Posts Tagged ‘reading’

what I’m doing next week.

August 14, 2009

This is another one of those “write something on the blog so I give it some thought” posts.

I’m taking a week off from work – the week before school starts (well actually I quit my job, too, but that’s another story) – for pretty much the first time in the past year (not counting family events).I’m not really going anywhere, but here are some of the possible ways I might spend my time (besides staying home and doing nothing, which is the most important one):

go to Denver, check out my friend Scott‘s new place, catch up with some friends that have just recently returned from Spain, and maybe pay a visit to one of my favorite pubs

finish reading Discipline & Punish (I’m getting there), order books for school, organize / move the hell out of the way the many I already own (this includes setting aside a lot more to get rid of), and pay a visit to the Ginsburg library – maybe check out Derrida’s Acts of Religion

spend some time hanging out with my turntables (I cleaned them pretty thoroughly this week, outside and in – but I haven’t mixed much in ages). hopefully Sennheiser will ship my headphones back to me before then (I sent my HD280s to them for repairs and they very promptly shipped me the wrong ones; not talking shit because they make good stuff, but I will be happy when the proper model arrives)

practice karate more outside of class. I was on a roll for a few weeks, but then the heat and my laziness made their presence known.

figure out how to ask out girls I don’t know (I suck at this. yet it’s always the ones I don’t know that I’m most interested in). then go out and do it. (yes I have a particular person in mind)

do something to organize my room and make it look better.

get my hair cut.

try to hang out with friends at least twice, and if possible catch a DJ or some live music (in Denver needless to say)

drink cold beer on a hot afternoon.

do a lot of nothing.

YES. my vacation is going to be awesome. I just realized this list is at least 85% about me. Narcissism has its place and I welcome it.

A Specter is Haunting my IPod (or, Marx’s Capital as digital commodity)

August 6, 2009

So in other news, I have downloaded Karl Marx’s Capital, volume 1 for my iPod touch (text format with optional accompanying audio of a reader). Link here. Total cost $0.99 (I’d say I’m getting pretty good use-value in exchange for my slightly-less-than-dollar). The text could have benefited from more thorough copy-editing, since there are lots of little typos and such.

Other than that, though, I quite like the format. Because the text is divided into fairly short segments I can just concentrate on reading a little at a time (say, 10 minutes a day) – whereas reading Capital in book form would likely lead me to become intimidated or discouraged at its length and stop less than halfway through. I’ve just barely begun reading the actual text but I am already struck by the fact that Marx was pretty sharp.

(Absurdly the ending of the King Missile Song “Jesus Was Way Cool” just flashed into my mind. After several minutes of narrating in a tone of utterly sincere admiration all the way cool things Jesus did – and repeatedly asserting that yes, Jesus was way cool – the vocalist ends by concluding almost as if a new realization has dawned for the very first time: “No wonder there are so many Christians!” Struck by the clarity of Marx’s thought and presentation – well, at least so far – a similar realization is starting to dawn for me: “No wonder there are so many Marxists!”)

Anyway…I am almost losing track of all the things I am reading. But thanks to this particular commodity-form (which somehow lends itself particularly well to me reading in bed), I have no doubt that with little effort, prolonged over the next several months, I will easily make my way through the first volume of Capital. Technology is amazing…and all for just 99 cents. Amazing…no wonder there are so many capitalists =]

Oh, and don’t forget, kids:

Anyway, please check out some of the other links I’ve added to the sidebar – and stay tuned…

what I’ve been reading lately.

July 28, 2009

OK, in lieu of actually reading (it’s hard if not impossible to chat with two people, listen to Bassdrive and read philosophical essays about Agamben’s theory of the homo sacer all at the same time), I decided to write about what I’ve been reading lately. On the positive side, this might help me actually keep track of it all. It’s hard for me to just read one thing at a time, and it can get hard to keep track of what books I am in the middle of.

When the last school semester ended, I decided I would be proactive and buy / borrow from the library lots of books to read over the summer. Especially since I am gearing up to write my BA thesis this coming year, I really want to read stuff and get some ideas flowing. The only bad thing about that is that nearly everything I read seems to tie in, in one way or another…

So in the last week of school or so I bought Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, thinking it would make for fun summer reading. Whoops. Kind of ambitious. I read like 20 or 30 pages, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pynchon. I read The Crying of Lot 49 – twice – and loved it. Only thing is, Gravity’s Rainbow is like five times its length. It hasn’t moved from its spot on my shelf in probably two months or more.

Then, I actually read a few books in their entirety. Hell yes! Somehow or another, I managed to read, more or less concurrently, a book called Levinas: An Introduction by Colin Davis (a book that is – yes, you guessed it – about Levinas; and yes, right again! – its presentation is of an introductory nature), and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. The latter I actually read for fun, not out of any academic interest particularly (it’s true), yet after about halfway through I started realizing that it connects to my topic of interest for my thesis – quite explicitly, actually. Butler actually mentions the specific Kafka story I hope to address in my thesis – “In the Penal Colony” and suggests that it “provides an interesting analogy for the contemporary field of power and masculinist power in particular” (157n). Also interestingly, she drew heavily on Foucault’s work, particularly History of Sexuality, v. 1 (unsurprisingly), which I have read, and Discipline and Punish, which I have not. So I decided to pick that one up.

