brian 's Reviews > Stolen Identity

Stolen Identity by Amber Rigby Grosjean
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Oct 01, 08

did not like it

Three things from the get-go about Monsieur Derrida: he is, in no order of significance, (1) controversial, (2) allegedly passe, and (3) dead. The latter two points deal specifically with fashion and biology and shall not be presently addressed, except to note that Derrida expired as recently as 2004, purportedly of cancer but more likely of malignant obscurantism, which--untreated--often proves deadly. Let this serve as a delicious threat to Frederic Jameson, who somehow still endures.

As I have claimed often and elsewhere, Of Grammatology is the closest to entry-level Derrida available. But don't go warming up a cup of hot cocoa in your "I'd Rather Be Parasailing" earthenware mug just yet. This isn't exactly a book to snuggle up with by the fire under your fleece blankie with Kenny G's "Songbird" playing in the background... (Actually, I think I would surely detest whatever book fit snugly into that particular tableau.) I'm going to lay it right out here: This is a difficult book. I know, from a snooty, New York Review of Books kind of perspective, it's untoward if not flat-out indecent to confess that a book is a difficult book because it seems to advertise the moral failing of the reader: i.e., "I'm not smart and/or well-educated enough! I might as well get back to my Chicken Soup for the...Soul books or go trim my toenails or something."

Do I expect this review to convince any reasonably sane person to pick up this long, challenging work who either (1) had not been previously intending to or (2) isn't some kind of mega-ultra-weirdo? Of course not. But if it unexpectedly should persuade anyone, then at least let him or her or it be forewarned: Certain stretches of this book will make you (assuming, again, that you are reasonably sane) wince in the manner of great Swedish actress Ingrid Thulin when in Bergman's Cries and Whispers (a.k.a. Visningar och rop) she placed a piece of broken glass into her Tunnel of Love. (Yes. Ouch is right. Although I'm only extrapolating, being myself without a Tunnel of Love.)

But wherefore read such a piece of crusty, dried-out old dog poo sitting in the merciless August sun and inset with beetle hulls and miscellaneous undigestables? Well, it's the ideas, stupid. Locating some ideas isn't always as easy as walking to the other side of the street, you lazy-ass freak. Sometimes you, like, might even have to pack a large duffel bag stocked with dehydrated foodstuffs, first aid supplies, and portable jack-off materials and then, only then start out on a trek across mountains and untamed wilderness, like a neo-Zarathustra in Keds and cargo shorts. But be sensible. Say goodbye to loved ones, make sure the faucets are all off, and take a cell phone; feeling duty-bound, we want to be able to locate your floating, bloated corpse in the mucky river by the sound of your Soulja Boy ringtone.

Get to the fucking point, Brian. Yes, Mommie Dearest. This book seeks to address the boundaries of knowledge and metaphysics vis a vis language. In other words, our implicit confidence in our language gives rise to a number of so-called problems or contradictions which are in fact neither, absolutely, but only products of language. In other, other words, language is always hopelessly fraught with embedded ideologies which are disguised as self-evident truths. In other, other, other words, many philosophical arguments (as well as historical interpretations, psychological models, sociological precepts, etc.) are riddled with ill-fated attempts to transcend the limits of language, to start at a mythic ground zero out of which absolute truth may be deduced... And so on and so on.

Derrida is controversial, meanwhile, in that he is viewed as a literary theorist interloping in the field of philosophy, espousing relativism, playing word games, and working overtime to pooh-pooh most accepted philosophical ideas and methods. I don't agree with any of these criticisms, by the way, because they are obviously the conspiratorial opinions of a consortium of dickheads, shits-for-brains, and your typical heads-in-assers. Anglo-American (read: analytic) philosophers especially tend to pop a few blood vessels over Derrida; they think him a master of sleight-of-hand and philosophical chicanery. Needless to say, these are all "empiricist" assholes, but we shouldn't be afraid to share our green bean casseroles with them at potlucks or donate blood, fearing it might perpetuate their bloodlines. To each, his or her own, even if his or her own happens to be a big pile of cockadoodie.

