The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

Quick reviews - recommended books -

Hello Avatar, Rise of the Networked Generation, B. Coleman, MIT, 2011

- Highly recommend this book which isn't the usual first-person
narrative, but carefully builds a theoretical structure for analyzing
the phenomenology of avatars, which we might be taking increasingly
for granted; the days of Sherry Turkle's Life on the Screen have been
replaced by life. I like the breadth and time-line of the book. I
picked up the copy at Eyebeam; it's one of the more useful recent
volumes of theory/sociology/philosophy of new media to emerge.

Noise Channels, Glitch and Error in Digital Culture, Peter Krapp,
Minnesota, 2011

- Again, highly recommended. The book is theoretically dense but quite
astute; I remember the author from a Derrida list years ago. I think of
his approach as 'deep glitch,' glitch as basic to online culture; the
volume goes well beyond glitch as style. I'm working my way through the
book now; I hate doing this, but the last sentence indicates the author's
approach: "And so the digital humanities assert that 'from the standpoint
of art forms instantiated in informatic media (aural sounds, visual
images, linguistic signs), the noise _is_ the art.'" - the quote is from
Bruce Clark. I'm trying, using books like this, and the above, to find a
home for my own standpoint; these come close and are far more useful than
other works which emphasize heavy description plus theory.

The Destructive Power of Religion, 4 volumes edited by J. Harold Ellens,
Praeger, 2004

- This is an amazing collection of essays on 'Violence in Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam,' with an introduction by Desmond Tutu. They're
not anti-religious, but they are upfront about the violence inherent in
various scriptures and practices, and potential solutions. Liberation
theology would love these, I think. I found the books at a library sale
for a dollar each; they're extremely expensive, but there's a one-volume
version that's relatively cheap. (I haven't seen it.) If you can check
these out a library, please do.

The Better Angels of Our Nature, Why Violence has Declined, Stephen
Pinker, Viking, 2011

- Eight-hundred pages of analysis makes me believe once again in
psychology as a useful science, and for that matter, as a science to some
extent. The thesis of declining violence - in spite of continuous
massacres, extinctions, scarcity economies, etc. - seems promising. I
purchased the in a state of depression after my father's death and the
split-up of part of my family, and it helped. There are troubling sections
(including time-lines and absolutist/inerrant religious tendencies), but
the book as a whole is reasonably, guardedly optimistic. Highly

The Poetical Works of John Gay, Including 'POLLY,' 'THE BEGGAR'S OPERA,'
and Selections from the other Dramatic Work, Edited by G.C. Faber, Oxford,

Everyone knows The Beggar's Opera, but Polly is rarer, and then there are
strange things like The What D'Ye Call It, and Trivia: or, The Art of
Walking the Streets of London. Do check these out; they're fascinating and
strange and oddly predecessors of Brecht as well.

Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Sir Thomas Browne, various contemporary editions

If you haven't checked out Browne, you should - he wrote any number of
works you might know including Religio Medici, but the Pseudodoxia is the
most interesting - like Aristotle's Problems, it deals with a variety of
unbelievably wide-ranging topics, but the speculation on them is
absolutely wild. There's 'Of the cutome of saluting or blessing upon
sneezing.' and 'That Iews stinke.' (he concludes that they do not). Then
there's 'Of the cheek burning or eare tingling.' and 'Of smoak following
the fairest.' and 'That Children would naturally speak Hebrew.' Amazing!

Green Eyes, Marguerite Duras, translated by Carol Barko, Columbia, 1990

Reflections on film, Judaism, phenomenology, Chaplin, Godard, 'Raymond
Queneau, Reading Manuscripts,' and so forth. I love this book which
meanders around the sites of ambiguity; if you like Duras, you'll love
this as well. I found it first in the French Cahiers du Cinema edition.
The English includes other interviews and a different presentation of the

-- These are some of the books I've been reading - and love. There's
little of the Buddhist here; I've been questioning my interest in Buddhist
texts for a variety of reasons, and this has gotten in the way. On the
other hand, I've been reading again into Japanese Noh, but that's another
although similar story.

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