in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Erotic Poems by E. E. Cummings, edited by George James Firmage: Here’s the scenario: You’re a sensitive, awkward, bookish, slightly pimply, bespectacled, D.C.-based high school sophomore who’s allergic to gluten. Valentine’s Day is over but, by some miracle, you just met a member of the opposite (or same) sex during a trip to the T-Mobile store who, inexplicably, is attracted to you (or purports to be) despite your penchant for Sudoku, secret appreciation of Ayn Rand (“I know it’s wrong, but I kinda liked The Fountainhead,” etc.), and love of the interminable Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire (snoozers). This attraction is mutual. You’ve gone on two dates—-one to Booeymonger in Friendship Heights for hamburgers, and another for a walk through Rock Creek Park that ended in an exciting, but all-too-brief open-mouthed kiss. You’d like to take things up a notch and get to third base by spring break. What do you do? a) Buy your would-lover a copy of Walt Whitman‘s Leaves of Grass; b) buy your would-be lover a copy of Khalil Gibrhan‘s The Prophet; or c) buy your would-be lover a copy of the E.E. Cummings collection Erotic Poems, George James Firmage (ed.)? Remember, there might not be a wrong answer, or, then again, there might not be a right one.
2. Carnival and Cannibal, or the Play of Global Antagonism, by Jean Baudrillard, edited by Chris Turner: I pitched a review of this book to every publication I could think of and was met with universal rejection. Most popular reason for this rejection? I paraphrase: “Too obscure for us.” “Our space is too limited for things like this.” “Who is Jean Baudrillard?” I guess maturity is when, at age 32, you realize that not everyone is necessarily familiar with/cares about the French economist/media theorist you wrote a thesis about when you were 21 and, once this realization sets in, you start to wonder whether that French economist/media theorist might not have been totally full of shit, and whether you yourself, by extension, weren’t/aren’t also totally full of shit.
3. Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, by Steve Knopper: When I first heard about this book, I thought, “What a spectacularly titled book about the end of the record industry, a subject which, in my former life as a touring musician, I would have found breathlessly relevant!” Then, a few months went by. Now, I’m more interested in figuring out who Jacob really is on Lost.
4. The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, by Pascal Bruckner, translated by Steven Rendall: This book seems like a vaguely racist indictment of cultural relativism in the form of an indictment of Western society’s reluctance to admit/readiness to deny that the West is, culturally, awesome. Alternately, one could think of the book as brilliantly ironic exercise since, no matter how much the West beats itself up about colonialism, it still maintains hearty colonialish relationships with the Third World vis a vis the decidedly Western international political and financial infrastructure (NATO, WTO, USAID, even the Peace Corps) and, in reference to the Third World, is as domineering and as dominant and as (not masochistic but) sadistic as ever. Either way, everyone at SXSW will definitely be debating this hot topic during Vampire Weekend‘s set at Emo’s.
5. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, by Chelsea Handler: Why is it okay to praise/admire women widely considered to be attractive (i.e. Chelsea Handler, Sarah Silverman) for (in the Judeo-Christian sense) bad behavior (i.e. potty mouths, sexual aggression) when women widely considered to be unattractive (i.e. Paula Jones, Roseanne Barr) are criticized for the similar behavior? I don’t know, but I’m definitely not going to think about it while “reading” this copy of Penthouse.