This Thanksgiving I’m thankful that I’ve now signed a contract with Zero Books for Levinas Unhinged, a short collection of essays that explores what I’m calling the ‘darker side’ of Levinas. The essays look at his contributions to aesthetics, speculative metaphysics, philosophical ecology, environmental ethics, and philosophy of race. The guiding thread linking the essays is his preoccupation with the materiality of existence, especially the horrifying prospect that being may ultimately be indifferent and faceless. I read Levinas in contact with Heidegger, Deleuze, Lingis, Merleau-Ponty, Malabou, Blanchot, Spinoza, Ranciere, Tim Morton, Graham Harman, George Yancy, Shannon Sullivan, Maria Lugones, and others.
My hope is that this book will open a new Levinas readership by downplaying the usual slogans and paying more attention to aspects of Levinas that are typically overshadowed by his ethics, the face, the other, etc. I’m letting the shadows take center stage, as it were. More details as they arise.
If I could do my philosophical trajectory all over again, there’s a good chance that I would have devoted all of my intellectual energy to the history of early modern philosophy and science, just so I could write books like the following. Which is to say, I hope to have the time to indulge in these books in the near future.
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern
Stephen Gaukroger, The Collapse of Mechanism and the Rise of Sensibility
Lorraine Daston, Histories of Scientific Observation
One of my favorite bookstores, mostly because it’s the bookstore I grew up with and so it holds a singular nostalgia for me, is Carroll and Carroll Booksellers in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. George and Lisa Carroll, the proprietors, have been steadfastly peddling books there for as long as I can remember and for many years prior. They’ve got a bit of everything, and most importantly that independent bookstore ambiance that people like me fear losing in the digital age. Here’s a shot of the back end of the store:
Over the past couple years I have had the pleasure of reading for the first time a number of contemporary Spanish-language authors, the most popular of which is Roberto Bolano. His works The Savage Detectives and 2666 can be found anywhere books are sold. I do not read or speak Spanish, so I read these texts in translation.
Yesterday I received Montano’s Malady, by Enrique Vila-Matas, whose book Bartleby & Co. offers a kind of character study of the Bartleby type in history. I enjoyed the latter very much and had to read more Vila-Matas. Many of these texts weave fiction and reality together, often presenting ‘real’ biographical accounts of fictional figures or ‘fake’ stories about real figures, like Henri Lefebvre, for instance. Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas is a fictional ‘encyclopedia of extremely right-wing writers’, and the spirit of Borges looms large over this text as it does with so many others of this generation of writers.
Many of the texts are put out through New Directions. If in some grand prize drawing I could win the entire catalogue of just one press, it might be New Directions.
The one thing that books have on e-books, DVDs, CDs, tapes, records, videogames, etc., is that they do not need a second device for use. They’re ready to go out of the box. Perhaps this is insignificant compared to the capacity of the Kindle or iPad to carry countless ‘books’ around. But if you drop that iPad into a puddle of water that kills it, you lose everything. If I drop my paperback in the puddle, I grab another off the shelf.
At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, which I’m not…