Open thread

by John Quiggin on August 10, 2020

With everything going on, we at CT haven’t managed any posts for a few days, so I’m opening a thread for comments on any topic. I’ll try to get comments out of moderation reasonably promptly, but bear in mind that I’m in Australia, near the opposite time of day to most readers.

{ 49 comments }

1

Tqft 08.10.20 at 10:51 am

I am concerned about national cabinet.

Already seen some signs the rejigging of coag has been going ahead, name of a prior coag council changed.

Does this mean the agreements between feds and states are open to renegotiation? The sharing of various powers?

2

Kenneth 08.10.20 at 12:05 pm

What about some pure escapism, for SciFi fans? Suggestions for the most convincingly ‘alien’ depiction of an alien civilisation? Film began with face-masks-and-horns but CGI has mainly only enabled monsters-being-monsters. The printed word should be more imaginative, and less constrained; but is not always convincingly ‘other’.
My contender for out-of-the-box thinking as a start: Vinge’s pack Tines from Fire Upon the Deep – group entities with disparate individual components.

3

Tm 08.10.20 at 12:08 pm

Can the last few threads be reopened?

4

roger gathmann 08.10.20 at 12:23 pm

How about complacency? John Cassidy ended his column for the New Yorker about how Trump could still win, with this flourish: “Between now and November 3rd, Biden and his supporters will have to go all out to defeat them. Complacency isn’t an option.”

Complacency not being an option in this election has been a constant meme from the groups that flood my email with requests for campaign contributions. It is the most important election of our lives! etc.
So, where is complacency an option? I have a little list. Having lived 62 years now, I can say: 1., The problem of global warming has been responded to, since it came into scientific focus, with overwhelming complacency, and the policy still is drift. 2. In the US., the racism inscribed in the justice system has been exposed for decades, and absolutely no changes to the system have been made. Police reform that was suggested a decade ago by the report on Ferguson has been sort of a joke among police union honchos. Complacency is the only option, apparently. 3, Wealth and income inequality, rising since the early seventies in the high income nations, and particularly in the States, has risen every year since, what, 1980? Much ado has been made about this topic, and complacency, when not collaboration with making the rich richer, has been the response of the political establishment. 4. The collapse of blue collar communities, the plunge into decades of death from despair, has been around, now, since the 90s. It isn’t going anywhere. If a new killer opioid is produced by big pharma and there is a big profit potential, no party’s FDA appointees will kill it. Nor will anything at all be done about the healthcare system as a whole. I’d say complacency is now, and will continue to be, the only option.
So I’m wondering about the urgency of the vote, and the non-urgency of everything else.

5

Mike Huben 08.10.20 at 12:47 pm

Sometimes we need a good term to think about things properly.

There doesn’t seem to be a term for harms and deaths due to corporate/market mechanisms, even though this is a very common and large phenomenon. Start with the toxic industries: tobacco, opioids, lead, etc. This indicates to me that there is a need for the term to bring an accounting for the millions hurt and killed, which exceed those of well-known genocides. This sounds like a good subject for a PhD thesis, to assemble together the diverse harms and see their true scope.

Killing through markets, commerce, and other indirect and distributed methods. Voluntary participation by customers does not exclude deaths or responsibility from this category because (as in tobacco) their participation is due to advertising. This includes propaganda efforts such as anti-vax. It includes deaths due to sale of illegal and legal drugs where addiction plays a part. It includes deaths due to suppression of risk information. It includes deaths due to insufficient regulation (guns.) It includes deaths due to pollution. It includes deaths with distributed responsibility, as in corporations.

I looked for this in Wikipedia, and they have a list of different types of homicide. None correspond to cases such as the Sackler’s opioid deaths. Instead we use a passive term “epidemic” that doesn’t implicate anyone, let alone corporations and their owners who are the direct cause. Industrial manslaughter approaches this idea, but is not nearly inclusive enough.

Not having a term probably makes it much more difficult to legislate, sue or prosecute.

Possible names: mercaticide, mercatanoxia.

