News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Summer Reading List

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Summer Reading List

In the midst of writing several stories, I am reluctant to read anything in the fiction genre for fear that they might produce some undue influence on style and/or framing ideas (I know, the anxiety of influence).

Anyway, I am in the midst of reading Tugenhat's lecture on analytic philosophy. This is a very important teacher, since he studied with Heidegger, yet chose to break from that tradition and embrace analytic philosophy, much like Habermas but in a more interesting way I think (mostly because he eschews Habermas' systematic generalizations and he's a much more careful thinker).

I've also been taking slow bites at Pilgrim's Progress, a great book even for those who aren't of a religious disposition.

Anyway, looking to a time when I have time to even read, I have been looking for fiction books that I might or might get to this summer. I've been thinking of looking into G. Eliot and Dickens, just to get a flavor of the polyphonic, as Bakhtin called it. But I also want to expand my list of American writers, which is woefully remiss and mostly includes the "classics."

I went on a Delillo rampage a month or so ago, and found his work very exciting, but there's that bugaboo about influence that I want to let the dust settle around. This rampage itself occurred after my mad rush through Pocock, Appleby, and Q. Skinner's historical work, with several side trips into primary source material relating to the eras they write about. Pocock, especially, has been important, since his understanding of writing history and providing a framework within which to understand texts related to action has helped me solve some issues I had with narrative.

My very short list of tentative books for the summer, then, includes Lizard Cage, a book so far distant from the milieu that I'm writing about that I imagine there'll be little overlap.

And then there's this book I just read about at the History News Network blog. It looks very promising, since it brings together contemporary political situation with prescient foresight.

The book was written back in 1976. Called Baghdad Blues, it's a mass market thriller that follows the efforts by a black CIA agent to manipulate events in Iraq. The following description of the book's ending suits my present political and philosophical temper quite well:

At the novel's conclusion, the small band of American diplomats is in retreat from a violent, chaotic Baghdad. "We drove across Queen Alwiyah Bridge, renamed Freedom Bridge," says Burrell, "and I looked at the low Tigris, almost as much sand showing between its banks as water. Upriver was the bridge where the bodies had been hung from the lampposts." Our present debacle in Iraq, one is reminded, takes shape neither on a blank slate, nor across a backdrop of ancient and simple sectarianism, but on a landscape scarred by more than a century of European and American involvement.

Greenlee gives his protagonist a perspective of the Iraqi landscape that is deeply shaped by the radical internationalism cultivated by an age of decolonization. Reporting on the Americans' surprise at the Iraqi coup, Burrell concludes, "Only a bunch of white folks, so hung-up on always being right about everything, so hung-up on themselves, could have been surprised about what had happened. The signs had been everywhere, and it really took talent to avoid them, to turn the facts into something entirely different."
It's truly amazing how some people can see into the future and how stupid other people are in not seeing the writing on the wall. The author of this blog piece notes that the book should be on Pres. Bush's reading list. I think that's right. I know it's on mine. How about yours?

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