Monday, September 1, 2008

Library stacks

i wasn't far into my job when i learned that the life of the mind involved less reading than you might imagine. i started a stack of books called "books to read this summer." when the summer of 1994 came and went, i started a new stack of "books to read this summer," and moved the unread to "books to read next summer." when i had three years of summer reading piled up, i started a stack called "books to read upon my retirement." what's next, "books to read before i die"?

every sabbatical is an opportunity to start anew. and every sabbatical ends with the glum realization that, once again, i have read far less than i meant to. here is a record of my misspent time, organized according to the tippy stack of books i will schlep back to the university this week, unread:
  • mike davis, planet of slums and david harvey, the new imperialism. i was going to read these in service of a doctoral student's project. maisaa defended her thesis back in january. oh well.
  • brian massumi, parables of the virtual. i bought the book because i was intrigued by the following: "critical thinking disavows its own inventiveness as much as possible. because it sees itself as uncovering something it claims was hidden or as debunking something it desires to subtract from the world, it clings to a basically descriptive and justificatory modus operandi. however strenuously it might debunk concepts like 'representation,' it carries on as if it mirrored something outside itself with which it had no complicity, no unmediated processual involvement, and thus could justifiably oppose. prolonging the thought-path of movement, as suggested here, requires that techniques of negative critique be used sparingly. the balance has to shirt to affirmative methods: techniques which embrace their own inventiveness and are not afraid to own up to the fact that they add (if so meagerly) to reality." still sounds promising. but 256 pages of massumi? i started blogging instead.
  • latin american spanish: been there, done that. sorta.
  • henry giroux, the university in chains, george fallis, multiversities, ideas and democracy, james cote and anton allahar, ivory tower blues, clark kerr, the uses of the university: guess i never did write that book about the contemporary university.
  • CD the dreaming gate. "enter a shamanic 'dreamtime' with the entrancing didgeridoo music of inlakesh and hemi-sync (TM)." fine. i'm never going to crack the cellophane. but why on earth, you might be wondering, do i even own such a thing? spite. i did a leadership training thing at the banff centre last fall. it was generally good, but they hired a chiropractor to do one of the sessions, and i hated him. we all did. (jen, you're reading: am i right?) he was at once simplistic and self-satisfied, offering the most simple-minded advice you could imagine. cleaning him out of free CDs was our way of trying to recoup the hours of our time he soaked up without apology or shame.
  • naomi klein, the shock doctrine. wait, no, that stays. i am totally going to read this book. any day now.
  • douglas coupland, the gum thief. in hard cover. what was i thinking?
  • houston wood, native features: indigenous films from around the world. houston, my friend, i love you. and i am glad, very glad, to own your book. but, uh, i didn't get around to actually reading it. yet.
  • barbara gowdy, helpless. wait, i have a new barbara gowdy? for real? i love her! wow. oh, what a treat.
  • buenos aires, a cultural history. if i didn't finish reading it in BA, i'm unlikely to finish reading it here. still, it's such a good book i think i'll leave it in the reading stack for now. i'll read it when i finish tomas eloy martinez's the tango singer. also in the stack.
  • sun tzu, the art of war. i bought this thinking it might be helpful before heading back to the faculty of arts. and who knows, it might. that stays in the stack.
  • chip kidd, the learners and the cheese monkeys. now that he's not coming for exposure this fall.... oops. wasn't supposed to spill those beans. on the other hand, i did read alison bechdel's the fun home, which is a marvelous story of her relationship with her dad: complicated, recursive, intensely literary, funny.
  • john mcphee, annals of the former world. as i recall, i was reading this 696-page book around the time i joined facebook, so it's there under favorite books, making me look mannered and self-important (yet not so mannered and self-important that certain high school friends are afraid to befriend me). it's a geology of basin-and-range land formations across the united states. it goes with ellen meloy's three books, also still in the unread stacks: the anthropology of turquoise, eating stone and the last cheater's waltz. they stay, this trio, reminders and models of what nonfiction can be.
  • steve fuller, the intellectual. here's what it says on the back: "covering the intellectual from ancient greece to post-9/11, steve fuller introduces past exemplars -- voltaire, sartre, bertrand russell -- alongside many living examples, in this fascinating road-map to the intellectual life." is it really a road-map to the intellectual life? 'cause, like, that would be totally useful. on the other hand, how can you write a history of the intellectual in under 200 pages? on the third hand, short is good, i actually might read a book that short.
that's not bad, right? i've got rid of some stuff? still in the stack, to be read any day now: three books by rebecca solnit, mike davis's in praise of barbarians, fiction by coetzee, erdrich, vassanji, oliver sacks's musicophilia. oh, and the taschen twentieth-century design book. maybe i'll start there, just a quick browse ...


jen alabiso said...

since you called me out on this, i will testify...
chiropractors have VERY useful helpful good places in the health care system.

This particular chiropractor teaching in this particular program coloured all the rest of my week a dingy green. yes, people, he was THAT abysmal. but i will take issue - i don't think EVERYONE hated him. Just for a word that will say that we're the smart ones without offending those who DID enjoy his blather...) well, let's just say not EVERYONE hated him.

so many little time...what are you doing at the computer, you have reading to do!

Anthony said...

moving meant that lots and lots of my reading ended up at home, and so my to read pile began anew, that said, i still have so much, so i feel yr pain.

(the mike davis will take you an afternoon, i read it on the greyhound from calgary to edmonton, which is what ,3 hours, and well well worth it--problems with his histography aside)

(and this, put klein off my to read list for a while)

on my pile right now:

jim crace the devils larder
chris dewdney acquainted with the night
anne geddes bailey's edited festenspeilen on timothy findley
(all cancon, i have been working on reading canadian.)

moneyball, because since the olympics, i am wondering about the implications of sports as culture when economics is concerned

judith halberstams in a queer place--i feel guilty about this, but i mostly find her sort of dull, but its to keep up with the big queer theory names,

anne sexton an awful rowing towards god, because in jan, i made a project to read 24 books of poetry, its not going to happen by dec.

howard dully's memoir of his lobotomy at 12

geoffery batcher's burning with desire, a recontextualaztion of postmodernities critques of early photographic history, fascinating, but dense, and is taking me forever to read.

wittengeins blue and brown notebooks, on certanity, and his essays on colour.

two books on finnish lutheranism, because of an interview i just finished with a singer/songwriter about his religion and heritage.

so, shorter then yrs, but still toppley