So I got a burrito, read a half-chapter of "Modern Mind", watched a couple eps of "French in Action", and went to Hillman and dicked around for a few hours.
On the "new arrivals" shelf I spotted "Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel" (by Mike S. Adams) which seems to angle itself as a response to what he sees as irresponsible ultraliberalism in 'the Academy'. You know the bells and whistles of it all: the communist english profs, the anthropologists, the sociologists, affirmative action, 'diversity initiatives', GLBT action committees, womens' centers, etc. etc. I'm trying not to say it in any way that too strongly makes it automatically bad or good, but think 'liberal' and think 'in an american college environment' and it's what Mike S. Adams is all be-spittled about for 200 pages. Long story short: interesting and frustrating.
So the thing is, it's not that I begrudge him his spittle: I have considerable sympathy for some (emphasis, some) of the battles he's found himself in with the UNC-Wilmington administration and faculty, but he really surrenders the argumentative high ground on several occasions. For instance:
Okay, maybe I can look past the laughable brevity of the "of course", maybe I can concieve of someone that doesn't think that the abortion debate has any moral subtlety at all, but damn, to just slip in "feminist scholar" as if it were a standard contradiction? smugly, ostentatiously chuckling over similar shit page after page? Does he realize what a colossal ass he sounds like? Hey pal, observe all you want that there do in some places exist shit-crazy people that proudly wave — much to the chagrin of others that also fly it — the banner of feminism, but it doesn't give you the right to feign ignorance or innocence or humorous license when the day comes that someone calls you on the fact that you basically said scholarly consideration of the fact that women have been treated as second-class citizens for much of human history is a contradiction in fucking terms without so much as trying to back such a claim up.
...of course, the phrase "humane abortion" is an oxymoron. Sort of like "jumbo shrimp" or "feminist scholar"...("How I Lost my Virginity" p. 132)
But I can't easily dismiss the book at all. He definitely has something &mdash strike that, plenty of things — to say. "Our New Class Policies" is an amusingly snarky send-up of the bottom of the slippery slope of applying all the standard hobbyhorses of postmodernism to grading policies. The events mentioned in "Campus Crusade against Christ (revisited)" pertain to an issue that I definitely agree is important: can universities tell christian student organizations to change their charters to include non-christians? The accusations in "Cornell West and Friends" are pretty grave, and though I think it's a bit unfair of me to nod my head until I've heard Dr. West's side of things, Adam at least gives some time to the excellent point that it's not contradictory for a person to be a victim of (sexism) racism and at the same time be (sexist) racist. And in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Desk" and "A Matter of Public Record", I hope for the sake of the prof mentioned and her colleagues that something is factually amiss, but really, I doubt Adams is trying to pull one over me. It's frightening to think that one might go to or work at a school where among the faculty are some that to all appearances (I mean, I don't have a DSM-IV handy or anything, but) paranoid schizophrenic.
I do have one final, pedantic etymological quibble, though: I cringed a little when on p. 177 he says "...the [Women's] Center should combat misogyny not promote mrogyny..." I get the pun, (and in fact I agree with the sentiment) but I wonder if he knows there's already a fine english word, made out of fine bits of ancient greek, called `misandry'? I mean, what am I supposed to make out of `mrogyny' morphemically, ignoring what I know he intends it to mean? Deliberately calling women `mister' to annoy them, or something? Sheesh.
But the real fun reading was Stanislaw Lem's "One Human Minute", which is a book of reviews of books that don't exist. It's pretty brilliant. I've only read the first (and eponymous) one. The premise is that "One Human Minute" is a book full of statistics that effectively tell the story of all of humanity for the duration of one minute. For example, (as, under the pretext of reviewing, Lem gets to tell us) there is enough sex going on in the world to produce 43 tons of sperm every minute. This is some greater-than-one multiple of Old Faithful's output of water, and it only goes off every hour or so. The 43 tons of sperm are gushing 24-7. And then he goes on to discuss with equal parts fascination and revulsion the statistics of death: murder, suicide, poisoning, all reduced to a constant flow by the law of large numbers. It's really quite an obvious fact that there's a whole lot of shit going on in the world, but Lem masterfully grabs you by the wrist and tuns you around to face it and makes you feel it in your guts.