As I listened to West read this, I kept wondering, "What rhetorical form is this book aiming to take?" Nothing is ever presented as argument, in the sense of a claim, backed by evidence, supported by reasons. Instead, the rather shapeless text ranges over a wide list of topics, and West simply invokes generalizations in a tone earned only by the oracles in the Matrix movies. If you don't already agree with his notions, there's no way that this book could persuade you to adopt his formulas. His accent gives some words unusual pronunciations (keel (for kill), nekked (for naked), bohemoth, po-ig-nant). I skipped over the Christianity chapter, and finally landed on a great story in the last hour: West gives his version of his collision with Larry Summers. His formulation of Summers' infamous memo to the World Bank -- recommending that third world countries specialize in storing toxic wastes -- is twisted. He claims that the rationale had something to do with African countries being overpopulated; this comes close to the slanderous attribution that Summers aspired to genocide. Since Cornel West is outraged that Summers hadn't read his 16 books, perhaps he could have troubled to read the one page memo, which includes the line "I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted..."
If you've already listened to the excellent DisneyWars, you may be tempted to hear how a lame-duck CEO spins the lessons of teamwork learned at a camp. There's not enough personal revelation to make it interesting. Eisner's just passing off the twaddle, w/o ever getting into the earthy reality that kids learn at camp.
Jay McInerney praised Kunkel's book in the NYT last week. This title hit audible.com quickly, and I spent last Sunday and Labor day happily chipping away at menial tasks, in drugged delight as I listened to the clever tone and distancing humor of this novel. In one way, it can be read as a hilarious, 21st century version of the Great Gatsby, though I don't even like the Gatsby. The lead character is "the facile American" wandering through the world charming others by dint of his lack of clear opinions or strong desires. This is a pharmaceutically driven (as opposed to character-driven) novel. Kunkel's masterful tone deftly alludes to Delillo's classic, White Noise, where the drug du jour had been designed to banish Jack Gladney's fear of death. Dwight Wilmerding, floats through his life, consulting a coin-toss for his big decisions. His glib ignorance shimmers with a natural's insouciance, but his illformed thoughts express longings and vague anxieties that would sound too heavy were they articulated straight up. Near the book's closing, there's a slight bump, as we read his publicly formulated philosophical incoherence in the speech delivered at his 10 year high school reunion. The use of prose to instantiate the fagged out fumbling didn't work well for Joyce, and it is the least funny part of this book. Even when it hits this relative rough patch, the tone is still artfully balanced and smooth.
Interesting stories: I'd never realized that sound films converted audio waves to optical vibrations, that can then be inscribed on the photographic medium at the same time as the image. This is the stuff you'll learn, along with anecdotes about the Warner Bros, Fox, et al. Unfortunately, I didn't hear the one thing I felt most interested in: how Chaplin, and other silent stars, fought the transition.
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