response to cb:
i have been entertained or even delighted by many novels. in my teens i read *lord of the rings* a dozen times or more. in my twenties it was wodehouse: i read all hundred novels, more or less. thirties: well, for one thing noir: hammett and especially chandler. etc., and i've read a lot of the classics, some of which i liked a lot, and many of which i thought were absurdly overrated. now i don't doubt that a decade in middle earth or blandings castle had some effect on my personality. but no more than watching a lot of sports on tv, or driving a honda and many other activities. the novel is an excellent form of entertainment. you just need to stop bloating your little pleasures into a profound, world-transforming and person-transforming Truth. people (mostly lit professors) have tried to understand all human life and personality in terms of the novel: as 'narrative constructions.'
you'd better keep this pretty amorphous. there have been novels that actually had some real effect. supposedly goethe's *sorrows of werther* gave rise to a suicide fad, for example. other than that it's stuff like 'the invention of the human,' or a kind of deep insight into the zeitgeist or something: you'd better keep it at that mega-wooly level where the assertion just kind of sounds profound but has no actual content, because actually novels are just little rectangular objects with ink stains, which basically don't do a damn thing. yo that's ok!
if it's any comfort to you, i regard philosophy the same way, more or less. it's not implausible to argue that locke, or marx, or confucius, had dramatic social effects. but that's three out of thousands. (however, no novel has ever had those sorts of effects.) i fully expect my books to have no effect on anything, and i'm good with that. it's like my hobby or whatever; i find it intrinsically absorbing, and that's why i do it, and that's good enough to keep me going.
you should get worried if i start saying that 'life itself is a philosophical treatise,' or 'we are the polemical essays we compose,' or that the structure of the universe itself is a syllogism. or when the dude at the honda dealership likens world history to a sales pitch. the novel has no more claim to reflect the very structure of consciousness and the nature of reality than does carpentry, or free jazz, or gastronomy, or gardening, or driving, or playing board games, or bird-watching, now if you're thinking that all of these are significant because they fall into a narrative structure, i say, first: that's not true. and second: it would work just as well the other way round: a novel is like a house, or like a meal, or like a commute.
reading to my kids has been one of the great pleasures of my life (right now i'm in princess bride with janie). so i like the sound of this. the head-on-the-chest thing is evocative of many tiredly delighted, loving hours with emma, sam, hayes, vince, and jane. unfortunately i haven't always lived full-time with my kids. still whether it's every night or just weekends, it's often an hour at night and half-hour in the morning. one frequently thinks of one's difficulties and failures as a parent; this i think of as a success.
friday night jane asked me: how do you always know the right time to stop, when i'm just drifting off? well, for one thing, if you pause and she doesn't pipe up, that's it: not exactly telepathy. but also: i've been doing this for over twenty years. i know what i'm doing!
a correspondent named tamer makes me aware that there are translations of art of living and obscenity, anarchy, reality in turkish. well!
i published a corrected version of spyder's rebellion to nook (epub format).
while i'm at it, let me say this about e-readers. i've been using the kindle for the better part of a year. i do use it and even like it. for one thing, my house is filled to the point of collapse with books. but i do have some problems with it. first, i would say the idea of a mechanical - as opposed to a touch-screen - device, is over, or getting there. that makes me wish i'd gone nook or ipad. the process of getting the cursor to the spot you want to highlight, for example, is just obviously ridiculous.
what isn't sufficient in e-readers yet is, first, that you can't leaf through the book (maybe you can on an ipad?). the kindle's 'location' system is incomprehensible, and you often have to page slowly through whole big sections of a book to find the passage you want. you need processor speed and a dial on the edge where you can just roll through the text. and then there is page numbering: it makes the kindle (and i think the nook too) not fully functional for scholarship, as well as making it ridiculously difficult to find a passage you want. there has to be a system of systematic page numbering - one would hope, corresponding to the printed version - in all e-books, so i can for one thing, do references.