That’s where my streak of completing books wore down a bit. I got through about a hundred pages of Discipline and Punish – and it’s quite good, not particularly tough reading – but then I got sidetracked, or restless, or something. I recently bought a few more books though. Since going on hiatus from Discipline and Punish, I’ve started reading a few more things. The first is short, and fun, if not exactly light reading, and bears quite directly on my thesis (which is starting to feel more like a black hole – not that I’m feeling anxious about it, but it would be fun also to read some stuff that is totally unrelated, rather than everything leading back to it, like a burrow, or as D & G would say – a rhizome…): Deleuze and Guattari’s Kafka: Toward A Minor Literature. I’d never read D & G before, and I have to say I like them. They are weird, but engaging.

I’m definitely going to have to give this one a second read. I know I’m missing a lot, but these guys are more approachable than I thought, plus they are fun (you get the sense they were having a good time writing), and radical in the true sense of the word. They take lots of shots at psychoanalysis (and evidently pretty much any major thinker / theory that places strong emphasis on the signifier can equally be a target for D & G) – apparently in Anti-Oedipus they refer to Freud as a “masked Al Capone”. (OK, fair enough – I actually think when you smoke a certain number of cigars, maybe like 3,000 or something, you just become a gangster automatically.)

In this book they claim that to read Kafka in terms of allegory or metaphor is “stupidity.” They also go after people who try to portray Kafka as melancholic or alienated. For them, Kafka is above all ecstatic, imbuing a language within which he was essentially (as a Czech Jew) an outsider, with vibrancy. It’s not about meaning or symbolism but intensity. They like to use terms like “lines of escape,” “deterritorialization,” “Oedipalization,” “unformed material,” “machinic assemblage…” You get the picture, I guess. One of these days I will step up and read Capitalism and Schizophrenia (although I’ll probably start with the User’s Guide). Anyway, this book is short (if a bit challenging) and is really helping me to imagine different ways of approaching Kafka (and hopefully, too, my project as a whole).

I also recently bought Language, Counter-Memory, Practice by Foucault, a collection of ten essays (also has an interview with Deleuze and a conversation with Foucault and some Maoist militants). It’s got an essay about Bataille and the idea of transgression more generally, the essay “What is An Author?” (which I’d started reading before, but never finished), and basically compiles some of Foucault’s writings on language, literature, etc. Looks pretty good.

I also started reading The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World by Elaine Scarry. I’ve only read the introduction so far and actually it is very interesting, extremely engaging, and as far as I can tell so far, extremely well-written. This also corresponds pretty well with the general topic of my thesis. (In a future post I’ll be a bit more revealing about what exactly that is.) This book looks great though. It’s original (check), interdisciplinary (check), corresponds with lots of my interests (check), is politically extremely relevant and is very well-written. It always makes me feel good when I read a book by someone who is a professor of English and actually writes really well! It’s like – hey, your liberal arts education paid off!

So that more or less sums it up for now. I also put down The Kite Runner like three months ago after reading about six or seven chapters of it. It’s solid, and maybe I should pick it up again sometime soon. After all, it’s already so hard to keep track of the three different books I’m in the middle of reading. It might not be so bad to interject a really good novel at reasonable intervals.

Anyway…to you, the reader – I hope this blog wasn’t terribly boring. I think it may have been somewhat helpful or at least entertaining for me, but I’m less convinced that it will be engaging to anyone else to any degree whatsoever.

At best, if you made it all the way through, you might be interested in what the hell it is, exactly, that I am planning on researching and writing about for my BA thesis. If this is so, I’m delighted – and know that you are not alone, for I too am interested in this question. I will certainly post soon with at least some of the preliminary details of what I’m thinking about.

Until then, I’ll still be pondering machinic assemblages and the immanence of desire…

reading list

April 16, 2009

A note of caution: steer clear of this list if “academic” reading makes you uncomfortable. And here it is – a work in progress:

Anything and everything by Pynchon (I’ve only read The Crying of Lot 49), but I’ll probably start (and continue for quite some time, heh) with Gravity’s Rainbow. (Only problem is, it would have to be over the summer, but if I read it then I might not read much else…)

Kafka’s Amerika (because it’s the only one of his novels I haven’t read). Maybe some of his letters too…

Judith Butler – Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity.

Freud – Civilization and its Discontents.

Bataille – Inner Experience (it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while..) I definitely will try to read more of his fictional (I almost said “creative,” heh) prose as well, though.

Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner (I started reading it but had to put it aside because of the volume of reading for school)

Fredric Jameson – The Political Unconscious

I’d like to read something by Levinas.

I’m also kind of interested in reading some stuff by Avital Ronell (sp?).

I think I warned you that this would be a pretty nerdy list. It’s by no means exhaustive, though. Besides, given the less than three weeks remaining in the semester, academics are on my mind at the moment.

Any suggestions?