It’s been a while since the last installment. While tonight’s Oscars suggest movies rather than books as a topic, I’ve only seen two of the Best Picture nominees (and one of them was No Country For Old Men, which reminded me of Brokeback Mountain but more crazy and less gay), so I’m not going there. Instead I’m writing about some books lying around. Without further ado, then:
Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993).
Tough to encapsulate. Bourdieu seeks to add refinements to Marxist-inspired cultural theory by exploring the complex “space” of cultural production. “Field” — in the sense of the French word “champ” — is the word he prefers. I like milieu, but that has various layered meanings as well. There is a deep sense of history in Bourdieu’s work. He’s also innately sociological, and makes really neat charts.
The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Third Edition (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1996).
Yeah, well…I’ve already admitted to my addiction.
John Hope Franklin and August Meier, eds., Black Leaders of The Twentieth Century (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1982).
This is a collection of terse and well-written biographies of major American black leaders. The range runs from W.E.B. Du Bois to Martin Luther King, Jr., with the likes of Marcus Garvey stirred into the mix. A book used in a U.S. history course I helped teach a few years ago. Seems as if it’s becoming obsolete. Partly due to the likes of Wikipedia. This is dated print material — not only is there no Obama in this book, there’s not even a Jesse Jackson! 1982, remember…
Philip K. Dick, The Philip K. Dick Reader (New York: Citadel Press, 1997).
A collection of short stories from this master of American sci-fi. There are a number that have inspired films, from “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (Total Recall) to “The Golden Man” (Next). Some of the best stories here are the unknown ones — especially Dick’s earlier works, exemplars of the “paranoid style” of American sci-fi (and politics). One in particular — “The Hanging Stranger” — is quite haunting. The early days of UFO cosmology are patent in this stuff, preparatory to Dick’s full move into the realm of dark delusion and subsequent search for light. Bringing me naturally to the final book…
John Strauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).
An examination and condemnation of the public relations industry and its effect on the modern media universe. Perhaps dated, but still pointed and polemical. There’s some good stuff on the history of the PR business in here, with discussions of figures like Edward Bernays. Reads like a study for the screenplay of Michael Clayton. This, curiously, is the other Best Picture nominee I’ve seen to date. A fascinating book that essentially ends up being about politics and propaganda.
Which, somehow, just makes me want to shout out “hurray for Hollywood!”