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Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age Paperback – January 15, 2002


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Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age + The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia + The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156663430X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566634304
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Like his New Criterion colleague Hilton Kramer, Kimball writes forcefully and fluently about the intellectual currents that affect the arts. Like Kramer, he upholds high modernism, as epitomized by the moral seriousness of T. S. Eliot, subject of the warmest piece in this book. Like Kramer's Twilight of the Intellectuals (1999), this book contains originally freestanding essays that share a common theme. Whereas the theme of Kramer's Twilight was American liberal intellectuals' obstinate tolerance of Communism, Kimball's collection is concerned with various forms of the denial of reality in modern literature and philosophy. Because his subjects are greater artists and intellects than most of Kramer's in Twilight , Kimball's is a more engaging book. Kimball is as keenly gratifying as he is because, though he rues the intellectual and spiritual mistakes of such figures as J. S. Mill and Nietzsche, he grants their personal weaknesses and literary strengths. Even when his subjects have very few redeeming characteristics--Sartre, or Foucault, for instance--Kimball doesn't demonize them as he demolishes their vicious ideas. Superb intellectual journalism. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Will be required reading for those who want a significant perspective on how and why our contemporary culture got to be the way it is. (Frederick Morgan)

Stylish, richly allusive, and immensely readable...an invaluable collection. (John Gross)

One of the most candid and perceptive critics of American culture. (Gertrude Himmelfarb Times Literary Supplement (UK))

A model of investigative advocacy of argumentation, principles, and responsibility...a superb performance. (Robert McDowell Hudson Review)

A scathing critic but one whose tirades are usually justified...his intellectual rigor is refreshing. (Catherine Saint Louis The New York Times)

His position is conservative but not reactionary, humanistic but not populist, fresh but never trendy. (John Simon)

A book you will relish and applaud. Roger Kimball's essays on recent poets and thinkers...are as wise as they are elegantly written. (Martin Gardner)

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Customer Reviews

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This is a book that needs to be studied to be appreciated.
Joseph Hartmann
"Experiments..." is highly similar to "Lives of the Mind" in its ecletic choice of subject matter.
Bernard Chapin
Kimball's style in dealing with such freaks is exactly right.
John N. Frary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Hartmann on February 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most critics of American culture are able to see broad causes for contemporary problems. Their insight is almost oversight. Roger Kimball has an amazing ability to see the spawning wisp of the thread that weaves through the matrix of our cultural decline. These series of essays look back over the last century at the critics, novelists, and philosophers who stood on either side of the question, "Is reality real or can I make it what I wish?" Those ascribing to the latter, tended to be cultural heroes for their encouragement of a new kind of freedom which Kimball shows is really a decaying licentiousness. Most of these experimenters against reality were celebrated by the intelligentsia of the time for discovering a new kind of happiness. The only problem, as Kimball points out, is that their suggested liberations have led to misery both personally and culturally. There are also excellent essays describing the stalwarts who stood astride the decline of society yelling "Stop". Primary amongst these is Mr Kimball himself whose essay, "The Trivialization of Outrage" will be a classic as he decries the lack of beauty in today's "art". This is a book that needs to be studied to be appreciated. A little effort brings great rewards. Hopefully we will learn as Kimball so rightly puts it that "the liberations we crave have served chiefly to compound the depth of our loss."
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Chapin on August 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books and a person could hardly do better than to purchase the two for one Amazon deal that includes "The Long March." I thought of reviewing "Experiments..." today because upon reading the latest issue of The New Criterion (the journal Kimball edits) the author includes, in an essay concerning shame, a reference to Robert Musil. This reference immediately reminded me of the superlative essay this book contains regarding Musil and his masterpiece, "The Man without Qualities."

"Experiments..." is highly similar to "Lives of the Mind" in its ecletic choice of subject matter. Unlike "The Long March," it is not uniformly guided by a single theme but this does not decrease its educational merit.

I should also state that this is not a partisan book. It's for intellectuals of all stripes but is particularly valuable to those who cherish our culture and western civilization. Enjoy, I wish I could read these essays for the first time all over again.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful By "arlodriver" on October 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Kimball is a very learned voice in the culture wars, an insightful art critic who's breadth of reading harkens to a bygone era. As a matter of fact, the book sometimes feels as though it's from another era celebrating the myriad views of Hulme,T.S. Eliot, Muriel Sparks and once again ravaging the birth and ascent of deconstructionism/moral relativism. All the essays are well written if somewhat unsuprising at this stage, with the real gems being the attack on Cioran and the retrospective view of the novels of Robert Musil. There's also a fun bashing of Foucault who I find to be so tiresome you wouldn't think he'd needed to be bashed again except you'll still find his name in campus catalogs.
On the whole my reading experience was satisfactory, due more to Kimball's style than content. I've been moved to check out anew some of the author's he speaks about in the reviews, and I'm all for supporting an author who's done so much to bring the reading public's attention to David Stove. I might even suggest that someone jump right to Stove's work, especially the stunning volume edited by Kimball.
Contrasting Stove to Kimball is useful in illustrating why Kimball is not quite as enjoyable to read. Both are cultural warriors, with an obvious axe to grind from the right. While Kimball is easier to digest (he never reaches Stove's scathing pitch), you can't help but suspect that's partly because he has more sacred cows to protect. Stove doesn't leave anything worth skewering off the barbecue, not even religious inanery. Interestingly, Kimball liberally utilizes Stove arguments in his attacks, but ignores those that might land unfavorably on his own shoulders.
But very high shoulders they are, the writing is first rate, and his understanding can sometimes awe you. He's a proper heir to much of modernisms archness. If he isn't a British citizen, perhaps he should be made an honorary one.
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52 of 71 people found the following review helpful By John N. Frary on December 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read most of the essays in this volume in their earlier versions; yet they seem to me as fresh and intellectually invigorating as at my first go round. This is partly due to having read some of the works discussed since Kimball inspired an interest in them, but mostly because each essay encompasses a superabundance of insights and ideas reqquiring a second look. The author writes so clearly and forcefully that his pages generally go by a little too fast to catch all that they have to offer at one go.
The essays on T.E. Hulme Muriel Spark, Josef Pieper, James Fitzjames Stephen, and Robert Musil are outstanding among a uniformly excellent collection. I recommend them strongly for those who have no familiarity with these writers.
The examinations of Foucault and E.M. Cioran are of such quality that their admirers will remember his essays with violent emotions long after they have abandoned their subjects for even more flapdoodlious energumens. Kimball's style in dealing with such freaks is exactly right. He does not strain himself to tease some arcane significance out of their dramatic posturings. He does not treat them as PostMod Titans. He recognizes them as the pus and vomit of a sick culture and applies the antiseptic of wit, clarity, and logic.
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