WILD ORCHIDS AND TROTSKY

MESSAGES FROM AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES

From Bloom to Kimball to D'Souza, attacks on the liberal arts have been one-sided, argues editor Edmundson, who here invites 12 academics to ``set the record straight.'' The resulting essays and interviews are dispiriting in a ratio of about two to one. Philosopher Richard Rorty does a semiquixotic job of arguing that the absence of philosophic absolutes doesn't necessitate the end of social coherence (``Wild Orchids and Trotsky''), while Edward Said (``Expanding Humanism'') speaks out with high clarity against intellectual repression via religious zealotry. Harold Bloom, too (``Authority and Originality''), is passionate and crystalline in distinguishing between the literary and the political, as is William Kerrigan, who argues in ``The Falls of Academe'' that deconstructionism and other recent literary ``theory'' is not only ``derivative'' but is ``a prescription for mediocrity''; while Richard Poirier shows brilliantly that pragmatic skepticism comes from Emerson in a richly ironic form that makes Paul de Man look feeble and that long predates him. For the rest, however, the case seems dim for renewed confidence in academia. In ``My Kinsman, T. S. Eliot,'' Frank Lentricchia maunders through the subject of ethnic identity, revealing that he has nothing to say—although his piece is a sonnet of tightness next to the protoplasmic amorphousness of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's ``Queer and Now.'' Judith Frank discusses Defoe next to prefab ``issues'' (``In the Waiting Room: Canons, Communities, `Political Correctness' ''); Nancy K. Miller skims the surface of a history of feminism; and Michael Berube, young follower of literary ``theory,'' reveals himself as soaringly jejune. Whether language or ideas are the more penurious here is often arguable, as in Houston A. Baker's case for rap music as the new poetry: ``If today's critic wishes to assume the futurity of the heterogeneous artist and be adequately predictive, then he or she must understand the rap artist as critic and stop chilling with respect to alterity.'' After a few high, clear notes, a swoop to despond.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1993

ISBN: 0-14-017078-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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