Friday, November 6, 2009

bell hooks- Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

This book is indispensable in feminist theory and I've just realized it, despite copious amounts of reading of feminist theory on my part. I hadn't ran into bell hooks until three days ago, for some reason (which is more than likely a fault of my own). I was browsing the library, looking for sources on a paper that I'm writing about feminist notions of "sisterhood," when I stumbled onto bell hooks' Feminist Theory: from margin to center; I decided to pick it because at that point I remembered that a friend of mine, who is brilliant, found it odd that I hadn't studied her in my Contemporary Literary Theory class. I decided to take it out and skim it. I soon found that I had read half of the book and that it was entirely enrapturing, finishing it only two days after checking it out (and I'm a slow reader).
Published in the early 80s, this book explains the necessary shift from second-wave to third-wave feminism as it raises issues contained within the women's movement: issues of feminism being a "white, middle-class" movement and its lack of recognition of diversity, the lack of radical politics in feminism, and what I found very interesting, the issue of feminist "man-hating." Particularly interesting to me, being a male feminist, was her analysis of man-hating feminism as well as her recognition that universal support (regardless of "gender") is necessary for the feminist movement to be successful. Also personally interesting was her analysis of power paradigms, specifically within certain second-wave feminist beliefs.
Verdict: If you have a shed of interest in feminist theory, or leftist politics, this is a "must read," as much as I hate that cliché.
What to listen to while reading: Joanna Newsom- Ys

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Donna Haraway Live Theory- Joseph Schneider

I picked up Donna Haraway Live Theory at the same time I picked up the Chomsky and Herman book from Pulp Fiction on main in Vancouver. I picked it up because I had read A Manifesto for Cyborgs in my literary theory class and thought Haraway was not only brilliant, but mindblowing, for lack of a better term. Haraway is a feminist-scientist that perpetuates these ideals in her criticism of other scientific works/discovers as well as in her own studies. It is interesting to see a brilliant mind such as her own pick apart the biases found in scientific theory and in the world of science in general. Not being a biologist or that heavily rooted in the sciences, however, I was unsure how well I would digest her works, until I saw this introduction to Haraway of sorts.
In Live Theory, Schneider summarizes key theories that arose throughout Haraway's career, providing an easy to digest introduction to this amazing feminist and scientific mind. Haraway's works are intimidating, but Schneider does a great job breaking the ice. For anyone that is really into Haraway and doesn't think they need an introduction, there's a large chapter dedicated to conversations between Schneider and Haraway that shed light on her current work that may be useful to them.
Verdict: This is definitely worth reading if you find Donna Haraway intersting, are into feminist theory, or are just looking for something to read that will make you think.
What to listen to while reading: The Gentlemen Losers

Monday, October 12, 2009

Noam Chomsky & Edward S. Herman- The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism

This is an important book. I originally ran into this at a used bookstore, Pulp Fiction, on Main in Vancouver and picked it up for two reasons: I love Noam Chomsky and I think Black Rose is an amazing publisher. In the foreward to this edition, Chomsky states that the original publisher he had already dealt with to release the finished manuscript backed out after reading it, considering it a sort of anti-americanist book. Considering Black Rose's stance on publication, it's not surprising that they took up this project and released The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism.
The book itself deals with post-Vietnam America and its military aid to countries with incredibly low standards of living. As well, as Chomsky and Herman discuss in great detail, these are the countries that the US militarily funds exponentially and are considered the biggest violators of human rights in the world and run in a sort of pseudo-fascist system. As with any Chomsky book TWCTWF cites incidents and articles that were never a part of mainstream media, but should have been more accessible to the general public.
Verdict: If you can find a copy and are interested in world politics, or just North American politics, definitely read it. It's classic Chomsky and Edward S. Herman. I highly recommend it.
What to listen to while reading: Handsome Furs- Face Control

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nick Cave- The Death of Bunny Munro

Many know Nick Cave as a musician from the bands the Birthday Party (formerly the Boys Next Door), Grinderman, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, as well as a writer of epic soundtracks for such films as the Assassination of Jesse James. However, Cave is also a relatively prolific writer of both prose and poetry: in the '80s he released a novel called And the Ass Saw the Angel and has since released two collections of poetry, lyrics, and prose, entitled King Ink and King Ink II. His writing is style is, not surprisingly, similar to his lyric writing; it is full of brash language, violence, and twisted sexuality, among other notable characteristics. At the same time, however, much like his lyrics, Cave's writing is beautiful; it is obvious that he is a master of his craft(s).
Nick Cave's most recent novel, published this year of 2009, entitled The Death of Bunny Munro, is no exception. Arguably much more coherent than And the Ass Saw the Angel- speculation tells me it may have something to do with his drug habits of the time- The Death of Bunny Munro is a tale of loss, despair, sex, and drugs. I had a hard time putting it down in the 2-3 days it took for me to finish (it is a relatively quick read, but well worth it), which lead me to the conclusion that if you've ever thought Nick Cave has lost it, he definitely has not.
Verdict: If you're looking for an escape and a brutally entertaining novel, definitely read it. Though I'm pretty sure any fan of Cave's already has.
What to listen to while reading: It's between Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- Muder Ballads and Grinderman-Grinderman.

Jean Baudrillard- The System of Objects

In the world of cultural analysis and structuralism, Jean Baudrillard is a big name. The System of Objects is a better known work of his and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in cultural studies. Baudrillard, though very difficult read, has very interesting analyses of how Western society functions. The System of Objects' topics range from an analysis of cars to analysis of antiques and collection. Particularly interesting to me, personally, is his analysis of motivations of collectors while grounding his analysis with a sort of psychoanalytic model.
Verdict: If you're into cultural studies, The System of Objects is more than likely something you will like. If you aren't, it might be a little bit too laborious of a read without much satisfaction.
What to listen to while reading: Nine Inch Nails- Ghosts I-IV

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature

This book is amazing for so many reasons, with the most prominent being that it's a transcript of a debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, arguably two of the most important individuals in 20th century philosophy, on the topic "human nature. The debate itself does not disappoint: both provide very strong reasons for their beliefs and the interaction is engaging, to say the least. Another important reason to read this book is the appendix; the appendix contains supplemental interviews between both Chomsky and Foucault that highlight their own separate research and viewpoints (political and otherwise). The book provides a very nice grounding and exploration of both philosopher's viewpoints on an array of topics. I would also recommend this book to anyone who isn't necessarily interested in "human nature," simply because of its content.
Verdict: Read this. Especially if you're interested in either Noam Chomsky or Michel Foucault and their politics.
What to listen to while reading: Russian Circles- Geneva

Elfriede Jelinek's Women as Lovers

Jelinek's Women as Lovers is a bleak story about two factory workers who strive to get married, with only one of them who expects and wants to experience "love." Throughout the narrative, Jelinek provides a harsh, but realistic, critique of the systems that subjugate women in society both in the past and the present. As a past member of the communist party, it's not surprising that at the root of Jelinek's novel is a harsh criticism of the effects of capitalism on not only women, but on humanit; the criticism itself is almost through a marxist-feminist lense though Jelinek herself denies feminism and feminist intentions. In this novel, Jelinek's tongue-in-cheek sarcasm functions as a powerful tool for criticism and is a pleasure to read.
I read this book for an upper division Women's Literature class and it stands out as, in my opinion, the only realistic portrayal of the confinment that society places, and has placed, on women.
Verdict: You should read this book. Though it's a translation, and I'm weary of that, the translator has done a good job capturing the frank style of Jelinek.
What to listen to while reading: Crass- Penis Envy