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Hotel (Object Lessons)
Hotel (Object Lessons)
by Joanna Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.19
65 used & new from $5.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your room is ready, November 6, 2015
This review is from: Hotel (Object Lessons) (Paperback)
I'll admit a little bias here, as I'm the editor who originally acquired this book for the Object Lessons series; but I'm not biased in the sense that when I received this manuscript I was completely surprised and delighted by it (I was not familiar with Walsh's writing before working with her on this project). The book is utterly unique, and therefore it won't be everyone's cup of tea. But if you are interested in hotels as strange spaces, human relationships as sites of struggle and negotiation, and/or creative nonfiction—then this book is a definite must read.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
by Tom Lichtenheld
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.03
185 used & new from $2.26

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Major Flaw, August 9, 2013
This is a pretty good children's book, but it has one major flaw: after it introduces each anthropomorphic vehicle, each one is put to bed; in other words, when each character is introduced, time reverses and the evening-to-nighttime progression is reintroduced. This is a disastrous formula if you are seriously trying to put a child to bed: you cannot keep going back to being awake-and-at-work--you've *got* to move slowly and gradually from consciousness to sleep, and thus to a FINAL NIGHTTIME. As it is, the book oscillates back and forth from awake to sleep, awake to sleep. This effect rubs off on the prospective somnolent child. The book should have introduced all the vehicles at first, along with their various tasks, and *then* set them each to bed--in two discrete parts of the book, as it were. Also, where is the bobcat? This is a grave oversight for any construction-site-loving child.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2013 7:50 PM PDT

Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
Ecology without Nature: Rethinking Environmental Aesthetics
by Timothy B. Morton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.63
47 used & new from $21.50

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In Praise of Slow Reading, May 7, 2013
I was lucky enough to be a student in one of Timothy Morton's graduate seminars at UC Davis in 2003 when he began working on Ecology without Nature, and it was simply a thrill to meander along with Prof. Morton through such a maze of literary, cultural, and philosophical texts--all to undo our most basic and, well, 'natural' conceptions of what Nature is (and isn't).

The seminar was nothing short of an adventure, and this spirit of adventure is reflected in the book that it became. And yet it's an adventure that involves a lot of doubling back and dispelling of illusions along the way. In other words, the maze quality remains: it is a book for slow readers, for a kind of patient searching that opens up many unexpected paths as you go. The method of Ecology without Nature is subtle and profound: Morton builds a vocabulary for reading ecologically, at the same time that he relentlessly strips Nature of its aura--or at the very least, Morton reveals how and why that aura came to be in the first place.

This book is key reading for anyone interested in matters of environment, ecology, aesthetics, nature writing, and even travel writing. It provides both an eclectic history of a trans-disciplinary motif, and it also makes convincing arguments for why we might do well to be wary of this motif (i.e., Nature with a big N).

Ecology without Nature is sort of a trick title: it's not so much a eulogy as a wager, or a question posed about what happens when we think about 'ecology' without the baggage of 'Nature'. (The answer, or a really a set of interlinked answers, appears in Morton's passionately written prequel, The Ecological Thought.)

Speech Begins after Death
Speech Begins after Death
by Michel Foucault
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.95
27 used & new from $12.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, both as object & in its contents, May 2, 2013
This is simply a wonderful little book in which the reader gets to see the philosopher's thinking in action. The book works on so many levels: as a point of insight into Foucault's thoughts and self-reflection; as a index for a certain moment in the history of 'critical theory'; and as a general meditation on writing. I applaud the publisher for making this book a beautiful object, and for giving this "conversation" a place in pages.

A Meaning for Wife
A Meaning for Wife
by Mark Yakich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.95
40 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Auguries of Experience, November 12, 2011
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This review is from: A Meaning for Wife (Paperback)
Full disclosure: Mark Yakich is a colleague and good friend, and we also write together and co-edit my review here is definitely biased. But since I have known about this novel since it was forming in notes on the back of Mark's hands (usually both of them, well up onto his forearms), I think have a worthwhile take on this book, and where to share it if not on Amazon?

When I first read "A Meaning for Wife" it reminded me of the stories told in the films "Garden State" and "Grosse Pointe Blank." Like these two movies, Yakich's novel has a similar theme of existential searching within the suburban banalities of late American life. Specifically, "A Meaning for Wife" explores the psycho-geography of Algonquin, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), under the pretense of a 20th high school reunion, itself cast in the dark shadow of the sudden death of our main character's wife.

I was recently teaching Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" in a 20th-century American fiction course when I realized that "A Meaning for Wife" is actually participating in a longer lineage of American narratives of disillusionment and irony--irony so deep that "depth" isn't even the right way to describe it. The irony of this kind of fiction is through and through: there is no surface of sincerity that escapes its opposite meaning, and so you can never quite be certain how to take things. The characters who are rendered pathetic are in fact the most stable; the crazy ones utter startling truths from time to time; and home is both safe and claustrophobic for our main characters.

This constant uncertainty of meaning stems from the fact that the main characters of these narratives have lost something significant (Jake Barnes's "accident"; the sudden death of one's lover in "A Meaning for Wife"), and everything experienced thereafter is distorted and distended, marked by this loss. And neither does the surrounding world stand out as full or fully present: the world too becomes exposed as riddled with lack--even when it is apparently charged with excess. (One might consider Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer" as another text in this genre, and also Lydia Davis's "Varieties of Disturbance.")