6

James 08.10.20 at 3:05 pm

Any thoughts on the Drew Pavlou affair, since it is happening at your own university?

7

Anarcissie 08.10.20 at 4:56 pm

Mr. Taibbi has been ripping up the rotted corpse of Russiagate+ some more. That might be interesting to some. It’s a subscription thing, so not all of it is freely available, I guess. The related web site is https://taibbi.substack.com/

8

Omega Centauri 08.10.20 at 6:02 pm

So what prospects do you give Australia in beating the second wave of COVID? Much of the rest of the world didn’t beat the first wave back far enough for the current spike to even qualify as a second wave. At least your government seems to be serious about beating it.

9

Hidari 08.10.20 at 6:23 pm

Soooo…..anybody seen any good films lately?

10

Bruce 08.10.20 at 6:25 pm

Why not 4 hour days and 20 hour weeks? Everyone would have a job. Sure, fewer profits, but who cares? We have more than enough production.

11

MPAVictoria 08.10.20 at 6:42 pm

I hope everyone is hanging in there. I have to admit that last few months have been a real struggle. My alcohol and pot consumption are at previously unheard of levels and I have a great deal of anxiety of the impact catching COVID could have on a Type One Diabetic such as myself…. Luckily I have been able to work from home and am in a position where affording insulin and other supplies is not an issue. Not all Type Ones are so lucky (#Insulin4All)

One current bright spot is that I have finally started watching The Wire after years of hearing how great it is. I am a couple episodes into Season 2 and I have to admit it mostly lives up to the hype. My main complaint is that the Grim-Darkness has already reached pretty high levels so I have to buffer it with episodes of Modern Family (which is one of the better Sitcoms of the last few years imo).

Besides that I have been taking care of my pets (2 pugs and 2 cats all rescues), tried to teach myself a bit of guitar using some YouTube videos and spent a lot of time out on my patio messing with flowers. I also have been posting a daily poll on my Twitter Account (same name I use here) on some fun non-COVID topic. Breaking a thousand votes some days which is nice to see. All are welcome to vote so come on by and let me know you are from Crooked Timber.

Stay safe and stay sane friends.
MPAVictoria
(Socialist Cowboy)

12

Ray Vinmad 08.10.20 at 6:54 pm

Book suggestions anyone? They don’t have to be about our current crisis though I find myself preferring history or politics or science that sheds light on aspects of it.

There’s little time to read these days but the book discussions are my favorite thing about CT.

13

bob mcmanus 08.10.20 at 9:15 pm

12:I am of course hesitant, but Steven Johnson in the social media thread below linked to Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle.” I am seeing more cites and references to the work now than when he wrote it.

“Rule 1: Personalize everything.”

This is of course a tool as well as a weapon, it’s is just a technology. I remember Coates starting out in journalism being told to add an individual personal narrative to every story, just a person-in-the-street hook. This adds value to many exchanges, recuperable value accumulating in personal social capital. So…

2) Jodi Dean has become on of leading Marxists, even communist, and I take pleasure in watching her triumph. Blog Theory is one of many Marxian analyses of social media but one of the best

I remember her “the circulation of commodified affect” as flipping a switch for me. Our hearts, souls, and minds have been colonized by Late Capitalism;our dreams, fears loves and families become profit centers and sites of capital accumulation. We are just arguing about price. There is no escape. The only place outside is in abjectness, so loathed as to be exiled from all human relationships because all such have been instrumentalized.

Or in self-abnegation, aka collectivism.

14

J-D 08.10.20 at 9:48 pm

I am concerned about national cabinet.

Personally, I would reckon that National Cabinet would be the last people in the country to be concerned about. I figure they can look after themselves.

15

J-D 08.10.20 at 9:53 pm

Suggestions for the most convincingly ‘alien’ depiction of an alien civilisation?

How about Dragon’s Egg, by Robert L Forward?

