I picked up Boom, Bust, Exodus: The Rust Belt, the Maquilas, and a Tale of Two Cities in order to prepare for a class I’m teaching next spring, and I was impressed by both the story-telling and the research. Thoughts below:
- Broughton does an interesting take on the reasons-the-rust-belt-died narrative – he goes between Galesburg, Illinois (home of a Maytag plant that loses out to Mexico after NAFTA) and the Mexican border cities in which the appliances are now made. He goes deep, plunging into the lives of several people on both sides of the border.
- On both sides of the border working people are the ones hit the hardest. The Maytag plant was renowned for turning out high quality appliances for years, and after some of the friendliest CEO leadership (at least in regards to workers) suffered through the invasion of the accountants and stockholders that sunk a lot of US companies in the 80s and 90s.
- On the Mexican side Broughton interviews labor leaders, priests, and some business leaders in trying to understand the free trade corridor from the Mexican side.
- His book makes several arguments, which he notes in his “Methodologies” section. He argues that he is most concerned with what happened to the people who worked in the plants – he’s not as concerned with engineers or board members, and he spends almost no time with the Mexicans who made a lot of money on their side of the border.
- He argues that these companies never had to move, that if management was not hell-bent on maximizing cost reductions they could have been run profitably from the US side.
- He also argues that the infrastructure costs on the Mexican side made the maquilodoro boom good for a narrow elite.
- Finally, the book makes an argument for the run on inequality that affects both sides now. I’m also reading Piketty’s Capital, and the combination of the two are making a bit leery of seeing any progress towards reducing that inequality. Rational arguments don’t seem to have much bite. As usual, I’ll take progress where we make it, and I will continue to find solace in the ways in which common people just continue to live their (and our) lives despite the insane roadblocks that their fellow humans put in their way…
I should probably be embarrassed that I have to read these texts twice, but the Malazan Book of the Fallen is worth the second read. Thoughts below, although they take a bit of a whole series look and are very much inside baseball if you haven’t read the series:
- Power is embodied, channeled, and somehow tapped into by mages, shaman, and warlocks. It’s also accessed by warriors, card-game players, and gods who were both created that way and ascended.
- I create this list because I’m struggling trying to understand the mechanism by which anyone interacts with all this energy. Do some folks have some sort of physical, biological connection? Do some of us have a wifi brain stem, one that is stirred by concentrating intensely (thus the physical exhaustion)? Are they somehow sending out a radio signal, perhaps from sort of transmitter organ or brain stem?
- And the warrens are a channeled form of older energy – Kron provides the structure, the channels, as somehow part of his body
- So what the Crippled God is trying to do is not destroy the magic in the warrens, but to destroy the warrens themselves, releasing the chaotic energy in its more original, primal form.
- Essentially, the Crippled God has been called to this world by warlocks/mages, came unwillingly, and has since been crippled and chained. He lives in constant pain, and will not heal (I guess).
- So his motive is burn it all down, tear everything apart…
- Finally for this entry, I’m curious about the Azath as well. I think they’re almost like growths, organic or mineral, that have arisen naturally (based on the laws of the world) to trap or hold chaotic, world-destroying energies…
- In this context, Iscarium becomes clearly a metaphor (and the uber-Jaghut)
- and dragons are scary, terrifying, and still incredibly dangerous, but they’re not nuclear bombs, as we see a couple of them get killed in this book.
- I wonder if that’s what the fall of the Eleint is about, as Soletaken (shift-shapers) stole dragonly powers…
- esp. since we see so many of them wounded and chained…
Hi all – A partner and I are starting a podcast. You can catch the first episode here. Feel free to offer feedback here or there!
Pop culture fascinates me (even if I can’t stand auto-tune and often think green screens should be burned). Every once in a while a nugget from it explodes with meaning in ways that I would have never guessed.
Such a moment occurred last week, as I was walking through downtown Canton. I sat down at a coffee shop, enjoying a green tea and reading a book (I am clearly a party animal), when four young people started singing along with a song.
It was one I knew, the one I’ve embedded here. And it reminded me of battles and lost lives and found friends and transformations.
I’ll leave the interpretations up to you, but in addition to the very specific marginalized group that adopted the song in the early aughts I always think of friends who died in the first, scary moments of killer diseases ravaging a very specific population, and the ways that that community fought back, to take care of itself and to confront the ugliness that others often directed at it with grace, anger, wit, and beauty.
Somehow, in one of those perfect pop moments, Train captured the essence of what it meant to grow up different, so different that others were so threatened by you that they denied you your own dignity. The cosmic quality of the lyrics remind me of those Heavy Metal stories that had a schooner sailing the stars, with no inconvenient spacesuits needed (illustrations borrowed by dozens of other series including Final Fantasy and ), and probably bringing back those drops of Jupiter.
Why not sail the stars and get a chance to dance along the light of day and fall for a shooting star and feel the light of the milky way?
On my re-read of Midnight Tides I had, well, a few questions/thoughts…
- At what point does authorial point of view become intrusive? The ideas that Erikson puts into dialogue seems to increasingly match what I’m guessing is Erikson’s personal point of view as the series progresses. In Midnight Tides Tehol becomes what feels like the author’s mouthpiece, with several conversations about the nature of power that feel very much like what the author wants to say.
