumer culture is understood to represent raced people in particular people in particular ways, but it is not itself considered to be a place where race itself ‘happens’. While this book is interested in ideas about representation, it is
very much committed to challenging the notion that race is something that precedes acts of consumption. Rather, I’m interested here in the ways in which racial meanings are generated through practices of consumption. We often define and redefine our own racial identities, our relationship to others and so on, in social and cultural practices that take place within consumer culture. There aren’t necessarily any more ‘important’ sites of racial meaning outside of consuming practices that underpin the generation of racial meaning.
This kind of critical perspective therefore represents a move away from the commonsense but actually fallacious idea that race is somehow ‘attached’ to people and their bodies, which in turn provides them with or represents a racial identity.
treatment, it should be taken as read that its meaning is thoroughly cultural, and that it does not and cannot exist outside of this. This does not mean, as the facetious and anti-intellectual riposte typically has it, that we can just purposely invent racial meanings willy-nilly, changing the meaning of race simply by deciding to use the concept differently, for this is not how culture works. In the same way that the languages we speak and write are collective and collaborative affairs, the meanings of race involve collective and collaborative processes.
There probably is a bit too much exposition. But if you can't remember when you last got more than about 5 hours sleep, that is, frankly, absolutely f...moreThere probably is a bit too much exposition. But if you can't remember when you last got more than about 5 hours sleep, that is, frankly, absolutely fine. You'd miss anything more subtle. Unless, possibly, you're the ghost of Maggie Thatcher.
Can't put my finger on why, but I found this a little more clumsy and infodumping than Anne Holt. This one, in fairness, is a first novel and I've only read Holt's later books.
The crime is a typically bizarre and fantastical event - the murder and dismemberment of a beautiful man who was the figurehead of a cultish evangelical-type church in the far north of Sweden. (The first chapter tells us that he was unconscious or dead before the really gory stuff happened, which makes it somewhat less horrible. There also isn't a huge amount of detail about the mutilation and we hear about how hideous it is more via living characters' reactions than through descriptions of the corpse.) It's common for murder mysteries to have a female victim who's portrayed as alluring; this is the first time I can recall one featuring a man who's considered hot by one or more characters (also inaccessible and ethereal due to his religious asceticism). Making it even more of a role reversal, he was once romantically rejected by the central detective characters, Stockholm lawyer Rebecka Martinsson, when they were both small-town teenagers.
One of the main reasons I'm reading these things, aside from the armchair tourism, is for the normal-working-life aspect of the investigators and supporting characters, it's mostly about work rather than the endless cooking and ruminating scenes that populate the mundane side of litfic, and seem somehow less realistic in terms of what takes up the headspace of someone who actually has a job. Thrillers and crime fiction are mostly about people doing stuff, literary fiction about thinking. (Sometimes you want a break from all that second-hand thinking.)
Some aspects of the investigators' private lives may be a little soapy, but there is something normal about them - in massive contrast to the crimes. That aspect I'm less keen on - though at least their removal from reality must make them less threatening to many readers. Whilst physically possible, they seem not a great deal more realistic than wizards and ghosts - something I hadn't quite realised before this year, not having read much crime fiction in book form since my teens, and which I'm surprised isn't pointed out more often. The action-thriller denouement of The Savage Altar was great fun - however I have a lot of respect for the storylines featuring grubby regional news kind of crimes in the Danish series Unit One; I also like social realism in an easily readable form alongside vicarious travel.
It's understandable that some reviewers don't much like Rebecka: she snaps at people frequently, she's irritable about 70% of the time, spends another 10% strongarming situations her way by quoting legislation, and if someone wants to compliment her, they call her 'fierce'. But "nice cop" DI Anna-Maria Mella is also there as a balancing force in the narrative. (It's interesting to have two parallel investigations going on where the author doesn't favour one character over the other, this is no Holmes v LeStrade setup although Martinsson doesn't see it that way.) Like Sarah Lund, Martinsson reminds me of my mother as I saw her when I was a kid, not in a way that's weird or uncomfortable, but enough that on a deep level she strikes me as unusually realistic because of a primal sense that "that's what grownups are really like", especially as regards work and dealing with people in public. Though of course, a lot of them aren't.
Four stars because I enjoyed its cheesy B-movie imperfections and excellent showdown. Having ended up with three of this series unread - 2 & 3 on special offer, got 1 to start in the right place - I'm really looking forward to reading about Martinsson and Mella again (which is more than I could say for Anne Holt's Johanne Vik, whose series I started in the same way). I suspected that I'd find the sort of female characters I wanted to hear about in crime novels more than I did in litfic - where the emphasis is on what they're doing, not a set of ideas about Being A Woman that I'm expected to relate to but don't - and here I was right.