16

Stephen T Johnson 08.10.20 at 9:55 pm

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blockquote cite=””> Kenneth 08.10.20 at 12:05 pm

What about some pure escapism, for SciFi fans? Suggestions for the most convincingly ‘alien’ depiction of an alien civilisation? Film began with face-masks-and-horns but CGI has mainly only enabled monsters-being-monsters. The printed word should be more imaginative, and less constrained; but is not always convincingly ‘other’.
My contender for out-of-the-box thinking as a start: Vinge’s pack Tines from Fire Upon the Deep – group entities with disparate individual components.

Going to have to go with Stanley G. Weinbaum’s Martian Oddysey still. What a great story!
One one two yes! Two two four, no!

17

JimV 08.10.20 at 10:53 pm

Book suggestions: Vernor Vinge was mentioned above. I greatly enjoyed all of his novels, especially “A Fire Upon the Deep” and “A Deepness in the Sky”. Peter F. Hamilton’s “Pandora’s Star”, its other half, and “The Great North Road” are also in that personal category. Along with Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem”. Most of Michael Connelly’s novels are good if not quite at the imaginative level of the previously mentioned. I am currently re-reading “The Lincoln Lawyer” for the third or fourth time. If you liked “The Wire” you’ll love Richard Price’s “Clockers” (from which some of the scenes in “The Wire” come), and even more, “Freedom Land”. (I don’t find most of his his other novels as gripping.)

Movies I’ve been willing to see twice or more: “Winter’s Bone”, “Margin Call”, “Unstoppable”, and “Michael Clayton”. They all had some of the requisite Hollywood schlock but not too much and a lot of heart as well. “Ford Vs. Ferrari” is not quite in that category but it portrays an actual corporate CEO (in all his self-glory) quite well and Christian Bale does a fantastic job as an ex-patriot English engineer. (I was mentored at GE by a guy just like him, down to the idioms, competence, and generally cheery outlook.) Speaking of Christian Bale, “American Hustle” was amazingly good, as was Amy Adams, and my old favorite Jennifer Lawrence from “Winter’s Bone” (for which she won an Oscar).

18

J-D 08.10.20 at 10:59 pm

So I’m wondering about the urgency of the vote, and the non-urgency of everything else.

Elections change some things but they don’t change everything. Therefore, for somebody who wants to change things, it’s a rational strategy to allocate effort both to activities related to elections and to other activities. For anybody who cares about election results, it is rational to treat the outcome of this year’s presidential election as not assured, and doing so does not exclude caring about other things as well as election results.

Of course election campaigns urge you to contribute to election campaigns; that doesn’t mean they are urging you not to contribute to anything else. That’s up to you.

19

J-D 08.10.20 at 11:05 pm

Going to have to go with Stanley G. Weinbaum’s Martian Oddysey still. What a great story!
One one two yes! Two two four, no!

Good choice.

20

Cranky Observer 08.10.20 at 11:13 pm

Wanted to say thanks to the proprietors, front-pagers, and persons on moderator duty for keeping Crooked Timber going. High-quality discussion blogs covering political economy and social issues are gradually dying off, and I am grateful that what I have longer considered the best blog on the Internet continues to operate at a time when we all need some virtual engagement at a higher level of thought.

21

J-D 08.10.20 at 11:54 pm

A member of the Alabama legislature has received a negative reaction for giving the invocation for an annual celebration of the birthday of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and has attributed it to ‘cancel culture’.

Is that ‘cancel culture’? Does it matter? Nathan Bedford Forrest should not be forgotten, but he should not be celebrated; there are some things which [i]should[/i] be cancelled, like celebrations of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s birthday.

22

Tim Dymond 08.11.20 at 12:29 am

Mundane observation: Food prices have been going up in Australia, even while aggregated Living Cost Indexes have been falling. Average living cost declines are being driven by temporary government measures such as free child care, and low interest rate targeting by Central Banks. However supermarket prices have been rising as people return to the shops, and COVID related supply chain issues kick in.

How politically significant will food prices increases be, given those are the sort of prices people ‘notice’ more on a daily basis? There were food riots around the globe as recently as 2007-2008 and 2010-2011.

