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Parent Issue
Month
December
Year
1994
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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by Craig Holden Delacort, 384 pages, $21.95 Owner of Aunt Agatha s, a mystery and true cnme book store We're starting to get a fair number of authors to come to Aunt Agatha's for signings, and I try to make it a practice to read their books. Needless to say, this is easier with some authors than with others. In the case of Craig Holden's "TTie River Sorrow" it was truly my pleasure, although "reading" doesn't really seem to be the right word to describe the experience. You don't just read a thriller this good. You experience it like a ride at the camival or (more to the point) a dose of some wicked drug. "The River Sorrow" s the story of Adrián Lancaster.adoctorinthesmall (fictional) Michigan communityofMorgantown.whofindshiscrooked junkie past nexplicably retuming to haunt his straight present. When he finds himsetf implicated in the violent deaths of various druggies, he decides that, in order to exorcise this buried but not dead part of his life, he has to go back underground tothe heil strangely shot with heaven, that he hoped he had left forever. Add a good cop with a bad wardrobe, small town and big city politics, deskjnerdrugsof deadly potency, heroin heroines and mysterious psycho-killers to the mix, and the consumerknows he or she is n for one-hell-of-atrip. Holden's supposed aim was to crank out a potboiler for some chump change.buthefoundoutthatit'sashardforagood writerto produce a trashy book (witness Faulkner's "Sanctuary") as it s for a trashy writer to write a good book. If you wanted to get "lit-crit" about it, you could even say that there's a subtext here about a generation stil! trying to come to terms with the tide of drugs it toosed upon the land. Despite four years of re-writing and the guidance of the estimable James Ellroy, there are still a few small flaws remaining from this original conception - mostiy the stock characterizations of the beginning and the tad-too-clevertwists of the end. Laigely, however, this is a seamless and compelling ride up tnat old River Sorrow to the terminal called the heart of dar1ness, reninscent of Robert Stone, as much as the usual pantheon of guy crime novelists. l'm not the only one predicting a great future for Craig Holden, and probably won't be the only one cradling my signed, first-edition of "The River Sorrow" as if it were something very precious indeed. (AuthorCraigHoldenwillbesigningatAuntAgatha's on Saturday, December 10 from 12:30 to 2 pm.) PHILOSOPHY What is Philosophy? By Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Columbia University Press, 253 pages, $29.95 Reviewed by Lou Hillman In1992, FelixGuattaridiedattheageof62,thus ending a 20-yearexperiment withGBIes Deleuza Their four books utilized their experimental mode of writing called "assemblage"- which in its very making was multivocal. Guattari was a non-philosopher, a psychotherapist whose major focus was the analysis of the social institution. Deleuze was a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris until his retirement in 1 987. Theirexperimental cotlaboration has (SEE NEXT PAGE) Book Reviews (FROM PREVIOUS PAGE) been described as ". . .an essential relationship with a NO.... Philosophy needs a non-philosophy that comprehends rt; it needs a nonphilosophical comprehension just as art needs nonart and science needs nonscience." This "essential relationship," ttiis in-between, was the space Deleuze and Guattari found so productive. In "Kafka: Toward a Minor Literatura" they explore the in-between of Kafka's writing by discussing him as a Jew living in Prague, writing Germán prose. In "Anti-Oedipus" the authors move between the triangulation of psychoanaly sis and the schizophrenia of postmodern capitalism. "A Thousand Plateaus" multiplies relationships to an exponential factor. There they discuss politica! economy and science, social psychology and art theory, Nietzsche and Marx, Bergson and Foucalt, Castanedaand Reich, and "black holes" and "white walls." Now in "What is Philosophy?" the writers stay with philosophy, science and art; their relationships and differences and their possibilities as creative activity. In an eariierwork, Deleuze and Guattari suggest that the reader "sample" their text as one would sample a record or CD: turn to the chapters that "grab" you; skip over the others. The same holds tmeforthisbcok. The writers are "doing''phlosophy as they explain themselves; they are using terms as they make them. This mode of production makes for an eccentric writing styte, which may explain why some readers have difficulty with it. In the introduction to "What is Philosophy?," the writers take aim at the "simulacrum" and provide us with its greatest rival: pedagogy. The history of Western thought is presentedasaterritoryor"plane" upon which concepts connect and overlap. The creation of concepts extends the plane, allowing thought to move. 1 1 i s the pedagogy of the cond itions of the possibility of the concept- its creation - which provide us with the ability to differentiate between concept and