A short review for a book that has had a deep impact on IR theory (apparently). I did not like it. Let me just say that this is despite the fact thatA short review for a book that has had a deep impact on IR theory (apparently). I did not like it. Let me just say that this is despite the fact that I love stuff that is deeply procedural/logical, etc. The fabric of life is entirely absent from Waltz's book - and not just because it exhibits poor writing. What is present in abundance is someone deep fetishistic fascination with an idea without regard to its limitations or its consequences. So yeah, I did not like it....more
I do not know much about the theory of the novel and the novel in the sci-fi genre. Suffice it to say, that Card touched some of the most elemental asI do not know much about the theory of the novel and the novel in the sci-fi genre. Suffice it to say, that Card touched some of the most elemental aspects of the human condition in this book (and, by extension, in Speaker for the Dead).
My first response upon finishing Ender's game was to scream out loud to my girlfriend: "This is Todorov". But beyond a myth of contact (something Todorov uses to describe "The conquest of America", it made me acutely aware of the weakness of a procedural ethics that would limit contact or sanitize it to only limited conditions.
Let me explain: The brilliance of Card's two novels is in his treatment of the protagonist Ender. Ender's greatest strength is both his desire to understand (and see this same desire in others) and to take risks in order to advance co-learning. Here, I am specifically thinking of a moment in Speaker for the Dead when, despite the xenologist's protests, Ender makes demands on the piggies. Procedural ethics (of the sort that the xenologist's followed) would have strait-jacketed contact entirely. Indeed, insofar as life is more meaningful through contact, the xenoogist's hesitancy yields results not too different from those who would destroy the piggies altogether.
All in all, I think this is a fantastic book. My regret about discovering this book so late in life is easily overcome by my joy in having read it. ...more
There are two things that troubled me when I read this book:
1) Why does Nagarkar's ability to demonstrate music's ability to transport us into an 'intThere are two things that troubled me when I read this book:
1) Why does Nagarkar's ability to demonstrate music's ability to transport us into an 'interstitial' space leave me cold? Let me clarify: Music transports me as well, but it is usually to a foot-stomping place (a la, pop music); I am left cold because though I yearn for the experience, I only understand it as theory. Try as I may, Indian classical music puts me to sleep - something I am ashamed of. Nagarkar's gift to me, despite my earlier denunciation of his work, is to needle me with this absence in my life - the absence of music that can move. Not with the peg of lyrics (that is how, I think, he describes lyrics - a peg to hang music on), but through itself.
2) Why is my own inner life not as voluble as that of the characters in nearly all his novels? Is it that I move through the motions of life without thinking? In my earlier reviews, I noted that Nagarkar invades the space of his own novel in a very ungainly fashion. That may still hold true (even though the forays of his own voice in this novel were a lot more structured - and consequently, mellifluous). Nevertheless, in denouncing his anti-aesthetics perhaps I was subverting my own accusations against myself; what I took to be ungainly forays might have been evidence that others think a lot more deeply than I ever can.
In any event, I do not get a sense of everyday life in his novels. The depth of thought is so great that I feel that the philosophical ground covered by his characters might have taken a few minutes or a few days at most. The reason I think so is because no one can sustain such an engagement with life over a life-time, let alone remember its lessons. For which reason time seems to remain a problem for me when I read his novels. That is not say that he fails - instead, like his needling on music, it is a call to deeper reflection.
I suppose my reaction to "Cuckold" is structured by two anti-theses, which I explain shortly. But before I do, I need to provide a short background. Whenever I come across a new book (academic or not), I make it a point to find a picture of the author (this technique, as you will see, does not work well with those whose portraits are all we have). So the anti-theses:
1) Thesis: The picture reminds me that this person, whoever s/he is, shits, pisses, loves, hates, cries, fears, etc as everyone else. For which reason, nothing this person says is inviolable - I should not be seduced into thinking that because this is a book ("and since it is in a book it must be true") it has truth embedded in its very structure
2)Anti-thesis: Precisely because this is written by a person, whoever s/he is, who shits, pisses, loves, hates, cries, fears, etc as everyone else, I must pay heed to what is being said. It would be not the sanctity of the book that would encourage my consideration of it; the sanctity of life itself demands my engagement with it.
The problem I have with "Cuckold" - or to put it more directly, the book's greatest strength - is that it makes me acutely aware of these anti-theses.