23

dePonySum 08.11.20 at 12:59 am

So I’ve always had this artistic fantasy about a poem written by no one. In the past there have been things that sort of attempted this- for example, Angry Penguins.

Now with the coming of GPT-3- a language bot that can complete almost any type of prompt, I’m trying to make this a reality. Only I’m not just using GPT-3’s stuff, I’m using a blend of GPT-3 and famous poets- so GPT-3 can’t even be said to be the author. Anyway, as part of this project, because the point is to distance myself from the poem, it would be really helpful to get suggestions and ideas from others, so it’s even less “my” work”. Here’s what I have so far:

https://deponysum.com/2020/08/10/work-in-progress-arcadian-exercises-a-poem-without-an-author/

24

John 08.11.20 at 2:50 am

This site which features the comprehensive all-inclusive work of David Fleming provides many hours of inspired rumination http://leanlogic.online

25

bob mcmanus 08.11.20 at 6:02 am

“Suggestions for the most convincingly ‘alien’ depiction of an alien civilisation?”

Since the 80s, whenever I have felt this urge, I have asked myself how much I really understand about Sparta, Tang China, Tokugawa Japan and Mark Twain’s America and why those wouldn’t provide enough exoticism, condescension, and moral time-travel that I would need an alternate in intelligent critters on other planets.

Having said that, the really really alien is a sub-genre (maybe sub-sub) that most of the major writers played with as a challenge at some point, like time-travel and high or low fantasy. Lovecraft, Clarke, Silverberg, Tiptree, Wolfe established a reputation with the weirdness in 5th Head of Cerberus. Course I think the method of SFF is making the incomprehensible apprehensible and surrealism and meta-fiction are its close companions.

Dude I would especially point to in the genre would be Michael Bishop who in his first decade or so examined in formidable depth the Anthopological and Ethical Encounter with the Inexplicable Other

26

Jim Buck 08.11.20 at 6:26 am

I would like to read John Holbo’s thoughts on Watchmen (tv series). Any other clever person’s thoughts on it, for that matter.

27

John Quiggin 08.11.20 at 6:57 am

I’m depressed about books as well as everything else. I mostly read SF for pleasure, and it’s been thin pickings lately. Iain M. Banks and Terry Pratchett are dead, Stross and McLeod haven’t had much new for a while, Felix Gilman looks to have given up on Half-Made World, I lost patience with Ian McDonald’s Luna series for some reason. And, even with all the implied spare time I haven’t made it through Piketty’s latest monster tome.

I am at least finding some time to write my own book, but that’s always something of a slog for me.

28

John Quiggin 08.11.20 at 7:19 am

James @6 Although this is happening at the university where I am employed, I don’t know anything more about it than what I read in the paper. I honestly don’t know whether the Pavlou case is a conspiracy or a stuffup. Australian folk wisdom says go for the stuffup every time. Either way, it’s been a disaster for UQ’s reputation.

29

Tm 08.11.20 at 8:53 am

Book I read and recommend:

Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway by Siobhan Roberts
The biography of the great Mathematician, who recently died of Covid-19, age 82. Sad.

Books I’ve come across that I would like to read:

Capitalism in the Web of Life. Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital by Jason W. Moore, Verso Books, London 2015. German translation appeared 2020

«Le dernier homme et la fin de la révolution. Foucault après Mai 68» by Daniel Zamora und Mitchell Dean. Lux Éditeur. Montréal . English translation to appear soon.
Foucault saw in neoliberalism a progressive element, downplaying its authoritarian and
exploitative side. The book analyzes this philosophical position and its influence on the New Left. This seems a highly relevant topic.
Interview in English translation: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/09/michel-foucault-neoliberalism-friedrich-hayek-milton-friedman-gary-becker-minoritarian-governments
Another interview in German: https://www.woz.ch/-a238

Hegel: Der Weltphilosoph by Sebastian Ostritsch, 2020
Perhaps if I read this book I’ll understand something about Hegel at last. Seems like a long shot ;-)

Becoming Human : A Theory of Ontogeny by Michael Tomasello, Harvard University Press 2019

30

J-D 08.11.20 at 8:54 am

Can the last few threads be reopened?

