David's Reviews > The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language

The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language by Michel Foucault
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's review
Aug 19, 2010

bookshelves: maybe-later, france
Recommended to David by: Peter Mendelsund

I might as well admit it up front. The reason I bought this book last week was that the cover was hot. Hot as in attractive. It wooed me. (No, it's not this 1980s green-and-purple nightmare you see on your computer monitor now. As usual, most of the Goodreads librarians are too busy playing hall monitor and tossing Otis's salad in the Goodreads Feedback group to attend to cover design updates. So we're left with this cover. An unusually competent librarian has since added the cover and it appears on this page.) (Did Patrick Nagel dabble in pomo?)

So apparently I am a cheap graphic design slut who can be had by any well-dressed taker. I'll just go ahead and own my shallowness. But imagine my surprise (won't you) when I got home, Foucault-in-hand, so to speak, and came eye-to-eye with the ugly yet totally tubular 80s edition from Pantheon already on my shelf! It was actually bookmarked with a Target receipt (for cat food, cheap wine, cottage cheese, et al) from December 2004... on page 14! I never even made it out of the introduction before I reshelved this ugly fucker!

What was the reason? Too dense? Too boring? Distracted maybe? Whatever the case, I'm going to assume that if the cover had at least made an effort (aesthetically) I would have zipped right through it as if V.C. Andrews wrote it. Didn't I finish Discipline and Punish and Madness and Civilization? You bet your ass I did. Because those covers, while not boner-inducing, were more appealing than this one. At least in a bargain-basement-Magritte-becomes-a-Scientologist kind of way.

So while I was defecating just now, I read the first two pages in the new Vintage edition, and I can already tell you that it's greatly benefited by Peter Mendelsund's cover design. I mean, the cover made reading it totally not horrible this time! Admittedly, I haven't made it to the upper limit of my first attempt (Page 14), so it still has time to tank. But I already enjoy holding the book much more.

Alright. I admitted that I'm a shallow design bimbo, so I guess I should lay it all out there now... There's really very little chance I'll finish this thing, is there? Maybe if I do two pages a day on the crapper. Baby steps, right? I just don't have the mind for this kind of thing anymore. Plus, whenever I think of Foucault in my head (because where else would I think of him really?), I picture Telly Savalas -- because they were both bald and most often photographed in the 1970s. I even picture the lollipop. But in my head, he has the voice of the black bald guy who was on the 7UP commercials in the 1980s ('The uncola!'). How am I supposed to take this amalgamated human being seriously when he's telling me that my assumptions about knowledge are dumb?

Wow. I'm really setting myself up for failure here. Did I ever mention that when I was young, my vocational ambition was to be one of the people who dressed up like characters at Disney World? Yeah, that didn't work out either... So why should this? {Despairing sigh.}
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Comments (showing 1-43 of 43) (43 new)

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Ellen You're telling us you're a slut, like we didn't know?

This is an ugly sucker - I didn't like it either. Read Discipline and Punish (you'll like that cover too, slut) or The Birth of the Clinic.

message 2: by Michelle (new)

Michelle There's really very little chance I'll finish this thing, is there?

David, I have faith in you. You can do it!

message 3: by David (new) - added it

David I've already read Discipline and Punishment and Madness and Civilization. I got a fourth of the way through The Order of Things. We'll see what happens...

Ellen I should have checked your book list first. What about The History of Sexuality? Oh wait, you're a guy. Of course you've read that...

message 5: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! I'm shocked you're reading in the bathroom.

message 6: by Jason (new)

Jason Eh! Bridge-Humper wrote: "I'm shocked you're reading in the bathroom."

Me, too. You should sell it on ebay, with a picture.

Whenever reading Foucault is getting tough, I drink a glass of milk.

message 7: by David (last edited Aug 19, 2010 04:56PM) (new) - added it

David Mike Reynolds, do you want to buy a gently used copy of Michel Foucault's The Archaeology of Knowledge with an ugly cover that wouldn't be out-of-place aesthetically on the set of TV's Saved By the Bell and seems to depict either a seashell or a vortex of totalizing obscurantism from which no mortal shall ever escape alive? Because you can have it for one Andrew Jackson. And that's with the BFF discount.

message 8: by Jen (new)


Is this it?

And, David, get the hell out of the hall. You don't have a pass.

message 9: by David (new) - added it

David That is it! Is that from the Powells website? That's the only picture I could find of it online -- and the resolution is not very good. Why is this design being kept such a closely guarded secret?

message 10: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal I can't help but imagine Telly Savalas's naked body emerging from a pool of milk.

