February 8, 2008


Bolano, Roberto, Nazi Literature in The Americas translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (New York: New Directions Books, 2008) (Fiction. From the jacket cover: “Composed of short biographies of imaginary pan-American authors...Nazi Literature describes…the writers’ lives, politics, and literary works. It includes bibliographies, cross-references, and an epilogue (‘For Monsters’). Although the writers are invented, they are all carefully and credibly situated in real literary worlds…. Bolano does not simply use his fascist writers for target practice: he manages to sketch character portraits that are often pathetically funny, sometimes surprisingly moving, and, on occasion, authentically chilling.”).

Coetzee, J .M., Diary of a Bad Year (New York: Viking, 2007) (Fiction (??). “It was always a bit of a lie that universities were self-governing institutions. Nevertheless, what universities suffered during the 1980s and 1990s was pretty shameful, as under threat of having their funding cut they allowed themselves to be turned into business enterprises, in which professors who had previously carried on their enquires in sovereign freedom were transformed into harried employees required to fulfil quotas under the scrutiny of professional managers. Whether the old powers of the professoriat will ever be restored is much to be doubted.” Id. at 35.).

Goldberg, Jonah, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning (New York: Doubleday, 2007) (The basic thesis of this book is "that fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left." Id. at at 7. Though the author makes some good points and even though, perhaps, his rather thin thesis is correct, the fact is that this is a very poorly argued book. It is not really worth reading, except that I am quite certain we will be hearing, in some form or another, many of the weak arguments and attacks on American liberals for some time to come and especially during the 2008 presidential election. Placing the side that 'liberals' and 'leftist,' etc., are more or less lumped together in this book, liberals have opened themselves up to some of the attacks presented here because the have trivialized the distinction between the private and public spheres. If everything is in the public sphere, then everything is open to public, governmental, or social regulation. And, the author is certainly correct in pointing out the overuse and misuse of the label 'fascist' by liberal against any idea or anyone holding a position to the right of liberalism. Calling a position fascism probably does not move the argument or discussion forward. No, not even when, turning the tables, one speaks of 'liberal fascism'. One of the dangerous traps thinking people must actively work to avoid is the trap of only reading, listening to, or talking with those whose point of view they accept, and failing to read, listen to, or talk with those with whom they disagree. In this new cyperspace world, it is far too easy to get oneself locked in a cyperspace community where everyone there is a virtual clone of everyone else. Read widely; and especially read those with whom one disagrees.).

O’Neil, Robert, Academic Freedom in the Wired World: Political Extermism, Corporate Power, and The University (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2008) (I would think all members of the academic community would find reading this worthwhile. Then again… “I have discovered three elusive truths that have helped materially to shape this book: First, that most university professors are relatively indifferent to academic freedom threats, which they typically view as someone else’s problem; second, that the defense and survival of academic freedom depends most upon the commitment of those faculty members who are least likely to need its protection for their own careers; and third, that academic freedom is most severely tested by outspoken colleagues with whom most mainstream scholars would not normally or willingly associate. All of that makes academic freedom a curious concept, not easily defined and poorly understood beyond (and even within) the collegiate community.” Id. at viii. Thus those few who value ideas, especially new and unorthodox ideas, or who think universities should be incubators for such ideas, should read this book. It contain worthwhile analysis and synthesis.)