THE PHILOSOPHY LESSONS by Robert Hill

THE PHILOSOPHY LESSONS

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this pastiche of philosophy-infused prose, poetry, satire and spoof, Hill aims most of his arrows at the members and most vociferous supporters of the Bush administration.

The former presidency has become a rather worn subject by now, and issues like Dick Cheney’s self-importance, Bush’s good ol’ boy narrow-mindedness and Rush Limbaugh’s drug problem have been disparaged at length. But readers who enjoy toying with philosophic concepts, and who have a slightly geeky sense of humor, may find themselves laughing out loud at Hill’s iambic lines. The author, who mentions several times that he has been a French teacher, has obviously had a great time writing what he compares to 18th-century satire–think Alexander Pope with overlays of Bob Dylan and Broadway musical lyrics. In fact, the individual chapters, with titles like “Am I Getting Closer to You, Baby” and “Fifteen Minutes of Cartesian Delight,” feel like cuts on a literary album. “Vindication,” a genuinely delicious play on the “tree in the forest” question–a hypothetical tree grown of an acorn not-planted by a German idealist–opens the book. Next comes a clever take on Cheney’s “efficacious grace” within a free market. However, Hill’s piece mocking Bush reading Camus and discounting Democritus, “A Philosopher King Glosses Democritus,” is annoyingly broad and less effective than his Freudian analysis of Ann Coulter, “Dancing in the Stars.” One of his most entertaining chapters, “Variety and Religious Experience,” is only tangentially political, talking about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with references from Noel Coward to the Beatles to William James. The author’s mix of pop culture and highbrow rumination can be bracing, confusing or both, but his wordplay–while it risks sliding into sophomoric silliness–is often earnestly amusing. The piece “As You Desire Me” actually moves beyond gleeful mean-spirited fun toward something resembling sympathy, though not approval, for Condoleezza Rice.

An unexpectedly charming oddity.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4392-0244-9
Program: Kirkus Indie
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