The main character of "A Meaning for Wife" is at turns humble and arrogant, hilarious and morose, wise and absurd. His witticisms often morph into lyrical mush over the course of a paragraph, and his mature (and indeed 'experienced', in the Blakean sense) perspective is continually undermined by the sniveling, "squawking" toddler son Owen who accompanies our main character like a parodic Yoda in the backseat of the grandparents' "dull beige sedan."

"A Meaning for Wife" is peppered with brilliant turns of phrases on every page, like a spontaneous decision to leave the past behind and drive all the way to California, an American Western trope cut short by the realization that Owen will doubtless get hungry and therefore they'll "never make it farther than the Mississippi." The genius of this novel is that it bumbles along on a journey that is always just on the brink of happening, right up to the final sentence--while at the same time, the narrative keeps us wondering if in fact the very concept of 'the journey' is located irrevocably and maddeningly in the past, even as we (must) hurl ourselves into a future to come.

The Vagrants: A Novel
The Vagrants: A Novel
by Yiyun Li
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.70
152 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Narrative Perspectivism, August 25, 2011
This review is from: The Vagrants: A Novel (Paperback)
Yiyun Li's novel "The Vagrants" is a staggering work of narrative perspectivism. By this I mean to describe how the novel moves fluidly between many different characters; over the course of three hundred pages, as many as a dozen different characters gradually yet steadily take hold of the story, and each becomes an `eye' through which the reader starts to assemble a Chinese town called Muddy River. This makes for a captivating and mesmerizing read, even as the story moves through images and scenes at turns unflinchingly horrific and staggeringly beautiful. It is a wonderful novel, in no small part because of the philosophical storytelling strategy that moves between human and nonhuman points of view, making humans more object-like, and the world more alive.

Ordinary Affects
Ordinary Affects
by Kathleen Stewart
Edition: Paperback
Price: $19.95
60 used & new from $14.07

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Cultural Edges, Eddies, & Mainstream, August 25, 2011
This review is from: Ordinary Affects (Paperback)
What I really like about this book is how it constantly unsettles the reader's expectations for what it is doing or what it should do. It is anthropology, but it is also lyrical. It is philosophic, but it is also totally whimsical. It is ethnography, and it is fully aware of the traps of objective documentary. The introduction (which is theoretically informed and extremely articulate) both frames and rubs against the main body of the text--which is fragmentary, aphoristic, and written in plain language. I have found this book to be a great one to teach, both at the end of 20th-century American literature courses, and as an example of contemporary environmental theory. If you are interested in late American tensions at the intersection of ecology and subjectivity, pair Stewart's book with Lucy Corin's novel "Everyday Psycho Killers: A History for Girls."

How to Do Things with Videogames (Electronic Mediations)
How to Do Things with Videogames (Electronic Mediations)
by Ian Bogost
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.56
57 used & new from $6.94

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Media Studies for the World, August 24, 2011
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This book's form makes it incredibly accessible and inviting: 20 short essays or occasions through which Ian Bogost invites his readers to think (without any heavy imperative to 'think critically') about how videogames have become a "mature medium."

Bogost describes myriad videogames along the way, and his scene and scenario descriptions are precise and nuanced, yet always concise such that even non-gamers will follow and find solid points of attachment and interest. (I haven't played a videogame seriously since 1992: Metroid II on Gameboy.) In other words, the book is not only an astute and scintillating argument; it is also educational in the most satisfying sense of the word. Speaking of education, I can definitely imagine teaching this book in an undergraduate digital humanities course, as it demonstrates this emergent field at its best: in grounded, lucid, and layered investigations.

In short, "How To Do Things With Videogames" will be of great interest to all sorts of people: everyday gamers and game makers, certainly, but also to non-gamers as well as to scholars and students of contemporary culture--which is to say the book is media studies for the world.

Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
by Jane Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.80
87 used & new from $16.27

37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fantastic book to think with, June 11, 2011
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I recently taught Jane Bennett's book "Vibrant Matter" in a class on Environmental Theory, and I found it intriguing, challenging, and completely rewarding. My students really seemed to enjoy grappling with Bennett's concepts and the way she weaves a variety of texts and examples together throughout the chapters. Even when Bennett's questions are left unanswered, this is a productive tactic: many of my students took up her open-ended questions in their papers, extending her observations and complex formulations and applying them to local matters. Bennett's book worked very well alongside Timothy Morton's book "The Ecological Thought," Jennifer Price's book "Flight Maps," Arun Agrawal's book "Environmentality," Kathleen Stewart's "Ordinary Affects," and Donna Haraway's book "When Species Meet" (among a few other shorter texts that we read in between these). While definitely demanding at times, the narrative of "Vibrant Matter" is so articulated and strong that the book stands out as a philosophical/theoretical *story*, of sorts. (This was another aspect of the book that made it very teachable.) Bennett's book is speculative and picaresque, but absolutely rigorous and totally genuine. "Vibrant Matter" may frustrate readers looking for step-by-step instructions for a 'political ecology' -- but if readers want a fantastic book to think with, a book that piques philosophical imagination and merges it with ecology, then "Vibrant Matter" is it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2013 12:06 AM PST

Quiet As They Come
Quiet As They Come
by Angie Chau
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.09
47 used & new from $0.01

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tracking the Mainstream Drift, August 5, 2010
This review is from: Quiet As They Come (Paperback)
In tracking how a group of characters drift into mainstream American culture, Angie Chau has written a book that confluences elegantly with the currents of contemporary U.S. fiction. The book is both an endearing account of a becoming-American family's survival, and a nuanced report on the deracination and integration of Vietnamese individuals in a new place, namely the San Francisco bay area--with all the personal connections, emotional fragmentations, pop culture explosions, and social fissures that occur along the way...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 11, 2010 11:22 AM PDT

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