in short, judging by the kindle, i don't think the e-book is there yet.
i just uploaded a kids'/ya e-novel about overthrowing a middle school. though the main character is a girl, it's based on my revolution against alice deal junior high school in dc, and some of my daughter emma's subversive adventures at carver high school, towson, md. it could actually be a manual on how to drive your principal literally insane, which my little guerilla band did do circa 1972. it's published on kindle at amazon and in multiple formats at smashwords.
i realize that if you buy it, you'll pay $4.99. however, i'm broke and i get like $3.50 for every copy sold
ok she shot her teenage kids on the way home from soccer practice because they were 'mouthy.' in other news, amy chua is still on her book tour.
We will see that, like a particle, the universe doesn't just have a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe, just as the observations of the particles in the double-slit experiment affect the particles' past. That analysis will show how the laws of nature in our universe arose from the big bang. (Grand Design, chapter 4)
i'm going to skip the disclaimer deferring to the super-intelligence of richard feynman etc. also i'm not gonna take another shot at the retroactive past right now. but i just want to point out that the idea that 'the' universe originated uniquely in a big bang is incompatible with the rest of the passage. the universe has every possible origin. surely the steady state theorists weren't wrong: if that is one of the possible histories, it is precisely as actual as the universe(s) that originated in the big bang.
i think hawking is going to argue that we don't need god to explain anything. true, true, but if god is possible then he's as actual as you and me (which is not very, i admit, in this cosmology). if it is possible that god created the universe etc...the only rational position is both to believe and not...in anything, really.
"richard feynman was a colorful character," writes hawking. and an incredibly dull old sod who never recovered from being dropped on his head as a baby. and also he didn't exist at all. he was mercurial like that, as well as colorful.
is a universe that obeys newton's laws all the way down a possible universe? then it is an actual universe, and since in that universe the quantum events that give rise to the 'every possible history' approach do not occur, that universe does not have all possible histories. so if that universe is possible, then it is not the case that the universe has every possible history.
what we're supposedly looking for is an 'elegant' theory that will help us explain future observations. (elegance was #1 to future observations' #4 in hawking's standards for the goodness of theories). you might want to ponder just how elegant 'the universe has every possible history' is. i propose that there could be no less elegant theory, no lusher or more teeming ontology. that's fun! that's cool! but by hawking's own standards it is bad. (well, i guess strictly speaking we might get an even more lush ontology from the claim that the universe has all possible and all impossible histories. i'm kind of surprised that that wasn't hawking's approach. perhaps further double-slit experiments will demonstrate that as well; but at this point it's only speculation. still it seems to explain a lot!)
of course elegance is a complex concept, as hawking acknowledges, and for all i know this gives you the fewest or the simplest equations. but in the old ockham's razor sense ('don't multiply entities without necessity') this is, very precisely, the least elegant possible account.
on the other hand, with regard to the standard of delivering predictions likely to be borne out in future observations, the idea that the universe has every possible history works incredibly well. i predict, with regard to every possible event, that the event will actually occur. there i'm done! and science is entirely finished. thank god because that shit was wack.
alright then let me try this: the co-actuality of all possible histories (or indeed of more than one) is itself impossible. that is, considered as a single unique item every possible history is possible. hard to quibble there. but the co-actuality of histories in which richard feynman, that particular person, exists in one and not in the other is not possible. or what can we mean by 'possible'? probably hawking has physical possibility in mind along the lines of the laws of physics; would he recognize that it is impossible for feynman both to exist and not to exist? (to be clear: it is possible that feynman existed. and it is possible that feynman didn't exist. but it is not possible that feynman both existed and didn't exist.) if not, then i think he ought to drop the physical laws too; it would not of course then follow from the fact that these laws hold that they do not also fail to hold.