It doesn’t seem that’s going to happen; but you could always respond on this open thread to comments on those closed threads. I may even do that myself.

31

nastywoman 08.11.20 at 9:12 am

@11
”I hope everyone is hanging in there. I have to admit that last few months have been a real struggle. My alcohol and pot consumption are at previously unheard of levels”

as has my consumption of Aperol Spritz –
AND!!!
WE desperately need a new conspiracy – as QAnon – ”the conspiracy theory painting Trump as the last line of defense between American ideals and the foul intentions of deep-state Hillary is still gaining followers by the millions – and when we invented the idea: that Hillary has a PizzeriaPedophiliaRing – we thought everybody got the joke right away – but then came Q and took it seriously – and so WE went to the Isle of Silence –

https://youtu.be/RBgJjYzHbQE

BUT there – the only theory we could come up with –
was:
IT’S ALL THE GERMANS (NAZIS) FAULT?

As they don’t go to Italy anymore in sufficient numbers and instead make vacations at home – AND – because they lost WWII – they had in 2015 thousands and thousands of German Posters on the Internet -(pretending to be Russians posting from Japan as ph) in order to elect the German ”Trump” as US President –
in order to have him destroy the Heimatland America.

OR is such a theory too stupid to be believable?
Or doesn’t it matter what theory we come up with – as our fellow Americans anyway like to believe anything – as long as it is as funny or entertaining as ME having a PedophiliaPizzeria?

AND as @23 wrote:
”So I’ve always had this artistic fantasy about a poem written by no one. In the past there have been things that sort of attempted this- for example, Angry Penguins”.

Should – instead of them German – ”Angry Penguins” be blamed?

They are a lot… cuter than Germans?
AND by the way – my German Dad wanted to celebrate a HUUUGE birthday together with his Australian friend – who is born on the same day in the same year in Melbourne and then the Virus killed ALL of the plans and now he blames the Australians for everything.

So as an alternative?
It’s ALL Australiens Fault?

32

John Quiggin 08.11.20 at 9:29 am

I’ve now reopened comments on recent posts. I thought that had already happened.

33

Tm 08.11.20 at 9:30 am

I admired Matt Taibbi’s book “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap”. I haven’t heard of him since until I read the link recommended by our special friend with the cheesy name (see the Hacker Pierson thread). Taibbi really has become a crank, and when you look at the comments, he has the matching followership. The thesis that white rural Trump voters people care about nothing so much than what the editors of “Rolling Stone” think about them is truly bizarre, not least because it is highly unlikely that most Trump voters have ever had a copy of “Rolling Stone” in their hands.

When liberals make these kinds of claims, absurdly exagerating the relevance of the “liberal media” (New York City) and “pop culture” (Hollywood) in contemporary American discourse (Taibbi writes this long rant heaping blame on the “media system” without mentioning Fox News!), it seems that some kind of delusion of grandeur must be at work. Frank and Taibbi know very well that the actual relevance of liberal intellectuals in America is next to none (Taibbi says so explicitly) but somehow, he still thinks “liberal elites” are influential enough to provoke a backlash, and that if only those elites changed their attitudes of alleged condescension versus rural whites, politics would be different. There is no point arguing with this belief, it is no less unhinged than any right wing conspiracy theory.

34

nastywoman 08.11.20 at 9:50 am

and about:
Hidari: Soooo…..anybody seen any good films lately?

WE don’t go to the movies anymore – or has anybody seen anybody who still goes to the movies – and we used to go to EVERY new movie which came out – and
NOW –
We don’t go to the movies anymore – as – perhaps – you guys have heard it –
THERE IS THIS VIRUS OUT THERE –
who changed EVERYTHING!

35

Aubergine 08.11.20 at 11:18 am

Suggestions for the most convincingly ‘alien’ depiction of an alien civilisation?

