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Outlaw Academic: Selected Non-Fiction Paperback – June 15, 2016
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It’s a massive undertaking, a coffee-table style book that deserves a long-term parking spot next to your reading lamp. An almanac of sorts, it invites you to pick and choose your way through a cornucopia of essays, reminiscences, nostalgia and dreamscapes.
Rest assured, this is no ordinary assembly of point-counterpoint essays built on modernist logic or politically correct discourse. Instead, Russell illuminates our discordant world with the tools, talent and craft of a prize-winning writer who extols the fractal insights of the artist above the weary posturing of academia.
For example, consider his take on Camille Paglia, one of the most controversial social critics of our times. Constructed as a dialogue between Iago and Cicero on board a jetliner en route to a convention in Cancun, “Sex & Violence, or Nature & Art” portrays these two iconic figures grappling with late 20th century sexual politics. Are they confused by it all? Well, who isn’t?
I could go on. This book serves up a feast of insights, inside gossip and whimsy about scores of historical and contemporary figures, everyone from Keith Richards to Adolf Hitler to Andre Agassi to Roman Polanski. Like all memorable writing, the real value in Outlaw Academic is not only “what it’s about” but also “how it’s told.”
Since the advent of social media our cultural ship has run adrift in a sea of selfies and self-affirmations. Or to shift metaphors, we are lost in a narcissistic labyrinth of our own making. So pause a moment to consider yourself and where you might stand in this hall of mirrors — from the point of view of a writer who is not afraid to shatter the reflective glass and play the outlaw’s game.