Didn't he have a reputation for hiring prostitutes to shit on glass coffee tables as he watched from below? David must be some sort of medium, that's why he likes to do his reading in the toilet. Or maybe it's just crap-in, crap-out.

message 12: by David (last edited Aug 19, 2010 05:30PM) (new) - added it

L-R: Savalas, Foucault, the 7UP guy.

message 13: by Jen (new)

Jen David wrote: "That is it! Is that from the Powells website? That's the only picture I could find of it online -- and the resolution is not very good. Why is this design being kept such a closely guarded secret?"

Yes, from Powells. And I would tell you more about the design and all but we librarians are kind of busy with Otis and all.

message 14: by David (new) - added it

David Don't talk with your mouth full.

message 15: by Jen (new)

Jen Which reminds me of this:


message 16: by Michelle (last edited Aug 19, 2010 06:17PM) (new)

Michelle ^^^


Oh. Wait. This isn't Facebook...yet.

Edit* RE. 13 & 14. Cross post.

message 17: by karen (new)

karen i put the other cover image up. it doesn't match the publication data, but it will do for now, yeah?

message 18: by karen (new)

karen oh, now i see jen already posted it - i thought i was being all slick. can't beat jen!

message 19: by Bibliomantic (new)

Bibliomantic This book is such crap, but somehow I enjoyed reading it. I have the snail shell cover that looks like a pregnant woman's belly on the right side.

message 20: by Tosh (new)

Tosh Foucault's book on Raymond Roussel is a must.

message 21: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins The book on Roussel is the only Foucault I've read. I'd love to read it again.

message 22: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins Your Vern comment led me immediately to a Sprite commercial he did where he mocks the uncola. I remember that Great War of the Clear Sodas fondly.

message 23: by David (new) - added it

David I don't even know who Raymond Roussel is. I'm ignorant.

But I know who Vern and Ernest are.

message 24: by Tosh (new)

Tosh Raymond Roussel is so...awesome. Impressions of Africa. Check it out. Its hard to find and I work at a bookstore. Maybe your local library. But he's a mind twister and a total fascinating character. In a funny way he reminds me of Ed Wood Jr.

message 25: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Aug 20, 2010 11:24AM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio There. Now it's like the megaphone is aimed at your sleeping (?) face, David, screaming "Wake up! Read me while you shit! Fall asleep from boredom on the toilet!"

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I imagine the megaphone letting out an air horn blast every time the reader dozes off.

message 27: by Kimley (new)

Kimley As a graphic designer, I feel I've done a good job if I can make others want to fondle my work while on the crapper.

message 28: by karen (new)

karen "unusually competent" may be the nicest thing you have ever said to me.

message 29: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Aug 20, 2010 10:30PM) (new)

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Huh? I added the new cover. It was still the green and purple nightmare one until I changed it and announced so in message 25. What is this weirdness? I was wondering what you were talking about in message 17. I'm so confused.

message 30: by karen (new)

karen i didn't delete the cover, but i added it onto the other edition, which did not have a cover. are you looking to fight me?

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Bloodlust, yup. Nah. I'm just (and still) confused. Look at the librarian change log. It's still like the cover didn't appear changed from where I was sitting until I did it myself, though you clearly did it before me. It's just odd is all.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Or did the editions get merged only after the fact? Is that why we're both on the same librarian change log?

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Never mind. I'm dumb. I get it now.

message 34: by karen (new)

karen dunno - i figured i would keep the ugly cover on this edition and give david the option to switch to the other edition or not, if he wanted his review to make sense, still. but i guess that was unclear. you can have the hero medal on this one, if you want. i will go back to being "usually incompetent" in dk's eyes

message 35: by karen (new)

karen yeah, see - if you look at the log under "all editions", there i am, hello!! but if you just look at "this edition", it is just you alone.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I thought I was the "unusually competent" one since I only noticed David's change right after mine.

Hero medal? You're silly.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio karen wrote: "yeah, see - if you look at the log under "all editions", there i am, hello!! but if you just look at "this edition", it is just you alone."

I know! I admitted to being dumb with all that already.

message 38: by karen (new)

karen that is what they call a cross-post, on the internet. it is what happens when one person is typing typing typing, but at the same time the other person is typing typing typing, and they cannot see the things each person is typing until after and then ka-boom!! confusion and temporal collision.

i will go to bed now so it does not happen again.

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Aw, don't be sore. I was just genuinely perplexed.

message 40: by David (new) - added it

David Play nice, kids.

message 41: by karen (new)

karen no, i was showing off my internet knowledge!! like what the kids say and all!! i was teaching you terminology!!! why does everyone always think i am angry on the internet?? i am NICE!

message 42: by Greg (new)

Greg David, will you be purchasing anymore of the new fancy Focault covers, uhm, I mean books?

message 43: by David (new) - added it

David Greg wrote: "David, will you be purchasing anymore of the new fancy Focault covers, uhm, I mean books?"

Based on this book... no.

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