The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

more reading

On this weekend's vacation (thanks again to my sister for taking care of the boy) the wife and I spent almost the entire day on Saturday just reading in the cabin we rented. It's such a luxury that we don't have anymore. I re-read Philippe Bourgois' IN SEARCH OF RESPECT, an ethnography of East Harlem crack dealers that's just riveting. (I'm teaching it in an advanced English class where we're talking about the relationship of the writer to the subject-matter in various kinds of nonfiction writing.) I also got through most of a book I knew nothing about when I bought it, Orhan Pamuk's SNOW, a political novel about eastern Turkey that got Pamuk in trouble both with the conservative Islamists of his country and with the conservative elements in the military that have traditionally run the country. I haven't finished it yet, but I do really like it--it's not slavishly realist (my new irritation about contemporary novels is that we seem to be returning to pure realism).

I did finish two books this week. The first was Michel Foucault's brilliant DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH. I won't say I enjoyed it, exactly, but it's amazing and you can't read it--you can't even read just the chapter on panopticism--and see the world the same ever again. I'm sitting in on a graduate philosophy course where I have to listen to philosophy students talk about their interests--philosophy of mind, Merleau-Ponty, Kantianism, and other things I know nothing about--but even at that it's just amazing. I'm not presumptuous enough to think I actually understand Foucault, because before this we read excerpts from ARCHAEOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE and I was pretty much clueless. To illustrate just how unavoidable Foucault's ideas become once you read them, just yesterday I was talking with my department chair about my university pre-tenure review process and Foucault's discussion of the process of panoptic examinations was pretty much the model for my review. And he's talking about prisoners and hospitals in 19th-century France.

Read yesterday, and taught today, Anita Loos' classic farce GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES. I included it in my class because I knew it was the best-selling book of the 1920s, but after reading it, and reading Susan Hegeman's article about it, I realized that it's a pretty sharp piece of social criticism and a nice example for students of narrative irony and the unreliable narrator. I often have a hard time teaching pop fiction in literature classes, and I was pretty apprehensive about this one, but it turned out to be a dream.


  • At 12:57 AM, Blogger zp said…

    it is good to have discipline, especially when it comes to your body because if a girl did not have discipline she might drink too much champagne and wake up with a headache and lose her figure. one way or the other. but it's no good a mother telling her daughter to have discipline and punishing her in humiliating ways because that is just old-fashioned and it has to come from withinside you.

    sounds like a very fun week . . . !!


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