- Don’t get me wrong – they’re very funny, and Tehol is both brilliant and self-deprecating about his own physical prowess. I also don’t mind his take – it’s a fairly generic dismantling of greed as a motivating force in a culture, one that’s hard to disagree with.
- Still, I’m wondering about the ways in which this authorial
- Plus, since Erikson says very clearly that he wants the entire series to be a postmodern critique of fantasy, there are multiple authorial voices happening throughout the series. One of the joys of TMBOTF is just how many voices Erikson utilizes, and how many different cultures he portrays. I’m guessing Esslemont deserves credit for that as well, although his Malazan novels tend to be far more limited in scope.
- I also was reminded of the ways that the Malazan series uses lots of voices in a way that feels more like Tolkien than a lot of the other postmodern fantasy out there (I’m thinking of Glen Cook and Joe Abercrombie in particular). George Martin features a lot of voices as well, and a ton of characters, and much like Erikson Martin doesn’t seem all that concerned with making sure we can keep track of who’s who.
- Erikson takes that unconcern with being able to track characters to a new level, though, as he adds in the additional feature of having aliases and multiple names for the same character.
- I wonder if there’s something to be said here for the idea of narrative disruption. For some reason I keep reading all of these novels – in fact, I often can’t put them down and have to stop myself from skimming. Usually in fantasy that desire for speed comes from wanting to know what happens (yep, I haven’t gotten any further than that in all these years), but in my first read of TMBOTF I kept reading even though I was at times not exactly sure what was happening.
- During my re-read I was much clearer about what was going on, for what that’s worth.
- My point here is that the vastness of this universe points I think to the unknowability of this world. Erikson doesn’t populate it with fully-drawn races emerging from Britain’s past – instead, he makes the history of the planet bend all around itself, sometimes making it seem terran and other times incredibly alien. No legends appear from the dust, awakening uncanny ticklings of supposedly tribal memories – this world feels like evolution has gone wrong, with the first race being a sort of velociraptor that evolves amazing technologies, only to fall at the hands of a couple of alien invasions.
- And we never know for sure where humans came from, but the hint is that they developed from the T’Lan Imass in a way that felt shall we say evolutionary?
Junger’s Tribe had me reading quickly and holding my breath, hopeful that maybe he had discovered some fundamental truth that we have been missing. I’ve backed off from that a bit after giving his premise some thought, I’m of the mind that perhaps the answers he offers are too idealistic for where we are now. Not that he actually offers answers…
- As a well-known war correspondent (and producer of the film Restrepo, which if you haven’t seen it you should), Junger has spent a lot of time traveling to war zones. In this book, he makes an argument based on these experiences, one that comes perilously close to a grand global theory and that also does a bit of idealizing of pre-modern cultures.
- That said, the arguments he makes are powerful ones, and they feel intuitively like they address big issues. He speaks especially coherently about young people and their integration into adulthood, describing how difficult that is in modern society.
- His big argument is that one of the main glues to any society is a sense of shared purpose. He feels that modern society does not allow us to feel this, and he has a lot of evidence.
- Finally, before this becomes too much of a book report, he talks about the ways in which we as a culture send incredibly awkward mixed messages, vilifying someone like Bob Bergdahl while letting the financiers who created the disaster of 2007-8 not only go unpunished but also reward themselves handsomely.
- There are many pieces to this that I want to believe, and I think I’ll keep working it around in my head, but I am leery of any grand narrative that relies too much on what feels like not-very-complicated looks at our evolutionary history.
I read this immediately after finishing 99 Stories of God, because I forgot how much I admired Williams’s non-fiction. I was first introduced to it by an essay she wrote on hunting, in which she unabashedly talks about hunting as killing, and piles up animal corpses in an attempt to try to make the costs of hunting clear.
I’m more than a bit pissed at myself for just now discovering that Joy Williams writes fiction. As I noted in my post about her spiritual commentary 99 Stories of God, I knew her as an essayist, so finding her fiction has been both really cool and really frustrating. The frustration is all directed at myself.
- One of the fascinating things about her characters are how, when we as readers only hear their internal dialogue, seem to poised precariously on the tip of the abyss, but upon talking with their comrades they are reeled back in. I guess I could read this as an attack on the seeming placidity that conversation provides us – a way to pretend that we’re all okay – and that would be defensible.
- Instead, though, conversation – witty, humble, and humane – serves as an anchor, a way to pull those folks back from that abyss and ground them in the human. It’s not always the best of the human – dialogue in this novel does not save young women from the predatory desires of older men, for instance – but the grounding is unflinching.
- Oh, and by the way – who saves those young women? Themselves…as it should be…
- This novel doesn’t really concern itself with the idea of being saved or redeemed, however. The only character who sort of gets redeemed is the big-game hunter Stumpff, whose museum of his trophies gets taken over as a sort of hospice by Emily, an eight-year-old. His fascination with her and her cause results in him firing his taxidermist and driving Emily around town as she carries out her mission of mercy.
- It’s far more interested in the line between the quick and the dead. It features a mom ghost who is anything but motherly, a nursing home of sorts that denies people the right to die with dignity (our first view of it is as the head nurse washes down a patient who is strung up like an animal and who keeps screaming “I want to go home!”
- The border she’s elucidating has lots of components, and she treats animal deaths as seriously as she does human ones.
- As with 99 Stories, this one will come up in my own head again…