What I’ve been reading

1. Allen Lowe, “Turn Me Loose White Man”, two volumes and 30 accompanying compact discs.  “Personally I accept the assumption that a great deal, if not all, of American music is rooted in forms that derive in some way from Minstrelsy.”  Would you like to see that documented over the course of 30 CDs and almost 800 pp.?  Would you like to know how early blues, country, gospel, jazz, bluegrass (and more) all fit together?  Then this is the package for you.  It is in fact of one of the greatest achievements of all time in cataloguing and presenting American culture.  Here is a WSJ review.

2. Luke Burgis, Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life.  This book is the best introduction to this key Girardian concept.

3. Blake Bailey, Philip Roth: The Biography.  I only read slivers and won’t finish it, because I just don’t need 800 pp. on Philip Roth.  But…it’s really good.  I like Picasso too, and Caravaggio (a murderer).  I’ve heard, by the way, that this book will be picked up by Simon and Schuster and put back into print.

4. Martha C. Nussbaum, Citadels of Pride: Sexual Assault, Accountability, and Reconciliation.  There are so many recent books on these topics, you might feel a bit weary of them all, but this is one of the best.  It is rationally and reasonably argued, from first principles, and focuses on the better arguments for its conclusions.  It nicely situates the legal within the philosophical, it is wise on power vs. sex, rooted in the idea of objectification, and it has at least one page on alcohol.

5. Kenneth Whyte, The Sack of Detroit: General Motors and the End of American Enterprise.  How the consumer and auto safety movement helped to bring down GM.

6. Fabrice Midal, Trungpa and Vision, a biography of Chögyam Trungpa, the Tibetan Buddhist leader.  I enjoyed this passage: “He never hesitated to tell the truth, even if this meant provoking the audience.  At a talk in San Francisco in the fall of 1970, he began by saying: “It’s a pity you came here.  You’re so aggressive.””

And this passage: “Chögyam Trungpa might have appeared, at first, sight, to be very modern and up-to-date in his approach to the teachings.  He had abandoned the external signs of the Tibetan monastic tradition.  He drank whiskey, smoked cigarettes, and wore Western clothes.  He had a frank often provocative way with words and ignored the normal conventions of a guru.”  In fact he died from complications resulting from heavy alcohol abuse.


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