(Neither "God's Little Solder", nor "Ravan and Eddie" manage to do this in a sustained manner... less so the latter than the former)....more
What is it with Nagarkar and the film industry in Bombay? Nearly everything you read by him has (by way of a preface or post-script) some mention of hWhat is it with Nagarkar and the film industry in Bombay? Nearly everything you read by him has (by way of a preface or post-script) some mention of his failed attempts at converting his books into a film. Yes, yes! Heroic expressiveness opposing a faceless commercialism is inspiring, but, to put it directly, a little too repetitive. Dwelling on this brush-off reveals too easily our own acceptance of cliches and the author's own insecurities by proudly revealing his wounds. To quote Sean Connery "sometimes it is good to hold things in". (on which point, has he ever considered that the medium of commercial film might harbor deeper truths than what his novels can ever reveal?)
There is one compliment I will generously part with - his books are easy to read, and, despite his voice intruding in the most ungainly manner, it is not difficult to keep up with the narrative.
About the voice, I have a few reservations. Yes, his books are both philosophical musings and social commentary rolled into one (isn't the latter the entire purpose of the novel? as it emerged in Europe, I might add!). However, there is a skill needed to pull it off - a skill that can mask the difference between showing and telling. I am afraid Nagarkar can only manage the latter. Of course, I am secretly comparing his 'voice' with that of Kundera - an unfair comparison, considering the vast gulf that separates the two (the gulf I am thinking of is not only ability, but the subject matter).
Some reviews of the author's corpus have highlighted his bravery in addressing difficult questions. Here, it might be appropriate to point out that Indian cinema - both commercial and artistic - has focussed on the Bombay chawls extensively. The very themes that the author pursues here have been brought to life more memorably (and with a far wider audience than the author's feeble works could ever hope to attain) than the characters in this book.
There is also an inherent danger in this book - a danger that reviewers comfortably ensconced in plush surroundings might too easily forget. Nagarkar does not romanticize poverty. Instead, he romanticizes his own capacity to disrobe the romanticization of poverty.
Of course, in all of this, I have not said anything about the book itself. My invective against him is perhaps both a testament to the power of his narrative skills and my inability to understand the fawning praise heaped upon him by a minuscule audience.
I might also add, that my desire to understand this misplaced enthusiasm has only served to enrich Mr. Nagarkar by Rs 890....more
While the lyrical fanaticism in praise of new literary upstarts has led some to sardonically emphasize the Sir in Sir Salman Rushdie (and assert his cWhile the lyrical fanaticism in praise of new literary upstarts has led some to sardonically emphasize the Sir in Sir Salman Rushdie (and assert his cultural whiteness to boot!), it is with books such as these that the much maligned author asserts his belief in the persistence of difference in even the most syncretic themes.
In so doing, while the author cannot silence his critics (indeed, that would be furtherest from his mind), he does succeed in reminding readers of a possibility where the East and West could meet and where homelessness is a theme not to be maligned, but to be praised. Indeed, it is by confronting his critics' fascistic adherence to space and time that Rushdie inspires the vitriol regularly leveled at him.
The Enchantress of Florence is a Mughal Princess who eschews the warmth of hearth and home, and instead embarks on a journey to the West (and one might add, to freedom). The Enchantress of Florence is also a tale of a Mughal Princess told my a traveller from the West who has come to the court of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.
Deploying his unrivaled mastery of the medium of Magical Realism, Rushdie involves himself in the telling of the tale (rumors are rife that the Enchantress is none other than his estranged wife Padma Lakshmi). But that reading could only survive at a superficial level. The storyteller within the novel is as much a ruse of Rushdie's as the Enchantress is a ruse of the story teller. And Rushdie makes this abundantly clear; Rushdie's voice is everywhere and the novel is his desire to entertain his audience. And what a yarn he succeeds in weaving....more
As with most commentators, I think that the book is an easy read and does not compromise on depth.
Nevertheless, to the extent that Klein's book will e As with most commentators, I think that the book is an easy read and does not compromise on depth.
Nevertheless, to the extent that Klein's book will encourage new questions, one in particular stands out: To what extent is the corporatist empire that Klein so vividly describes a monolithic entity? Is it possible that the various branches of capitalism are, on a few central issues, directly opposed to each other?
In other words, is Klein's book a historical investigation that points to the difficulty of peace in our age (if the concept of peace is itself not a by product of earlier attempts to refashion the world), or does it illustrate a fundamental re-orientation in the economic interests of capitalist forces?
That being said, it is the great strength of the book that it does not pretend that the recent past was any more peaceful; Klein makes abundantly clear the violence inherent to any project that imagines another culture as a tabula rasa or terra nullis.