Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 in Books

We're going to break with tradition this week and post the material planned for the Sunday Review on Saturday, so that you have all weekend to look over the material: 2009 in book reviews. We've already dealt with our exceptional essays of 2009, not to mention some bookcase eye-candy, now it's time to consider our raison d'être.

Paul Mason, Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed (2009)
by Devin Zane Shaw
The first review for the site, and written in haste for this reason. In retrospect, I should have been a bit more effuse with praise for this book, which allows us to view the financial crisis from the kind of sharp and critical perspective that we have come to expect from Verso.

Anna Powell, Deleuze and Horror Film (2005)
by Sean Moreland
Sean writes that "Deleuze and Horror Film represents a welcome departure from the re-circulated Psycho-analyses and incessant generic re-situations which continue to dominate theoretical approaches to horror film. This makes it recommended reading for both critics and aficionados of horror cinema, and students and scholars of Deleuzian philosophy."

The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection (2009)
by Matt McLennan
Matt writes that the "book is a fascinating read. Not just because it's an urgent, honest, somewhat compelling call for DIY change, but because it's quintessentially French in its radicalness."

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (1991)
by Jason Smith
Jason, following Lefebvre, "argues that urban designs developed in the epoch of capitalism hinder the functioning of a more egalitarian world model. Lefebvre asserts that wholly new spatial coding would be necessary for the implementation of a socialist utopia."

Guy Debord, Panegyric: Volumes 1 & 2 (2004)
by Devin Zane Shaw
"The two volume Panegyric presents both a literary and pictorial representation of Guy Debord’s life, the first providing a brief literary account, while the second is comprised of “iconographical evidence,” which, according to Debord, was to “illustrate and comment on the essential” already found in the first volume."

Hugo Chavez Presents Simon Bolivar: The Bolivarian Revolution (2009)
by Matt McLennan
"As for Chavez presents Bolivar, this should be required reading for anyone with a remote interest in American politics."

Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence (2000)
by Jason Smith
"While a confluence of technologies coupled with new forms of economic behavior became available to Europeans, New World resources, stolen from native Americans, abolished the land constraints experienced in Europe."

Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink (2009)
by Devin Zane Shaw
"Bolano tells a tale of small town intrigue, surrounding Remo Moran, Gaspar Heredia, and Enric Rosquelles. The story takes place in a town near Barcelona called Z, whose rhythm corresponds to the tourist season, and is told, alternately by these three, the first a businessman, the second a writer and drifter (whose story is modeled somewhat on Bolano's life) and the third a civil servant. The story converges on their interest in a young woman named Nuria Marti, who is an ice skater."

Alberto Gualandi, Lyotard (1999)
by Matt McLennan
Matt writes that "Alberto Gualandi, in my view, does an admirable job where many others have failed. He reads Lyotard against the ancient distinction between the philosopher and the sophist, ultimately concluding that Lyotard occupies an ambiguous position between - or rather, that he shows how the distinction is perhaps drawn a bit too neatly in the history of philosophy. This reading, fleshed out by Gualandi, helps ease the reader into the strangeness and originality of Lyotard's corpus."

Cathrine Hall, Civilising Subjects (2002)
by Jason Smith
"Within this framework [Hall] asserts that binaries of savagery verses civilization were set up as cultural productions to keep the two, the pole and the periphery, apart from one another. She concludes of this stratagem that theorists of colonialism need to disrupt this binary and to produce more elaborate, cross-cutting ways of thinking about the processes of colonial exploitation."

Caroline Elkins, Imperial Reckoning: the Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (2005)
by Jason Smith
"Though it’s not official the job of an academic to right wrongs or prevent tragedies, perhaps this work can aid in the prevention of such carnage in the future. What else is knowledge for if not to change the trajectory of humanity?"

Slavoj Zizek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce (2009)
by Matt McLennan
"Slavoj Zizek's new book examines the current world financial crisis and attempts to delineate a coherent Leftist response. The book is relatively accessible, and readers frustrated by his unruly and largely redundant previous effort In Defense of Lost Causes will find Zizek back in top critical form."

Waltraud Ernst, Mad Tales from the Raj: the European Insane in British India, 1800 – 1858 (1991)
by Jason Smith
"Ernst sums her goal in writing this work as a twofold endeavor to elucidate the relationship of the mental asylum to colonialism and to develop a theoretical framework in which to understand mental health in its socio-political context."

Walter Benjamin, On Hashish (2006)
by Devin Zane Shaw
"Typically, one’s journals never face the scrutiny of broad readership, but apparently hashish should not be left to specialists. As such, On Hashish takes the form of a light-hearted chapter in what is often considered as Benjamin’s pensive, and terminally tragic, biography."

Natacha Merrit, Digital Diaries (2000)
by Matt McLennan
"Now, having been awash in constantly updated, rotated and manipulated facebook vanity pictures for more than two years, the book tells me something different. I see Merritt as a relatively high-tech, arty and more explicit version of what millions of other 21-year-olds (and to be sure, some 30 and 40 year olds) are also doing; inserting their glossy pouts or bored, carefully poised expressions into every place and event they photograph."

Peter Linebaugh, The Magna Carta Manifesto (2008)
by Devin Zane Shaw
Linebaugh's latest book "follows the use and abuse of the Magna Carta, and the practical erasure of its companion-charter, the Charter of the Forests, from their declaration in 13th century England to our contemporary times. The two charters address what may be artificially divided into formal rights and economic justice. I say 'artificially' because Linebaugh's entire argument-- and a forceful and correct one at that-- is that what we now call formal rights cannot be guaranteed without the accompanying rights of economic justice, the latter of which require transforming the relationships between people and the means of production."

Terrence Kissack, Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States 1895-1917 (2009)
by Matt McLennan
As Matt writes, Free Comrades "not only serves as a good introduction to the American movement and its major figures, but also drives home the following, in my opinion important points: First, the anarchists were the first to offer a thoroughgoing public critique of homophobia and a defence, if often ambiguous and troubled, of queer desires and lifestyles; second, anarchist politics of homosexuality were rooted in a revolutionary political movement and a devastating critique of marriage."

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