Lectorrhea

LRB · Fredric Jameson: Then You Are Them

All the characters and their stories are thereby diminished, but this is no weakness: it results from an enlargement of narrative perspectives to include the deep space of institutions and collectivities, and a rather different kind of historicity from that projected by the individual fable of the first version. Here we are more clearly able to perceive the breakdown of modern capitalist society into the various private contractors to whom social needs are outsourced, and behind them the enormous corporations that have replaced all the traditional forms of government. (‘The Compounds were where the Corps people lived – all those scientists and business people Adam One said were destroying old Species and making new ones and ruining the world.’) Here also we glimpse the forms of resistance aroused by the devolution in which what we still consider social and technological progress consists – they range from the survival of the most sadistic to the banding together of small groups and the formation of new religions or, more ominously, to what is called ‘bioform resistance’. Food and sex are obviously the most immediate needs: they are supplied by SecretBurgers, into which all available protein matter is dumped, and AnooYoo spas, accompanied by hosts of dreary fly-by-night dollar stores, whose multiplicity scarcely arouses the free-market exhilaration of the cyberpunk visions of the world to come. A faceless power centre is embodied in the CorpSeCorps, which, as in medieval society (and quite unlike Orwell’s universal surveillance), keeps tabs only on what it needs to know and does not hesitate to organise para-political goon squads when necessary; anything more destructively criminal can then be dealt with in the Painball facilities, in which teams of convicts are organised to kill each other off. The well-being of the elite is assured by the HelthWyzer institutes, of which the reader has already heard something in Oryx, along with various scientific think-tanks that have, among other things, devised new species to supply human replacement organs, such as the memorable pigoons. Oryx gave us the view of this system from the inside and as it were from above, even though there really does seem to be no oligarchic ruling elite nor any totalitarian party or dictatorship on the old-fashioned modernist dystopian model; The Year of the Flood gives us the view from below – always, as we well know, the most reliable vantage point from which to gauge and map a society.

I read Oryx and Crake some years back. It scared the underpants off me, especially the pigoons. I do not have the constitution for that sort of thing. Hence I doubt I shall be reading The Year of the Flood, even though it is probably a superb piece of work, as Fred Jameson indicates here. Thank goodness I have not bought it yet. The idea of having to read it would weigh too heavily on my mind. Besides, I have a ton of other books to get through as an excuse:

  • Manufacturing Discontent: The Trap of Individualism in Corporate Society, by Michael Perelman
  • Abnormal: Lectures at the College de France, 1974-1975, by Michel Foucault
  • The Frock-coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels, by Tristram Hunt
  • Pocket Pantheon: Figures of Postwar Philosophy, and Polemics, both by Alain Badiou
  • Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought, by Simon Critchley
  • Reading Capital by Louis Althusser and Étienne Balibar
  • The Power Elite, by C Wright Mills
  • Society of the spectacle by Guy Debord
  • Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
  • Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader
  • En Busca De José Antonio by Ian Gibson
  • Espejos: una historia casi universal, and Las venas abiertas de América Latina, both by Eduardo Galeano
  • Anatomía de un instante by Javier Cercas
  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler
  • The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party, by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar
  • Therapy by David Lodge

Lots of laffs to be had reading that lot. I hereby resolve not to procure any other books until that list is cleared. Worryingly, I also picked up a copy of The Watchtower during Sunday lunch yesterday, when a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at the door and caught me unawares. Luckily a raucous infant calling from the kitchen provided me with the perfect pretext for swiftly turning down the offer of a free bible class. But I took the magazine because it was pissing down outside and I didn’t want the two witnesses on my doorstep to feel their visit had been entirely in vain, probably an unwarranted courtesy on my part.

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2 Responses to “Lectorrhea”


  1. 1 Mark Waters September 7, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I always take the Watchtower when it’s offered to me in the street. I like to think I’m doing my part in helping the missionaries rack up their air miles to heaven. I also find that it’s a great charity mugger repellent. I barely have to take it out of my pocket before they’re scurrying for cover. It’s a win-win all round for me.

  2. 2 Hugh Green September 7, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    That is the sort of thing you should post on ideas.ie, or whatever the site is called. Doesn’t it get a bit unwieldy though? I must see if I can pick up a copy of What Does The Bible Really Teach? The woman flashed me a copy from her handbag yesterday, but I told her I already had a copy, thus incurring the wrath of Jehovah. Handy jacket pocket-sized repellent.


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