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Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World Hardcover – October 10, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of Latin America's most honored historians and authors, Galeano (Memory of Fire) returns with more barbed and bewitching accounts of the contradictions of the First World, as filtered through the enlightened sensibilities of a Third World scholar-writer from Uruguay. He chastises the moneyed First World, which he terms the "upside down world," as a culture gone amok that "scorns honesty, punishes work, and prizes the lack of scruples." In a series of wickedly on-target parables, lessons and homilies that force the reader to question the state of the world as we know it, Galeano slams industrialized nations for turning their backs on critical issues of our time, including poverty, child abuse, patriarchal arrogance and political deception. In "Practicum: How to Make Friends and Succeed in Life," he examines the nature of power, be it cultural, political and religious, revealing how in each area power is maintained through secrecy, money and terror. Humor, sarcasm and careful research inform his short tales of greed and tyranny in full bloom in "Master Class on Impunity," which displays the author at his witty, sardonic best. Concluding his primer with the most potent of his lessons, "The End of the Millennium as Promise and Betrayal," he delivers his hardest blows with stream-of-consciousness truths that match the best work of Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Thomas Merton: "What has the world left us? A desolate, de-souled world, that practices the superstitious worship of machines and the idolatry of arms, an upside-down world with its left on its right, its belly button on its backside, and its head where its feet used to be." This is arguably Galeano's most spirited and eloquent examination of our topsy-turvy modern worldDa ticking literary hand grenade waiting to detonate in the mind of the reader. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

With this near-reverent look at current Latin American culture, Uruguayan Galeano adds to his impressive list of publishing credentials (e.g., the "Memory of Fire" trilogy) and awards (the American Book Award and the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom). He subtitles this lively volume a "primer"Dthat is, a primer for pessimism and doom. Considering life in what he terms the South (for readers, the nations of Latin America), he highlights the hopelessness of countries that are not the United States. Galeano offers realistic perspectives on children, crime, racism and sexism, advertising and consumers, and haves and have-nots in a corporation-dominated world. His writing is entertaining and often humorous, yet it yields considerable insight into the everyday expectations of our neighbors to the south, and the author's conclusions are most troubling. Small inserts within the text illustrate his pointsDthe most telling of which focuses on a young boy consumed with watching television, who, when informed of the death of a favorite aging aunt, asks "Who killed her?" Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
-DBoyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., AL
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (October 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805063757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805063752
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard A. Ellis on March 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Galeano, best known for his monumental "Memory of Fire" trilogy, has written a very timely, important look at the ravages that unrestrained capitalism is visiting on the world. "Upside Down" is probably the only book I can think of that can talk about international economics in a way that could be described as lyrical and poetic. While I thought I was fairly well versed in the various world-wide outrages associated with corporate hegemony, and the kind of libertarian free-trade new order they seek to impose, there was a lot of material here that was new. The book certainly meets the "blood boiling" test: you really can't read this without getting angry. To dismiss this as "agit-prop" as does the Kirkus Review quoted above is simply absurd. "Upside Down" deserves a place on the shelf next to the small number of books that have come out lately that question the monolithic corporate rhetoric: if you liked Frank's "One Market Under God;" Klein's "No Logo;" Hardt and Negri's "Empire" and, in the British context, Monbiot's "Captive State," then you'll like this. Essential reading for these times, and it could serve as a primer for the anti-corporate backlash that hopefully is not too far away.
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Format: Hardcover
At the outset, I must admit that Galeano is one of my favorite authors, so I bought this with high expectations. Again, I wasn't disappointed; Galeano's comprehensive perspective and profound, yet practical, insights are genuinely awesome. He tells us what we need to know and recognize but often find too difficult to confront and acknowledge.
This work directly presents the unvarnished truth about the relationship of the "developed" or "first" world vis a vis the "third" world. As Galeano aptly notes, the former comprises the "north" -- the United States and Europe, and the latter that which is south of this north -- Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia. His metaphor "upside down" is apt, not only in terms of geography, but as he points the power structure's media and institutions represent as truth the complete opposite of the actual realities of the world's institutions, societies, and plight of the majority of its populace.
Galeano makes his astute and irrefutable observations in a clever, interesting and thought provoking conceptual fashion. The book is extremely readable, but after a while the first world reader will surely become ill at ease, and will unconsciously attempt to provide rationalizations for the ugly and relentless oppression and exploitation of the third world by northern societies.
"Upside Down" is a needed dose of reality, but reading it is often like a cold glass of water thrown in your face. However, like such a glass of water it will wake you up and demand your attention.
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By A Customer on October 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A poetic, depressing, yet strangely energizing catalogue of the consumerist hypocracies we live with daily. Mind-numbing inequality, increasing ecological destruction, endemic militarism -- they're not just unfortunate "side-effects" of our institutions, but are in fact necessary to their continued existence.
This book will provoke a predictable outrage among those with vested interests in an unequal world. For those with the heart for the bitter, honest truth of the world we have made, this book is indeed a useful primer.
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Format: Hardcover
Eduardo Galeano was prompted to leave Uruguay for being too pushy with the truth. His crime? Telling tales that pushed politicians and citizens before the mirror of Uruguay's looking glass world. These same pushy truths are revived in Galeano's 10th book, Upside Down: A Primer for The Looking-Glass World. Galeano's newest collection of essays and quiet manifestos-haunted throughout by the sketchings of deceased political illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada-are part advertisement, part class syllabi, part prose performance piece, and part human rights reportage. Deftly translated by Mark Fried, chapters include such titles as: The Sacred Car, The Teaching of Fear, and Master Class on Impunity. Each missive, biting yet lyrical, is a carefully considered bit of philosophical criticism dispelling the mystique of the `advertised life'. By integrating slogans, commercials and advertisements into his prose performance pieces, Galeano reinterprets market economics, and deflates the progress myth of 20th century divine capitalism. It is impossible to read Upside Down without growing from reader to critic. However, Galeano's greatest achievement is not of social critic but as prose stylist and artisan. As such, he creates a new architectural foundation for words by extending the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction then re-joining them in order to put forth his ideas. In this book of easy and affecting prose Galeano directs the reader to be as he must always be-always conscious and forever a participant. "The looking-glass school teaches us to suffer reality, not change it; to forget the past, not learn from it; to accept the future, not invent it...Yet perhaps-who can say-there can be no disgrace without grace, no sign without a countersign, and no school that does not beget its counterschool."
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