watcha readin, little crispy? reading (and teaching) paul butler's book let's get free: a hip hop theory of justice. butler is a relatively young black former federal prosecutor who's now a law prof at george washington. it's quite a remarkable book - or at least butler is a remarkable figure - in many ways. one would think of him as a liberal, among other things for his attack on high incarceration rates, his advocacy of drug decriminalization, his attack on racial profiling, etc: these are in fact the central themes of the the book.
if we really thought of the left-right political spectrum as coherent, however, there are massive surprising infusions of conservatism. for example, his "theory of justice" is purely unabashedly retributivist. he thinks that punishing criminals is a matter fundamentally of vengeance; that's justice. well i've often argued for that position, which gets rid of so much easy self-deceived blahblah. he purports to get this - as well as a heartfelt phenomenology and critique of a society that locks up so many of its people - from hip hop music. (he writes: "I fell in love with hip hop music on a crowded dance floor at Yale." well, that's our america, I suppose; yale is of course also where easy-e earned the notches on his ak.)
the position butler is most noted for is "jury nullification"; he thinks that american juries have a right to decide not only on the guilt of defendants, but on the rightness of the law they allegedly violated. his view cutting to the chase is that juries should refuse to convict young black men of non-violent drug offenses, even when they did commit the offense as defined in a criminal code. (jurors for justice)
the idea of jury nullification is straight-up don'ttreadonme teaparty hyperamerican reactionary excellence. in 1852, the great anarchist/legal scholar/abolitionist/argumentative prodigy lysander spooner published a gigantic book tracing the practice from magna charta to the fugitive slave act (when juries refused to convict those who harbored escaped slaves, though that was clearly against the law): an essay on trial by jury. (i'm gonna write butler to make sure he knows this work; well, i assume he does).
let's get free is a really passionate attack on our carceral society and a plea for reform. now it has some limitations. butler argues that lower rates of incarceration would make us safer. he takes himself to have "demonstrated" this, but really the wielding of statistics and so on, while suggestive, is impressionistic or even kind of careless; butler does not really go for the throat with an attempt at systematic knockdown argument. one reason for that is that the book is intended as a kind of light popularization of legal theory. that's what really accounts for book's other great weakness as well: there is very little depth of scholarship of any sort; there isn't even an index. this is particularly glaring on something like jury nullification, a serious defense of which would require much more care and erudition than butler displays.but i have to say that the basic idea of american liberties as a way to address racism and the prison-industrial complex is extremely compelling. butler surprises over and over; it's just a very creative way through the territory: fundamentally original. how many law school deans/federal prosecutors are going to come out in support of the baltimore stop snitchin movement? butler's discussion is remarkably nuanced but also excellent common sense.look one thing you have to admire and never see is someone with no particular affiliation; someone who thinks beyond or before the left/right split.
i also think the light touch and quick polemics are basically why my students are actually enjoying reading the book, and actually do seem to be reading it. if i were teaching trial by jury, i'd have two freaks out of 37 students reading along.quoted by butler: i'd free all my sons. still living for today, in these last days of time.
in the most recent new york review of books, diane johnson (author of le divorce etc, masterpiece of the "i was a crack ho...in provence!" genre) praises margaret atwood's dystopian fiction for its astonishing prescience, adducing the following example:
The action in The Handmaid's Tale takes place in Harvard Yard, where men are executed and and their bodies draped on the walls; the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates might have given Atwood an I-told-you-so moment about the approach of the punitive forces.
due to some offblog correspondence, i think perhaps i should pause to situate myself with regard to the susan-cheever-on-ayelet-waldman post below.
