May 5th, 2008

smirking half-hawk


4.Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

A noir private eye story. Sort of. Warren Ellis does what Warren Ellis does, and he does it well. Ellis examines the beauty and horror of a post-internet America, and manages to enacapsulate both the "OMG, humanity is full of fucked up freaks and weirdos who want to have sex with rat tumours! There is no god!" and the "Yup, they're weird, and they're *my* people" side of things. Not for the faint of heart, it's a fantastic book that had me cackling with glee. I'll never look at an ostrich the same way again. I'm giving serious thought to buying a couple extra copies as loaners.

5.The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter

Very interesting and thought-provoking. In many ways, this book is extremely Canadian - a lot of its critique of modern leftist thought is a disagreement with the concept of the wild rebel smashing the System and sticking it to the Man, with the suggestion that everyone just being polite (or at least not being a dick) and working together being a better way to acheive change. Among the topics discussed are why buying stuff (even organic vegetables and fair trade coffee) doesn't help fight Capitalism, why both the hippies and the punks failed, and quite a few digs at Naomi Klein. Social rules exist for good reasons, and violating them doesn't shake people out of their complacent zombie-like state and open thier minds to a larger world. Mostly it just pisses them off and makes them nervous. Hippie hair, punk rock piercings and dreadlocks aren't going to change the world, just make people uncomfortable until they get used to them.

The authors take the position that there's no grand Capitalist Machine forcing relentless consumerism on us to artificially drive the economy (or as Tyler Durden puts it "advertisting has us working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need.") They present a number of much simpler, logical reasons for how we ended up with the sopciety we have, and present some good arguments on why the concept of countercultural rebellion is hindering progress on the left.

Despite thier views on capitalism and counterculture, the authors do present a distinctly leftist lean. This isn't a soft-sell on libertarianism, neo-conservatism or anything else of the sort.

I found I agreed with a lot of the stuff in this book, both in tone and content. that makes me suspicious. I'd really like to chat about some of the stuff in the book with my friends, most of whom are quite a bit smarter and well-read than I am. I can't see any spots where I think the authors are obviously wrong.

Obviously, I strongly recommend everyone I know read this. It's not as much fun as Crooked Little Vein, though.