July 13th, 2009


Puh-leeze ...

Further into the "to be reviewed" pile ... this one's been waiting for about six months. As you might guess, The Subversive Imagination: Artists, Society & Social Responsibility (edited by Carol Becker) came from one of my previous used bookstore hauls, as it's hardly the sort of thing that I would have made a point of buying, but looked interesting enough to add to a shopping bag that was getting filled for a flat rate!

This is one of those books that give Academics a bad name. Most of society does not think like this. And, even in 1994, this book is spewing re-hashed Marxist dialectics dealing with ascending and declining classes, utilitarian and decadent art, and the proletariat and the bourgeoisie ... it's depressing that there are people so out of touch with reality that they still cling to that sort of crap. I lay this at the doorstep of Academia as this is clearly a text book, as the "native audience" for this kind of sludge is hardly sufficient to have kept it in print for 15 years, plus the cover price is $34.95 (for a book shy of 300 pages), a sure sign that it's being forced down the throats of relatively captive consumers.

The book is set up in three sections, "Personal Responsibility and Political Contingencies", "Decolonizing the Imagination", and "Theorizing the Future", having seven, five, and three essays respectively from a wide assortment of writers, who are (for the most part) purported to be artists, but are mainly focused on Politics and "culture war" in various contexts and locations around the globe.

As personally distasteful the unavoidable Leftist stance of this book is, I will credit with containing several quite engaging narratives. Of course they're all "anti-American", "anti-White", and "anti-Western", but some open up windows into places and things that might not be accessible otherwise. Perhaps the most fascinating is Felipe Ehrenberg's telling of a story about the origin of the "bark paintings of Guerrero", which, rather than being a "traditional craft" evolved within the writer's life from a style used for ceramic figures ... and I can attest to the ubiquitous presence of the "bark paintings" in nearly every Mexico City tchotchke shop! There is also a very interesting piece about Salman Rushdie which features more Leftist self-reflection that I'm used to seeing.

Anyway, if you're of the Ward Churchill camp, you'll love The Subversive Imagination. I think everybody else will find it irritating, if interesting in parts. As noted above, this is (incredibly) still in print, if at a grossly inflated price. Amazon has it at a whopping 10% off, and the new/used guys have "good" paperback copies for as low as $7.99 (plus shipping). I would have been pissed to have paid more than the 25¢ that this cost me (it was from that "fill a shopping bag for $5" fund-raiser I wrote about a year or two back), so I can't really recommend you part with the dollars!

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