Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Diary - August: reading the silly season from the standpoint of damaged life

I have not written for a long time.   Usual excuses. I have been reading as keenly as I am capable, though: Sholokhov's Quietly Flows the Don, Colette's Chéri, Sade's Justine (first version), Eimear McBride's A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing.  I have been getting into Lock's monumental biography of Burke, and started Seven Pillars of Wisdom recently.  My problem is usually that I behave like the kid in the sweet shop, who cannot choose and wants everything.  So I read multiple books at the same time, all of them rather slowly.  And then I start to polish them off.

I am nearly finished Thomas Docherty's rich and fascinating Aesthetic Democracy.   Here Docherty, my old teacher and one of Britain's most powerful scholars of criticism as such, argues that art, more particularly literary reading, feeds into, enables, creates conditions of possibility for, democracy.  His argument sounds a little like that of Friedrich Schiller, in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, but it's edgier, more radical, less in hock to the mainstream or an idealised concept of the state.   I am reading this book, which dates from 2006, in preparation for Docherty's more inflammatory The New Treason of the Intellectuals (published in June), his latest grenade lobbed into discussion of the future of the humanistic university.  No better or more trenchant reader of these problematics can currently be found.  

I am nearly finished finally reading some of the work of the Invisible Committee, a collective of anonymous far-left radicals in France, associated with the Tarnac Nine.  The Coming Insurrection, published originally by Eric Hazan's wonderful imprint La Fabrique, offers a blistering critique of contemporary French society, drawing on the resources of the Marxist tradition and Critical Theory, but also borrowing from the avant-gardes and the Situationists.  

I am slowly reading Neve Gordon's book Israel's Occupation, a formidably detailed account of the nature and thinking of the Israeli 'occupation' of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan (and initially Sinai, too).  Every successive page of Gordon's analysis, which borrows both from Agamben and Foucault, confirms one's instinct that the 'occupation' is not and never has been 'temporary', but is simply a conquest.   

Some additional reading to annoy your friends, break-up dinner-parties, or piss off your lovers:

David Bromwich on Trump (I wish Bromwich would stop writing his splendid political essays, and finish his biography of Burke) - from the London Review of Books:

Also from the LRB, a corrective to the liberal and  lachrymose waffling on the demise of Kofi Annan (I nearly ran into some of his fellow quasi-plutocratic 'Elders' on Nassau St the other day - Mary and Nicholas Robinson). Perry Anderson wields the knife:

My comrade and friend Raymond Deane has published a superb account of the operations of Holocaust guilt and philo-Israeli censoriousness to regulate classical music in Germany: