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Showing posts from December 30, 2007

The geneology of contrarianism

Marx’s journalism has suffered a shabby fate – it has not, to my knowledge, been fully collected. One of the nice things about the german site that hosts all of Marx and Engels work is that it is collected there. But in German, translated from the English . It should be collected in English. The man was the godfather of a certain kind of journalism, plus of course there is Marx’s wasplike gift of sting. Marx may have learned from Heine that a pun or an allusion to Shakespeare could leave a lasting burn on the skin of the Beast, but the way he worked this out, the way he would paste up a mosaic of facts and quotes from the newspapers of the time to display the full pattern and palimpset of the oppressor class foreshadowed all the great journalists of the twentieth century. Kraus may not have read him, but he employs the same techniques. So does Tucholsky. In 1861, when Marx wrote “The American Question in England” , the British establishment, under the spell of “chivalry” as a chaser

James Wood and LI's Reviewer Envy

LI writes reviews. We’ve completed a good thousand reviews over the past decade, mostly small things for Publishers Weekly. When you write reviews as a job, you soon get to know the routines that go into the review in the same way that, say, the debt collector making a telephone call soon acquires an easy sense for how to squeeze the other end of the line. For some reason, this autumn saw more articles than usual about the decline of book reviewing in the papers, which all of us free lancers know all about. Just as we know that newspaper editors, on the whole, don’t understand how bound up their own fate is with the fate of reading matter. Since the reviewer page doesn’t generate the revenue or the online hits that the movie review section does, the book review section is given the orphan’s share. But what the movie review section does is point the reader away from reading material, and once you have ingrained that habit, reading material, which includes newspapers, starts dropping bel

intellectuals and burning libraries

Hazlitt likes to tell you what loves and what he hates. He begins On Reason and Imagination with a declaration of hate right off the bat: “I hate people who have no notion of anything but generalities, and forms, and creeds, and naked propositions, even worse than I dislike those who cannot for the soul of them arrive at the comprehension of an abstract idea.” The critical parameters, here, are ultimately parameters of feeling. But this is not to say that the parameters are straightforward, or that feeling is direct. Passion has its ruses as well as reason does; in fact, it has more of them. It operates by contact, but contact is unpredictable. This is why the case isn’t settled by this Hazlitt’s statement of interest. For instance, the hatred here is about a certain perverse form of love – the love of a certain type for generalities and forms and creeds. And the hatred produces hierarchy – one type is hated more than another. Although what isn’t hated is the typical object of the obse

New year's eve traditions

Ah, New Year’s eve! I know many of LI’s readers will be out tonight. Some of you will be breaking into deserted houses and cleaning out the valuables before the besotted party goers come home. Others will be spraying graffiti on limos, or tossing bricks through store windows, or engaging in other socially valuable anarcho pranks. Others, like LI, are planning on a quiet evening of glue sniffing and Solaris. But whatever rocks your boat, do it tonight with a pure heart! Here’s a little video from Turbostaat to get you started – any of you who are planning on joining the Russian mafia should take notes! And of course, tonight is the night we traditionally think kindly of the late Rick James.

oh you sweettooth generations!

In our last post, we used G.E. Moore as our intercessor to think about John Stuart Mill. Our interest in the weird troping of happiness in Mill’s Autobiography was piqued by Colin Heydt’s essay on Mill and Internal Culture, which we intended to pursue next. Instead, we are going to perform our usual zigzag – LI is a veritable encyclopedia of zigzags, and damme if I’m going to change now, mes droogs et droogesses – and advert to William Hazlitt. Hazlitt was a dogged critic and reader of Bentham, wrote one of the great essays about him in the Spirit of the Age, and, as well, made a sidelong attack on James Mill in On Reason and Imagination, an essay that does a lot, even as that lot has, until recently, escaped consideration. In the last ten years, however, there's been a mini-Hazlitt revival in lit crit circles. It is with the latter essay I’d like to start. But start what? Start considering the structure involved in positing an object that is lost if you search for it – the object