One (finally) final word: I would suggest, for any mega-ultra-weirdo intending to read this, a light hors d'oeuvre of a Beginner's Guide to Derrida before embarking. You know, those goofy books with all the cartoons and dangerous oversimplifications? They'll point you in the right direction as you gnaw on your fiberboard granola bar and head out into the deep, dark wilderness. Alone. With only delusion, despair, and death as your retinue. Good luck and have fun, kiddos!
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This may be the greatest piece of writing I have ever read. From the cover, it looks like (1) Derrida's gonna get laid and (2) Derrida waxes his chest. Viva la Stolen Identities!


message 2: by brian (last edited Oct 01, 2008 10:51AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   thanks david.

upon completion i thought all the sperm and poo references were a bit infantile, the tone too coy smug and one-notey, and the bergman references kind of beating-a-dead-horse... but, hey, what do i know?

heh.


message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica No way, Brian, you're being way too modest. This is definitely the best review you've ever written. Keep up the great work!


brian   evil evil girl. evil.




message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I was overlooking the obnoxiously smug, cutesy, one-note aspect of it and concentrating on the reference to the "I'd Rather Be Parasailing" earthenware mug. Now that's great writing.

DFJ doesn't go far enough, Brian. This isn't the best review you've ever written; it's the best review ever written, period. Go out and celebrate. No other reviews need be written...

(Wait til I review Borges, punk.)


brian   oh boy...


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

You know, Brian, I have a shelf called "covers-i-love" and you might want to start one yourself. This cover is stunning!


message 8: by brian (last edited Oct 01, 2008 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   if i had the skills, i'd photoshop your current avatar onto the blank spot in the upper right corner... kind of a ghostly ghastly montambo-spirit floating over all the decadence. love it.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

That would be so gorgeous.


message 10: by [deleted user] (last edited Oct 01, 2008 11:51AM) (new)




message 11: by brian (new) - rated it 1 star

brian   wow. that's almost as good as my review...



message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica OMFG.

I nominate Montambo as spooky-undead-doll-girl-Fabio for the new millennium!


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Wow! I walk away from GR to beat a second grader at chess (YES!!!!!) and I come back to glory and honor.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

This is going to give me the edge on EllenJSmellen in the top profiles for sure!


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah My favorite part:

I know, from a snooty, New York Review of Books kind of perspective, it's untoward if not flat-out indecent to confess that a book is a difficult book because it seems to advertise the moral failing of the reader: i.e., "I'm not smart and/or well-educated enough! I might as well get back to my Chicken Soup for the...Soul books or go trim my toenails or something."


message 16: by Manny (new)

Manny I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of sympathetic to the analytical tradition. I use that kind of stuff in my work all the time. It's pretty well thought out.

I've tried to get into Derrida... a good friend of mine really likes him. She persuaded me to read an overview/intro book, and it was admittedly interesting. But when I read his famous paper on Différance, which she said was the right place to start, I just wasn't impressed at all. It seemed to me that he was confusing two quite separate things: the difference between the signifier and the signified, and the difference between two signifiers. I decided he was a fake, albeit a very entertaining one.

Just before Ingrid Thulin does her thing with the bit of broken glass in Viskningar och Rop, she says scornfully to herself and the world at large, En härva lögn ("Just a pack of lies"). I don't feel that strongly about Derrida, and I do understand that the basic idea of deconstruction is interesting and important. But it seems to me that something went wrong, and it became a theoretical framework that was way too easy to abuse. Analytical rigor is boring, but it keeps people from committing certain excesses...



message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

MANNY! ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY! Yuck!


message 18: by Manny (new)

Manny David wrote: "MANNY! ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY! Yuck! "

You gotta say this much for GR: the flame wars are conducted at a higher level than usual :)



message 19: by Traveller (new)

Traveller LOL, now i need to go and see what you wrote under Force and Signification and Of Grammatology.

In fact, i'm now tempted to write a review of some Derrida too, but you've gone and spoiled it...nobody can do satire as well as you. (Nobody i know of, anyway)
I remember how much coffee I ended up snorting all over my keyboard over your Twilight review..


message 20: by Traveller (last edited Oct 14, 2012 12:37PM) (new)

Traveller Manny wrote: "I hate to admit it, but I'm kind of sympathetic to the analytical tradition. I use that kind of stuff in my work all the time. It's pretty well thought out.

I've tried to get into Derrida... a goo..."


..but the thing is that Derrida waffles on dramatically in very emotional and colourful language. He doesn't just say something and get on with it and let you read him, get done and get on with your life. You have to listen to him waxing forth all around the subject before he finally gets to it.

Like you say, reading about what Derrida says is a million times more bearable and interesting than reading it in Derrida's own words.


Amber Ok. I'm confused here. Its the cover of my book but the reviews don't make any sense. Its like you're reviewing a different book but put my cover on there with it. And then someone took the cover and added their own touch to the image. What's going on?

Amber


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