October 31, 2020

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, October 2020

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste, and no qualifications to opine on the history of philosophy, or on historical materialism.

Susan Hill, The Woman in Black
An extremely creepy and effective ghost story.
Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy
I imprinted on this as a teenager and deeply enjoyed the re-read. If you want to tell me that there are mis-interpretations of your favorites and superior scholarship and blah blah blah, I will believe you, mostly. But I will also ask you to appreciate the spectacle of a genuinely great philosopher earnestly engaging with the history of the tradition that shaped him, and how that tradition had lived in the world. §
Andrea Fort et al., Songs for the Dead [1, 2]
Comic book mind candy, near the border between fantasy and horror. This is secondary-world fantasy where the questing heroine is. in fact, a necromancer who constantly surrounds herself with the shambling, walking dead; it's also as heart-warming as possible, under the circumstances. §
--- Conclusion to the trilogy
Elizabeth Hand, Wylding Hall
One of the most eerie haunted-house stories I've ever read. It manages to rival The Haunting of Hill House, while being very much its own scary, musical thing. §
Anna Lee Huber, A Stroke of Malice
Mind candy historical mystery, latest in the on-going series. Not deep, but reliably enjoyable. §
Cherie Priest, The Family Plot
Mind candy Southern-Gothic horror. I guessed some Awful Secrets early on, and, well, I never do that. §
Laird Barron, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
Mind candy, Lovecraftian-derived short stories. (Though Thomas Ligotti might be a more direct influence?) Barron has a strong reputation, but, after this first encounter with his fiction, I cannot understand why. Everything from the supernatural horrors through the world-weariness to the unbelievable and stiff characters feels third hand. Bah. §
Perry Anderson, In the Tracks of Historical Materialism and The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci
Tracks is basically a post-script to Considerations on Western Marxism, bringing the story up to the early 1980s. This includes a seemingly off-hand endorsement of Alec Nove's The Economics of Feasible Socialism. This baffles me, because Nove is very blunt about how Marxism has absolutely nothing to contribute to actually organizing a socialist economy, and indeed his great book is one of the classics of market-socialist thought. This is however just a passing oddity; like its predecessor, Tracks largely passes over questions of mere economics in favor of High Theory.
Antinomies is a highly detailed look at contrasting pairs of concepts in Gramsci's writings, e.g., "war of position" vs. "war of movement". (I don't think this was just lingering structuralism.) In doing so, Anderson tries to be equally attentive to the historical context in which Gramsci was writing and what uses leftists might make of them "now" (1976). Why Anderson thought it so important to engage in such intense exegetical labors on Gramsci, I couldn't say. (I could make some guesses.)
For both books, some prior acquaintance with the authors under discussion will be very helpful. Anderson is good at exposition, when he chooses to exposit, but he takes a lot as read. §
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; The Progressive Forces; Philosophy; Writing for Antiquity; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; Tales of Our Ancestors; Cthulhiana

Posted at October 31, 2020 23:59 | permanent link

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