And four stars proudly because I don't want to modify based on 'perceived quality' in a nod to snobbery. Optional rant under spoiler tag. (view spoiler)[At the moment I'm sick of sustained posts about humourless and unapologetic snobbery and especially the promotion of it on Goodreads as something to grow into, not out of. (Me aged 18 would have fit in with it much better...) Yes, reading more can refine taste, and that's fine but what happened to all the other broadening of human understanding and wisdom that reading allegedly promotes? If a hobby runner said that anyone who couldn't run a 10k in under 40 mins was an embarrassing weakling, it would be perfectly obvious to people on here what that looked like. That they weren't actually diminished by others' slowness, and that they were unnecessarily dismissive, by applying one measure of worth that's irrelevant to many, of people who never had an ability they happened to have, of those who had it latently but preferred to or had to deploy their energies elsewhere, and those who no longer could, temporarily or permanently. However, I shall still roll my eyes at those who are so PC that they believe that the words 'idiot' or 'stupid' should be excised from one's vocabulary. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
**spoiler alert** a) This is a review of the film, not the book. b) It contains fuckloads of spoilers. Bad films can be fun, but this, whilst watching...more**spoiler alert** a) This is a review of the film, not the book. b) It contains fuckloads of spoilers. Bad films can be fun, but this, whilst watching it, was the wrong kind of bad, although it's somehow more fun to remember. (Just remembering the highlights, probably.) There were few laughs until about half way through. At least I enjoyed spotting cast members from Lilyhammer - same as recognising Danish supporting actors in films after The Killing and Borgen.
The set-up of Headhunters is a beta versus alpha male pursuit / vendetta - later revealed to be [a pointlessly wacko way of doing] industrial espionage. Roger Brown - typically Norwegian name there, but presumably his parents were British, handily for international sales - is a corporate headhunter with a Napoleon complex. He's short, weedy, red-haired and knowingly tries to make up for his sense of inferiority by exercising power over high-flying executives, having a huge house he can't afford and a supermodel-esque wife he's constantly scared of losing. Oh, and by indulging in a bit of art theft, to help pay for the mortgage and gifts for the wife. As a protagonist he's a hard sell: he's cold, socially manipulative, not particularly attractive, and he's already got a lot of what mr. average viewer who feels 'beta' would probably like in life. There's no sense of art or irony in any of the characterisation. Telling the story from his viewpoint helps elicit some sympathy. But it's hard not to see the easiest solution as being to stop stealing stuff and wait a few months until he comes to the full realisation he needs to get a divorce and sell the house.
At the opening of an exhibition, Brown meets Claes Greve, a suave, square-jawed 6ft+ half-Dane half-Dutchman who's recently taken early retirement in his mid-30s after selling his GPS company to Americans. Greve owns an illicit Rubens, missing since the Second World War; his grandmother had been given the picture by a German soldier she slept with. Obviously Brown decides to nick this rare treasure with the assistance of his henchman, whom he'd placed at a private security and alarm company. (Strangely enough, everyone he decides to steal from turns out to have their alarm with this company.)
Brown find his wife's phone in Greve's empty bed and vows that Greve will never get a job in Norway. Thereafter a bizarre and macguffinish cross-country manhunt of Brown by Greve ensues, including a number of guns, dead bodies, car crashes, the obligatory Nordic-thriller scenes in country cabins, and miscellaneous extreme survival situations. (It has that background sense that it's who you are in those situations that really counts, something I admit I've carried around with me as long as I can remember, even though with this health, no amount of willpower and effort could make me as hard as Sarah Connor.)
The most absurd stupid-action-movie scene in the whole thing is when Brown, now brown because he's literally covered in shit after hiding in a cesspit, has been mauled by Greve's mastiff, impales said mastiff on a rusty forklift in a barn in self defence, then steals the forklift, and goes rumbling and creaking along the night-time road away from his pursuer, still with the dead dog attached. Those who can't help thinking about things like septicaemia may be relieved to know that soon afterwards he gets medical attention before continuing his adventures, the filmmakers not having abandoned logic in every single area. Although re. how many car crash scenes feature a razor which a survivor could use to shave his head, I am rather sceptical.
I looked at some other opinions on Headhunters the film after writing this and was surprised how well it was regarded. I don't watch a lot of recent films, but can accept that it probably is better than many for relying on real, just about possible, stunts rather than on CGI and shakycam. By comparison with films 30+ years its senior though (my usual yardstick - though admittedly man of those are modern classics) it was absurd because the characters' motivations were barely existent to flimsy.
In the end, the whole business functions to transform Brown not into a paranoid, injured wreck, but a warmer, more confident and less materialistic chap who's happy with his height and loved by his glamorous wife. A paintballing weekend would have been less hassle though. And less cheesy. Apparently the story is supposed to comment on corporate ethics, but even the average episode of The Brittas Empire did that better. 11/09/14(less)