well. i don't write as a woman, obviously. and i also don't write as someone who is objective about women. i am a parent but not, as you might guess, a mother. i am the ex-husband of someone who writes in this vein with real wit and verve (i.e. marion winik), and i have been the subject of writings like this over the years, including in oprah magazine. i have had a lot of experience with the kind of thing cheever or waldman or knapp or winik or anne lamott write about: i am a recovering addict. i take twelve-step programs very seriuously and have explored them elaborately, and if i run into a using addict today i tell him or her to get his or her ass to a meeting. i have plumbed the depths of self-loathing and been treated with years of therapy and also all the available anti-depressants. and i am, of course, a writer, and occasionally write about my own life and problems
i am not saying that these things shouldn't be written about, or even that they shouldn't be written about in the way these women write about them. what i'm saying is: i think perhaps they need to think harder, try to get beyond the self-esteem drama into other ways of thinking about these matters, be suspicious of formulae and pat answers. some of them have and do to some extent.
but i think there is much else to be said, and much more truth to be revealed. i think the confessions are painful or provocative, interestingly salacious or sensational or not, but still overall pretty superficial.
hey it's great that an actual book in aesthetics, the art instinct, by an old acquaintance, editor, fellow-widener of the concept of art denis dutton is getting so much attention. i admit being skeptical of the basic idea, however: that since art is a universal human activity, it must have an evolutionary function (or several).from the fact that, let's say,the hot flash of menopause is universal, it doesn't follow that it's not just an arbitrary consequence of other adaptations, or even that the things it follows from are adaptive. but i have a feeling dutton knows stuff like that: notably smart dude.
yo if you're around philly, me and marion are reading at 7 this evening at the big blue marble bookstore in mt. airy. it'll be our essays on, um, middle aged sex. i knocked the bottom out of the topic.
watcha readin profcrispy?
two delightful books of rather different sorts. often when i'm down at ma's farm i pull something moreorless randomly off the shelf. this xmas it was main currents in american thought, the huge magisterial intellectual history by vernon parrington, published in 1927. at like 800 pages of grey hardback, it almost mumbles "boring." but it is not. parrington writes with great boldness and verve, and has particular talents for explaining ideas and for sketching personalities; when he dislikes someone, he gives a fair and utterly devastating and often extremely droll account of their lives. of cotton mather, parrington writes: "With a very lust for printer's ink, he padded his bibliography like a college professor seeking promotion; but in spite of all the prayers poured out in behalf of them, they would seem for the most part to have been little more than tupenny tracts, stuffed with a sodden morality, that not even an angel could make literature of." parrington sympathizes with anyone who embodies what he takes to america's liberal tradition, even to the point of sympathizing with the anti-federalists etc.
then: jonathan strange and mr. norrell, by susanna clarke. this is surely one of the most ecstatically blurbed books that ever existed, and they run like this: a bold mixture of jane austen and j.r.r. tolkien! harry potter for grown-ups! what it is, is a fiction that puts magic at the disposal of the english empire during the napoleonic wars. it is truly as hilarious a book as can well be imagined: the prose is a beautiful parody of the british writers of the era, with tremendous style and verve. clarke celebrates and annihilates all human foibles.
"'Yes, indeed! It is beautiful,' agreed the gentleman enthusiastically. 'And very hard to make. The pigment must be mixed with the tears of spinsters of good family, who must live long lives of impeccable virtue and die without ever having had a day of true happiness!'
'Poor ladies!' said Stephen. 'I am glad it is so rare.'
'Oh! it is not the tears that make it rare - I have bottles full of those - it is the skill to mix the color.'"
watcha readin, profcrispy?
path of the assassin, kazuo koike (script) and goseki kojima (art) (dark horse)
this brilliant work, by the same people who did lone wolf and cub, is appearing in english volume by volume (3 so far). it's the semi-historical tale of "the man who unified japan" in the 16th century (matsudaira motonubu) after a period of "warring states," and the ninja who "serves him in the dark," performing his dirty work, while also being his best friend and confidant. the study of the warlord himself, who starts as a geeky pre-teen, is stunning: a pudgy, ugly man of immense vulnerabilty and self-reflection who also turns out to be a tactical genius. the art as always is impressionistic, with great intensity and psychological expressiveness.