I like Greg Egan’s aliens, which tend to be inhuman and mysterious in ways that plenty of SF writers have trouble with (e.g. the many alien races of SF that are completely foreign and yet somehow manage to replicate historical human social structures, often European ones). Try Diaspora or Incandescence.

There’s also Peter Watts’ Blindsight for some of the scariest and least human aliens out there. Although JQ, if books are making you feel depressed, this one is unlikely to make you feel better.

36

Dogen 08.11.20 at 12:44 pm

Relatively recent SFF for pleasure?

Try the
-Murderbot series by Martha Wells.
-Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

37

Stephen T Johnson 08.11.20 at 2:58 pm

John @ 27 – Becky Chambers? Slender oeuvre, but awfully good
Bob @ 25 – Right on about the alienness of the past. I can think of no human institution so distinctive as the Agoge

38

anonymouse 08.12.20 at 2:05 am

SF Books:

Scalzi’s Last Emperorx series is outstanding. But his writing always is.

Also, anything by Connie Willis.

39

J-D 08.12.20 at 3:50 am

I’m depressed about books as well as everything else. I mostly read SF for pleasure, and it’s been thin pickings lately.

Do you read only recently published work?

40

Lynne 08.12.20 at 1:19 pm

I’ll second the recommendation of Ann Leckie’s Ancillary trilogy. Although I’m not usually a sci fi reader, I enjoyed it very much.

41

steven t johnson 08.12.20 at 2:17 pm

Stephen T Johnson@37 “I can think of no human institution so distinctive as the Agoge.”

It seems like someone has been reading Bret Devereaux. Sadly, Devereaux is incompetent, in a charitable interpretation. But more likely he is lying to foster illusions in “democracy.” Anyhow, the Agoge has strong similarities to the British public schools system, at least if you don’t buy into J.K. Rowling boarding school fantasies. (This is where Rowling is genuinely to the right but practically no one notices, much less cares.)

Even if you limit yourself to military institutions Shaka Zulu was a kind of African Lycurgus. Dahomey’s women soldiers are notably different from the usual. Ottoman Janissaries were also remarkable, even if stolid people don’t.

And, of course, deciding that the Agoge was somehow stranger than the Pharaohs, incarnations of Horus and thus God-kings; monasticism of any sort; serfdom; imperialist world war…well, deciding this are just normal and the Agoge is uniquely outrageous requires mostly tacit agreement to thoughtless conventionality I think. It’s like assuming the Seventh Day Adventists are a cult but the Roman Catholic Church isn’t. Maybe, just maybe, it is barely possible to make a genuine case Scientology is weirder than the Mormons? But no one have ever succeeded in my judgment.

42

LFC 08.13.20 at 2:08 am

In re books.

I recently had occasion to dip again into a book I read some years ago, Iris Murdoch’s Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. Lengthy and uneven, with sharp insights sharing the page with banalities. Unsurprisingly given that she was a highly skilled novelist, she is good on art (in the broad sense) here. By contrast, her preoccupation with religion and its relations w philosophy does not engage me that much.

She can come up with lines that resonate even if their precise meaning is somewhat elusive. My recent partial re-reading turned up this one: “There is continual strife in the deep patterns of desire” (p. 293). She could have written “our psyches and souls are the sites of constant conflict and tension,” but “there is continual strife in the deep patterns of desire” says basically the same thing and sounds so elegant and cool.

43

Neville Morley 08.13.20 at 7:03 am

I like Bob McM’s idea of the Spartans as aliens, but in a rather different sense. The basic problem is that we have very little evidence produced by the Spartans themselves, and certainly very little written evidence; instead we have large quantities of legend, rumour, fantasy and projection. It’s a captivating fiction of an alien civilisation, with a lot of very dubious political overtones and influences, that then becomes the vehicle for further fictions. Basically they’re Klingons.

