If you think the NYT Derrida obit was harsh …

by Henry Farrell on October 22, 2004

try Dean R. Koontz’s “The Face,” as “described”:http://www.ansible.co.uk/writing/random07.html by David Langford.

bq. Koontz gives us an effectively alarming villain with a set policy of disrupting society via acts of chaos, a dark Merry Prankster; but the book seems inflated far beyond its natural length by … demonstrating this fellow’s wickedness again and again as he remorselessly kills a whole series of accomplices to his ultimate Big Bad Plan, while — being a deconstructionist professor — he naturally passes his spare time starving and tormenting a kidnapped colleague who gave offence by admiring such classics as Mark Twain. But of course.



Adam Kotsko 10.22.04 at 3:07 am

It’s interesting that the foremost academic blog has had exactly one post responding to Derrida’s death (by my count — that being a simple announcement that it had occurred), and that this post itself does little other than repeat an exaggeration of the customary half-informed “critiques” of deconstruction, albeit ironically.

Another possible course of action would have been to link to the many thoughtful, informed responses to his work throughout the blogosphere, by Daniel Green, Tim Burke, Lars Iyer, etc., etc., etc.

Many of those who wrote such pieces have a relatively small readership, and it would have been nice for their reflections to be rewarded with the extra traffic a Crooked Timber link could generate.

But anyway.


Adam Kotsko 10.22.04 at 3:20 am

It just occurred to me that I can take matters into my own hands here:
Daniel Green
Timothy Burke
Lars Iyer


rarotonga 10.22.04 at 3:38 am

Whether you are the “foremost academic blog” or you “have a relatively small readership”: we will evalulate what you say, not based on who you are.


asg 10.22.04 at 3:46 am

My favorite Koontz villain was in “Dark Rivers of the Heart”… the government bureaucrat from hell.

Koontz does write a good potboiler; his recent “Odd Thomas” was, while over the top in many respects, a genuinely heartbreaking story.


Henry 10.22.04 at 5:44 am


If you check the post, you’ll see that it was updated to link to Scott McLemee’s long obituary. But there’s a more straightforward response – none of us are literary critics, or engaged in fields that have been directly touched by Derrida’s work (John Holbo has an interest in this, but it’s primarily a personal one). I think that it’s a bit much to expect us to be able to respond at length to someone who we may not necessarily know much about. As should have been clear from the initial post, I didn’t much like the NYT obit – but I’m not qualified to provide an alternative take by any stretch of the imagination. Nor do I think that we should have an obligation to search for other blogs writing on this – if someone had brought them to my attention, I would have happily linked from my original post – but we only have so many hours in the day, and, to be honest, I usually prefer to blog about the stuff that I know about and enjoy (or at least feel that I can comment on in a semi-intelligent manner).

asg – Koontz seems from all accounts to be a nice guy, and has a fondness for Tim Powers, which argues for some taste. But my candid opinion is that his books suck. I speak from experience – I spent some time in Florence with access to little reading material other than Koontz, and didn’t much care for it. He’s responsible for one of the worst sentences I have ever read; from _Phantoms_;

bq. Somewhere in Snowfield, were there living human beings who had been reduced to the awful equivalent of foil-wrapped Pop Tarts, waiting only to provide nourishment for some brutal, unimaginably evil, darkly intelligent, other-dimensional horror?

I submitted that one to David Langford’s infamous overview of bad genre writing, “Thog’s Masterclass”:http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/SF-Archives/Ansible/a128.html – as far as I remember it made it into a sort of Thog’s greatest hits at a later stage.


Adam Kotsko 10.22.04 at 5:54 am


Point taken.


derrida derider 10.22.04 at 8:10 am

If you think the NYT obit was snarky, have a look at this week’s Economist.


Modern Crusader 10.22.04 at 9:01 am


Jacques Derrida, yimach shmo (may his name and memory be obliterated), the most Satanic philosopher of our generation has died, thank God, and good riddance. May he burn in Hellfire for the rest of eternity. This evil Satanic degenerate French demon brainwashed an entire generation to believe that words have no definitive meaning. Deconstruction is best summarized in the words of Bill Clinton, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the–if he–if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.” Jacques Derrida Dies; Deconstructionist Philosopher.

“With him, France has given the world one of its greatest contemporary philosophers, one of the major figures of intellectual life of our time,” Chirac said in a statement.

This puts him right next to Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein in the Chirac pantheon of deities.

The lack of fixed meaning in a text did not keep Mr. Derrida from publishing hundreds of books. The fact that there is no single meaning does not mean there is no meaning, he said, and it doesn’t excuse writers, thinkers and speakers from trying to be as clear as possible about what they think they mean.

In other words, absolute rubbish that will be cast into the trash heap of history alongside Rousseau and Marx.


Ray 10.22.04 at 12:35 pm

I assumed that ‘moderncrusader’ was another Landover Baptist type thing. It isn’t. Crooked Timberites should watch out – this site on on the Enemies List!


Henry 10.22.04 at 2:32 pm

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between parody and dimwitted bluster.


asg 10.22.04 at 3:54 pm

Henry — I’d agree that, when lined up against the better sf writers, Koontz is wanting. And it’s true most of his books are simply crap. It’s funny you should quote “Phantoms” because I loved that one, although the fact that I was in ninth grade when I read it may have something to do with that (same goes for “Twilight Eyes”, which struck me as wonderful in high school but when I picked it up again a few years ago I couldn’t stomach it at all). That is a pretty horrific sentence, though.

Still, he has had his moments. I rather liked “The Servants of Twilight”, which is one of the scariest books about religious fanaticism I’ve ever read, and the one about voodoo was also just Lovecraftian enough to be enjoyable.


Henry 10.22.04 at 4:51 pm

Well, I’ll admit that it’s a pretty large oeuvre, and that I haven’t read more than three or four of them. Could be something good out there (and I do admire his canny business sense too). Also, I too find it hard to be critical of the books I loved when I was a kid, regardless of whether they were good or bad.


Arthur D. Hlavaty 10.22.04 at 7:49 pm

I enjoy Koontz at his best, but he has a great range of quality. In his Ace Doubles days he once wrote of “laser cannons belching corrosive froth.”

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