the ego and its own, max stirner (johann caspar schmidt, 1806-1856), trans. steven byington (cambridge)
i have always dismissed stirner on the basis of having read little pieces and on the basis of other people's condescension. even the editor of this edition, david leopold, is dismissive. stirner's egoism is indeed disturbing, or even repulsive, but it also yields tremendous leverage over the tradition and has a compelling quality that is itself disturbing to all received wisdom. the book is hard to deal with: a sprawling mass of material in which unbelievable insights are mixed with merely eccentric or psychotic moments. but it is also a signal achievement. for one thing a brilliant rejoinder to both hegel and marx. (stirner knew marx, who wrote a book attacking him). one thing that is striking: the tone is nietzche's, down to the stylistic eccentricities, and it would surprise me if nietzsche had not studied and been fundamentally influenced by the ego and its own, though i know of no evidence that this is the case. that stirner regards "classical liberalism" with its state worship and "humanism" as a direct outgrowth of christianity connects nietzsche's work directly with him. one should also connect stirner's "subjective" response to hegel with his close contemporary kierkegaard, and there is an "existential" element, confronting you with your own selfhood amidst the insufferable onslaught of history. this is a good candidate for the most underrated work of philosophy ever written.
the deed of paksenarrion, elizabeth moon (baen fantasy)
this collects in one volume a gigantic fantasy trilogy that is incessantly blurbed in comparison to tolkien. though the world is peopled by elves, dwarves, and orcs, there the comparison ends. it is episodic rather than epic, and depicts a young woman ( sort of joan of arc) who goes from sheepfarmer's daughter to "paladin of gird": a powerful warrior-sorcerer and healer. what kept me fascinated was the details: first of a soldier's day-to-day life and training, and then of a set of religious experiences and the political realities within which they play. there was something amazingly compelling about the main character, "paks," not a genius or anything, but blessed with unadulterated decency and sincerity. i believed her somehow, as a human being and as a saint.
it seems stupid and unseemly to worry about o.j. simpson. but the fact that american "book" "publishing" is dominated by the likes of judith regan, with her celebrity obsession and contempt for the written word, is always worth a tiny lament.
watcha readin profcrispy?
pierre-joseph proudhon: what is property? (1840)
as everyone knows by now, property is theft. that's a good sample of pjp's penchant for paradox: he's a wildly creative and bold prose stylist, as well as the first person to refer to himself as an "anarchist" (on the grounds that anarchy is order). but the philosophy is an awful mess: proudhon thought he was placing "the social question" on an indubitable scientific footing, which was the characteristic claim of his era in political philosophy. rarely has it been further from the truth: he's not even coherent, much less scientific. is he a christian or an atheist? an anarchist or an absolutist? even he doesn't know or, really, seem to care.
murray rothbard: conceived in liberty (4 volumes)
a history of colonial america. i'm midway through the first volume. it's an amazing performance: elegantly and definitely written, bristling with hard facts, with an angle (libertarianism). "arrant self-righteousness and a flagrant double standard of morality are often characteristic of the side with the superior weapons in any dispute," rothbard observes, apropos of virginia's slaughter and treachery with regard to native populations.
yirmiyahu yovel, spinoza and other heretics (2 volumes)
a very interesting contextuualizing of spinoza as a marrano jew, from a background of forced conversion and exile among iberian jews. many marranos practiced judaism (as they understood it) secretly and became very skilled at covert expressions of their belief. (an analogy: check out covert rasta themes in early jamaican ska: as in prince buster's "king of kings": "lion says, i am king, and i reign." meanwhile rasta compounds were being raided etc). yovel connects this very plausibly to spinoza's remarkable and remarkably vexing prose style, which reveals a radical philosophy, but also disguises it. however, i'd say he overplays this particular hand: every expression by every marrano and spinoza's every comma are analyzed as having this structure.
banksy: wall and piece
this stencil/graf guy from the uk is as good and interesting a visual artist as there is working today. his work is wild, subversive, and also well-crafted: "all artists are prepared to suffer for their work. but why are so few prepared to learn to darw?" he's a hero of my daughter emma: at least she's not into picasso and all that billion-dollar genius shit. i'm teaching a graf course in the spring as i mutate into a prof of art and art history: this will be a centerpiece. here are three pieces banksy did on the israeli wall between themselves and and the palestinians.
