Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Literary Theory: An Introduction by Terry Eagleton My rating: 3 of 5 stars Strange the books one fails to read. The very fact that you are supposed to have read certain books makes you feel like you have already read them long before you read them, so you do not in fact ever read them. … Continue reading Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction

Wesley Yang, The Souls of Yellow Folk

The Souls of Yellow Folk by Wesley Yang My rating: 4 of 5 stars It was once a pop-socio-psychological commonplace of American foreign-policy commentary that terrorism on behalf of political Islam was motivated less by ideology and more by an intractable reality of gender: young men with no prospects in their societies will inevitably become … Continue reading Wesley Yang, The Souls of Yellow Folk

Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag My rating: 3 of 5 stars Susan Sontag's oeuvre is a long palinode. Identified for years with the positions she took, or at least appeared to take, in the 1960s, she seemed to spend the rest of her life strategically retracting or at least clarifying and qualifying … Continue reading Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World

How to See the World: An Introduction to Images, from Self-Portraits to Selfies, Maps to Movies, and More by Nicholas Mirzoeff My rating: 3 of 5 stars Mirzoeff self-consciously updates the late John Berger's Ways of Seeing with a new piece of popular Marxist pedagogy on how to read politics and history into images and … Continue reading Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World

Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders My rating: 4 of 5 stars Someone once said that beneath or behind all political and cultural warfare lies a struggle between secret societies. —Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo (1972) This 1999 book by British journalist Saunders is the … Continue reading Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters

Gish Jen, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap by Gish Jen My rating: 3 of 5 stars One time, teaching a course on the graphic novel, I described the differences in artistic form and storytelling technique between manga and Western comics. A student raised her hand and offered the opinion that the … Continue reading Gish Jen, The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent

Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham My rating: 2 of 5 stars When I was younger—say in the late 1980s, early 1990s—the concept of free artistic expression was associated with the social and political left. The totalitarian states of international communism were discredited and second-wave feminism had clearly overreached in its anti-porn crusades; meanwhile, tirades … Continue reading Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent

Robert Dale Parker, How to Interpret Literature

How to Interpret Literature: Critical Theory for Literary and Cultural Studies by Robert Dale Parker My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a primer for undergraduates on the major schools of modern literary theory. Its survey is as follows, in order of their appearance in the book, which Parker cleverly arranges according to the … Continue reading Robert Dale Parker, How to Interpret Literature

How the Novel Succeeded and How You Can Too

[I post this at Tumblr yesterday in response to an anonymous questioner using that platform's "ask" feature. I am posting it here because this is generally where I keep longer pieces I've written. The questioner asked me if I had any thoughts on how the novel rose to cultural prominence, despite the form's many critics, … Continue reading How the Novel Succeeded and How You Can Too

The Quest for Restoration; or, Gone Girl and Interstellar Considered as the Same Film

Thesis: Gone Girl and Interstellar share a single narrative, though they tell it in two different genres (the Hitchcockian darkly comic thriller and the Kubrickian/Spielbergian science fiction epic, respectively). Were it not for Christopher Nolan's commitment to gravity (pun very much intended), Interstellar could be called Gone Guy. Evidence: 1. The narrative of both films … Continue reading The Quest for Restoration; or, Gone Girl and Interstellar Considered as the Same Film