say, advertising. But "doing" thought in this way, say the authors, has its dangers. It doesn't make for good state employees, soldiersorlaborslaves.Providingpeople with thinking tools fortearing holes in the clichés of contemporary Communications can only have a transgressive effect Still, to every waming, Deleuze and Guattari add their trademark humor. From the drawings of Descartes' "cogito" to the brilliant, final chapteron "Chaos and the Brain," the writers blend an intense intellectual rigor with an "impossible joy" which perhaps, only creative acts can produce. As a final contribution to their experiment "What is Philosophy?" shows not only the valué of experimenting, but the productivity of collaboration. COMMUNICATIONS Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead By Eric Bogosian Theatre Communications Group, 82 pgs., $8.95 Reviewed by Tyler Hewitt Staff member at Tower RecordsVideoBooks Eric Bogosian is an actor-performance artist f rom New York, best known f or his work in the film "Talk Radio," and for a performance on the PBS series "Alive From Off Center." "Pounding Nails In The Floor With My Forehead" is his fifth work for solo theatre, and like most of his solo work consists of several monologues, which are unrelated but linked thematically. The theme that Bogosian has chosen for this piece is life in contemporary America - an America of greed, fear, and hypocrisy. Through his rapidpaced, occasion ally unpleasant, and often conf rontational works, he reveáis a nation of people unconsciously obsessed with creating a layerof insulation between themselves and the rest of society. Narcissism, materialism, religious fanaticism, and substance abuse are presented as di stancing factors- methods that people use to avoid thinking, feeling, caring about others less fortúnate than they are. Bogosian places his characters in m to upperclass urban and suburban settings. By doing this, he reveáis some of the real, hidden motivators behind theAmericandriveforsuccess, and places it within a familiar context. Those people that seem completely unable to see beyond the small, protected worlds they have built 1 - -- - ' ' - around themsetves could very well be us, or someone we know. Bogosian's work s interesting and enjoyable because the overall dark thematic content is paired with a biting sense of humor and a rapid-fire delivery. On stage, Bogosian jumps from one monologue to another, pausing only briefly to assume a different character. In book form, the pieces are 1 0 pages or shorter in length, with an mmediacy that makes the reading go very quickly. The humor in this work ranges from dark social satire to sharp parody and makes 'rts presence known on almost every page. "Pounding Nails In The Roor With My Forehead" is a breath-taking look at the subconscious of the American public. It's funny, frightening, sometimes disturbing, and perhaps more revealing than we would like it to be. CHILDREN'S LITERATURE The Chinese Siamese Cat By Amy Tan Illustrated by Gretchen Shields Macmillan, 30 pages, $16.95 Reviewed by Mark Warshaw & Victoria Watt Have you ever wondered how the Chinese Siamese cat carne nto being? Amy Tan's "The Chinese Siamese Cat" answers that question. In this charming story, the mother cat, Ming Miao tells her five kittens the tale of their cat ancestors. It began a thousand cat lives ago with Sagwa, the first Chinese Siamese cat. Mama Miao and Baba Miao were the cats of the Foolish Magistrate, who was foolish because he only made laws which benefitted himself and hurt others. Mama and Baba Miao's first involvement with the Foolish Magistrate's awful laws began when he started using theirtails as pens. As he wrote more and more proclamations, two things happened:theirtailsbecamepeimanentlystained black from the ink and they leamed how to write without his guiding hand. One day Mamaand Baba Miao were summoned tothe Foolish Magistrate's office to write a new law against singing. The Magistrate believed that f people sang while they worked, they could not possibly be working hard enough. Sagwa, Mama and Baba Miao's playf ui kitten, was napping high on a bookshelf when she overheard her parents lamenting the unfaimess of the new law, and decided tofollowthem and teil them, "We're not helpiess. We can change the world." But as she jumped down f rom her hiding place, she landed right in the ink pot As she wiped ink fnom her nose and paws, she changed the course both of the Magistrate's rule and of the people he had so long tormented. Her independence and spirit gained all Chinese cats an honored place in the Magistrate's house and also a newlook. Fromthatdayforward Chinese cats all had dark faces, ears, paws, and tails. If you'd like to find out how Sagwa changed so much with a single, determined act, check out this superbly written and beautifully illustrated book. Each page is filled with intricate drawings and decorative Chinese borders. We love this book for rts li vely telling of a tale of origins and for its focus on a small but powerful character. "The Chinese Siamese Cat" is a great choice forreading aloud to kids - as much fun for the reader as for the listener.

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