"the greatest crimes in the world are not committed by people breaking the rules but by people following the rules. it's people who follow orders who drop bombs and massacre villages. as a precaution to ever committing major acts of evil it is our solemn duty never to do what we're told. this is the only way we can be sure."
times literary supplement, febriary 24, 2006: "Then, shortly before converting to Protestantism, and while becoming increasingly depressed, Weininger fatally shot himself, in October 1903."
watcha readin, profofpain?
well, first of all, an amazing fantasy series: "the prince of nothing," by r. scott bakker. it's got gritty, fucked-up violence and political machinations a la george r.r. martin (whose last, "a feast for crows," was a bitter disappointment). but it's also got genuinely deep religious and philosophical insights: quite amazing. it's based roughly on the crusades, with a hero bound to appeal to the likes of me: a broken-down philosopher/wizard with an alcohol problem and a lover who's a ho. truly epic, with a set of histories and languages to rival tolkien, but featuring phrases like "bung-banger." "truth is where the sandal of the world meets the scrotum of man," says a prophet. marion keeps catching me sneaking upstairs to read in bed.
"john brown: abolitionist," by david s. reynolds. this starts kind of slow, with a lot of gratuitous foreshadowing in the contemporary fashion in pop nonfiction: chapters that end: little did anyone know that it would all in in victory: disastrous victory, or some crap. you can't have foreshadowing when everyone already knows the end. still, this is one of the most remarkable stories in human history: a man of shall we say limited effectiveness but limitless commitment, changing history by sheer perverse almost idiotic will. the tale gains remarkable momentum, and some of the best material is at the end, concerning the use of brown in as a symbol, first by emerson and thoreau, then by union troops, then in history. i just kept thinking: where is he when we need him? alberto gonzales? meet john brown. everyone chooses sides on brown: insane terrorist or hero of liberty? reynolds tries to seem neutral, but definitely this book is in the latter camp.
"the reformation," by patrick collinson: a tiny masterwork by an historian who has reached a degree of eminence where he doesn't have to fuck around: unbelievably fank and revealing generalizations are tossed off casually. i'm teaching a course in the fall called "the idea of freedom," and i had wanted to use this book. but i don't think i will, because it is not essentially about ideas, but rather events and personalities. i wanted it to explore the origin of individualism, but it didn't. still, i ran through it at a pace with pleasure.
meanwhile, my little anarchist book "against the legitimacy of the state" is almost done. i'd send it to you as a file if you wanna read it and tell me what you think.
The conservative magazine Human Events recently published a list of the most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries, as selected by "a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders." It was a predictable list, including tomes by conservative betes noirs Marx, Keynes, Kinsey, and Freidan. It was also wildly inaccurate. Herewith, the real and true list, as compiled by a panel of dozens of important experts, all of them myself.
(1) A.A. Milne, "The House at Pooh Corner"
Charming. Yet in its slight insipidity lurked the horrific possibility of the Care Bears.
(2) Roger Tory Peterson, "A Field Guide to the Birds"
"Mein Kampf" for bird watchers.
(3) Lao Tzu, "Tao Te Ching"
This book was so destructive that it literally wasn't written in the 19th or 20th centuries.
(4) Crispin Sartwell, "The Art of Living"
No one ever read this book. But after it came out, the world continued to crumble into a meaningless nightmare of pain.
(5) James Joyce, "Ulysses"
Don't ever let anyone tell you that this is a good book.
(6) Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Sympathy for the Devil"
This book was literally so destructive it wasn't even a book.