With the more serious argument about why we need imagined aliens when we have all the varieties of human culture, the obvious answer is that with the latter you’re still dealing with humans, and so there will be some underlying consistencies and familiar things (and potentially quite a lot, if you’re more at the biological rather than cultural end of anthropology), as opposed to the idea of something entirely non-human. Which is why I still return to Lem’s Solaris…

44

SusanC 08.13.20 at 8:29 am

Given that,any of the UK’s political leaders went to boarding school. Ancient Sparta doesn’t seem all that strange. A terrible idea, yes – you might end up creating Britishpoliticians – but not that unfamiliar.

45

notGoodenough 08.13.20 at 11:17 am

While not a SF book recomendation, I would like to plug the short story “Cat Pictures Please” to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/kritzer_01_15/

I genuinely chuckled out loud several times, and found it a bright spot of highly enjoyable SF fiction.

46

William Roark 08.13.20 at 2:32 pm

@ LFC, # 42.

I discovered Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (MGM) in the later 90s while in grad school. In fact, I tend to think of Murdoch more as a philosopher than a novelist, even if the latter was her primary career endeavor, (though also occasionally teaching philosophy), but only because my few attempts at reading her fiction felt long and ponderous: tried reading The Unicorn . . . Even MGM isn’t a book I can read in a strict linear order from start to finish, even if I have read the whole thing. It is, rather, one of those wonderful texts where you just pick a chapter that looks interesting or just open the book at some random place and start reading.

But I’ve always liked MGM and Murdoch’s other non-fiction works like The Sovereignty of Good (a much more more slender text I can read in linear order), all the more as they, and she, made me sympahtetic to Platonism (and as reinforced by J.N. Finlay’s wonderful essay, “Why Christians should be Platonists” in Neoplatonism and Christian Thought [1982])).

And this owes much for what you say about her comments that resonate while the meaning seems a bit elusive–but, as you rightly note, it is the captivating kind of thing–that amazing intersection of thought and words that perhaps only someone who is both a storyteller and philosopher can pull off–that makes your desire for understanding reach obsessive levels where you keep reading–and re-reading and re-reading, etc.

47

jack morava 08.13.20 at 4:46 pm

LFC@42

The heart is wicked and deceitful; who can know its ways?
[Jeremiah]

48

hix 08.13.20 at 8:56 pm

Wundering how much replication of human society and geopolitical structures at the time of writeing (or past of time of writing) in many science fiction is intentional commentary and how much is an accident.

My guilty science fiction pleasure is Perry Rhodan. And in many way it really is a guilty pleasure. One new about 70 page book every weak since decades. Considering that there are over 3000 books from various authors now, there is no theme in there that has never been done in low or high quality, including genuinly exotic aliens. Most aliens, in particular the reapering ones are in contrast very human and often even very artistocratic European indead.

What is hilarious is how often the big long time storyline over hundreds of books moves with simiarities to current geopolitics -from the authors eurocentric perspective that is. And yes, sometimes descriptions of alien societes end up being less exotic than real life Japanese society, or the aliens are described like a fill in stereotypical description of current foreign regions. Reproducing reality again, there are (rather shalow which also fits reality) efforts of antistereotyping/antiracism in the more recent storylines aswell. So the always breading, always at war aliens, called Blues according to their scin colour are now called Jülzisch instead of Blues because the first one is how they call them self and the later term is now considered offensive. We even got one storyline with a Blue immigrant (who in that book if memory servers right ends up being called blue not Jülzisch again) to the human sphere in a more prominent political position. Great. Or maybe not.

49

LFC 08.14.20 at 2:30 am

William Roark,
Thanks for that comment (and to jack morava as well).

I can’t respond at any length now, except to note that I do like some of Murdoch’s novels (haven’t read all of them, but a number). They are to some extent an acquired taste. Her biographer Peter Conradi mentions in passing that one of her own favorites was The Book and the Brotherhood, which I happen to like. But there are others too. I think she really hit her stride as a novelist around 1970 and the novels after 1976 or so reach a new level in terms of ambition and technique (though w variations in quality). Conradi thinks highly of The Bell, which is an earlier book (1958), and that book has its points to be sure. But I think her best work as a novelist is from the mid-70s onward.

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