So many books to read, so little time.

Archive for November 24th, 2008

Nazi Kitsch

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A.O. Scott:

Why do opportunistic, clever young novelists — I won’t name any names — gravitate toward magic-realist depictions of the decidedly unmagical reality of the Shoah? For the same reason that actors shave their heads and starve themselves, or preen and leer in jackboots and epaulets. For the same reason that filmmakers commission concrete barracks and instruct their cinematographers and lab technicians to filter out bright, saturated colors. To win prizes of course.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that even the Holocaust can be commodified. But not in the way a humorless Frankfurt School social critic (looking at you Adorno) might imagine. Every year, as Scott writes, we see an invasion of aggressively middlebrow films that turn the tragedy of World War II into a stage for showcasing the technical skills of actors and directors. None of these films, despite their dramatic pretensions, tell us anything new about Hitler, Auschwitz, or D-Day. They do, however, give Tom Cruise an opportunity to look fetching in a eyepatch.

I much prefer something loud and unapologetically crude such as The Dirty Dozen or Where Eagles Dare than an overwrought piece of Oscar bait. At least Where Eagles Dare makes no bones about its purpose–Clint Eastwood being a badass. You could change the setting and bad guys entirely (maybe Eastwood single-handedly supressing a zombie outbreak in New Jersey) and no one would care.

Written by Adam Elkus

November 24, 2008 at 6:00 am

Posted in Nonfiction

V.S. Naipul, New York Times, and Graham Greene

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Most of the time, I am somewhat irritated with the New York Times‘ Sunday book reviews. There is an irritatingly smug tone to their reviews, especially when reviewing works of popular science fiction and horror. But George Packer has written a masterful review of a new V.S. Naipul biography. Anyone with an even casual interest in British postwar fiction should check it out.

That being said, my favorite British author of the 20th century is Graham Greene. Even his “entertainments” were masterful reading. His book The Quiet American is still the best fictional work about American foreign policy.

Written by Adam Elkus

November 24, 2008 at 5:40 am

Posted in Nonfiction

New Books

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Some of these I got from a book sale (very cheap, about 25 cents to a dollar), others from Borders.

  • The Social System, Talcott Parsons.
  • The Art of War, Antoine Henri de Jomini
  • Speed and Politics, Paul Virilio
  • Finding the Target, Robert Kagan
  • Contemporary Analytic and Linguistic Philosophies, E.D. Klemke (ed)
  • The Age of Empire, Eric Hobswam
  • Classics of Western Thought: The Modern World, Charles Hirschfeld and Edgar E. Knoebel (eds).
  • The Nuclear Reader: Strategy and Weapons, Charles W. Kegley Jr. and Eugene R. Wittkopf (eds).
  • European Literary Theory and Practice: From Existential Phenomenology to Structuralism, Vernon W. Gras (ed).
  • Sociological Theory: Classical Founders and Contemporary Perspectives, Doyle Paul Johnson
  • The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man, Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato (ed)
  • The Philosophy of Biology, Michael Ruse (ed)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, Michael J. Loux (ed).
  • Introduction to Phenomenology, Robert Sokolowksi

Written by Adam Elkus

November 24, 2008 at 5:26 am

Posted in Nonfiction