(7) Irma Rombauer, "The Joy of Cooking"
My mother's "bible."
There were way too many novels in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
(9) Ken Bain, "What the Best College Teachers Do"
They subvert your children's intellects with a bunch of subversive blabber, that's what.
(10) J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban"
First I had to read this twice to children. Then I dropped it on my foot and had to see the podiatrist.
yo, profcrispy, watcha working on?
well, i was writing a big book on anarchism. the first half was an attack on all the arguments for the legitimacy of state power; the second was the construction of an "emersonian" anarchism. i kept not really being able to organize or write the second half, though the first is close to complete. so now i've detached the destructive portions and intend to publish them as a short book. possible titles: "against the state," "philosophy bomb." i'm having some trouble selling it, though. pitched it to verso recently.
for probably twenty years or more i have been working in the back of my mind on the theory of truth. i've got what i think is an original approach to the question, which is good because if you ask me the going ideas are very played out and wrong. i've attacked it as a book at different times etc. but i have trouble moving from a kind of visionary, rhapsodic paean to truth as i understand it to something that could at least pose as an alternative to the correspondence or coherence theories etc. so i keep eeking out ideas and formulations. maybe i should give up on being able to give it to you in predicate calculus or something, but on this thing i sort of feel like rigor is required. maybe i'm also intimidated by my own conception ofr this project as a magnum opus etc.
so, profcrispy, watcha reading?
all on fire: william lloyd garrison and the abolition of slavery, by henry mayer
this is one of the best biographies i've ever read. a very good balance of detail with overall narrative thrust. i so should have ditched emma goldman and written about garrison in extreme virtue. i've been especially interested for years in the period 1820-60 in american radical politics. this is certainly the political tradition with which i would like to associate myself. it's the origin point of american individualism as i understand it; garrison is of course a christian anarchist; this is the ground on wich josiah watrren, emerson. and thoreau emerge. also adin ballou, john humphrey noyes, the efflorescence of feminism. garrison himself was an extraordinary...agitator i guess is the term.
jurgen habermas, between fact and norm
i have long identified habermas as the or at least an enemy. but there's no denying the force of nature or anti-nature. this is a magisterial summation of h's career framed as a treatise on the philosophy of law. you wouldn't have thought that our era was capable of generating a kant, would you? the systematicity is amazing, even if the philosophy is closed in on itself in a kind of insane inbreeding of technical terms (they'd better be technical terms, though one might hear them tossed around carelessly in ordinary conversation) that have only one another for company. i think probably i've unfairly thought of habermas as a sort of totalitarian; certainly he would never understand himself that way.
niklas luhmann, social systems
well now. this is a kind of insanely perverse wayintoeverything, with a scope as big as habermas, whom luhmann attacks relentlessly. i'm just beginning this book but at a first stab the idea of autopoietic is extemely compelling; his idea is that "systems" from networks to persons to arenas of practice (such as law) develop essentially by detaching themselves from and simplifying their environment. systems close themselves off; are individuated by their closedness to input from the outside world, are constructed recursively out of their own ramifications. um, yes! ok, now...
chris kenner, totally out of control
an incredibly creative set of close-up and standup magic tricks and mere baubles. the tricks take delight in skill, and some have quickly taken on classic status. the "sybil" cut - introduced here - has led to a whole flourish sub-industry. kenner's "3 fly," reworked here with incredible economy as "menage et trois" is as poerformed and reworked as any sleight-of-hand trick in the contempo world. i've worked up the first effect, a rubber-band thing called "missing link," and it's lovely; i think i could ghet it pretty miraculous.
"The book is a compelling, true account of how he overcame drugs, sex, alcohol and rock/ disco music and a prison sentence by the power of God."
i've got a review of the book "the magician and the cardsharp" in the latimes today.
my column on fantasy and reality is in the latimes today.
perhaps you will allow me to recommend the funniest book ever written:
"Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father - an act which made a deep impression on me at the tme."