PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksInsightful ... As foreign as that lace-collared and buckle-shoed period of antique history may seem to us, we’re still very much in that moment, even as it passes.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of Books\'Part of the complexity of living through history is the process of explaining things about the past that you never explained to yourself,\' Klosterman writes, and despite some stumbling (the footnotes are annoying and unnecessary) it’s a task that he performs admirably ... For being the guy who is the author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto and Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota – our great champion of trash – Klosterman also has an adroit sense of media theory, economics, aesthetics, political science, and philosophy. What he may sometimes lack in depth he more than makes up for in breadth, which is precisely what The Nineties required. So complete is his litany that Klosterman not only makes arguments about a super-hit like Friends, but he also discusses instantly forgettable sitcoms like Suddenly Susan and The Single Guy ... isn’t a Generation X encyclopedia, but rather a cognoscente’s argument of synthesis ... A strength of The Nineties is in the aforementioned implicit argument about how our own toxic world cracked from the egg of that decade.
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksMarche’s Canadian citizenship is helpful in his analysis, for he is \'outside that particular confusion,\' a sympathetic witness who can conclude certain things that those closer to everything might not see. Despite some failings in presentation, The Next Civil War is a welcome addition to left-center analyses of the divisions in American society, divisions which the right is poised to exploit ... If The Next Civil War has any role, it’s this – to convince liberals that they’re already in the midst of such a conflagration, even if it’s not of their choosing.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... fascinating, brilliant, comprehensive, and beautiful ... What [O\'Gieblyn] offers within God, Human, Animal, Machine is a deep reading of these digital metaphors to excavate the connotative implications of that rhetoric which lurks \'in the syntax of contemporary speech\' ... To describe God, Human, Animal, Machine as simply being “about” technology is to greatly reduce O’Gieblyn’s book, which is able to cover an astonishing range of subjects in a relatively short page count. With a rigor and a faith in her readers’ ability to follow complex arguments and understand rarefied concepts, O’Gieblyn charts not just the evolution of religious metaphor in relation to technology, but she also examines philosophies of mind like materialism, dualism, panpsychism, and idealism ... By combining both a voracious curiosity with a deep skepticism, O’Gieblyn conveys what it’s like to live in our strange epoch, facing apocalypse with an Android phone ... O’Gieblyn’s most enduring contribution might be in diagnosing the ways in which technological change marks a rapidly shifting conception of what consciousness is ... Define our present as you will – post-modern, late capitalist – but O’Gieblyn has identified something deeper about the ways in which technological metaphors have been returned upon us, the developers of those same programs.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksDominion’s most important contribution is in emphasizing how terms we take for granted, even concepts seemingly as fundamental as \'religion\' and \'secular,\' come \'freighted with the legacy of Christendom\' ... provides a helpful corrective, a reminder of how liberal values find their origin in some of the abstractions of Christianity, as astutely argued by an author who makes clear that he has no sectarian allegiances to the faith itself ... In a mostly convincing way, Holland argues that concepts like human rights, socialism, revolution, feminism, science, and even the division between religion and the secular (which then allows for ecclesiastical disestablishment and toleration) find their origins specifically in the gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the writings of the Church Fathers ... If there is a deficiency in Holland’s interpretation, it’s that sometimes his triumphalism renders an almost secular supersessionism regarding Jewish contributions to this project ... Though Holland promises not to write a history of Christianity, that’s effectively what he’s done, offering explanations throughout of how those various modern categories he associates with Christianity did indeed find their ultimate origin in the religion. Certain arguments reoccur throughout his book, and while he doesn’t equally make his case for why certain concepts must have an origin in Christianity, one which he unassailably provides biblical genealogy for is socialism. Far from being the bane of faith, Holland provides ample evidence that socialistic thinking, indeed revolutionary thinking in general, would have been nonsensical to the ancient Greeks and Romans ... If Holland is largely convincing about the Christian genesis of human rights through a language of natural law, and of the revolutionary socialism implicit in the rhetoric of Acts and the scandal of the crucifixion itself, Dominion’s argument is less clear when it comes to the genealogy of science and feminism ... makes some evocative conjectures that are worth taking seriously as concerns the relationship of sexual equality to Christianity ... Where Dominion is unequivocally correct, and possibly most helpful to those still enraptured by the delusion that modernity signals a clear break with a Christian past, is in his excavation of the deep roots of secularism. Here is where Holland’s argument will be the most objectionable to strident humanists, atheists, and agnostics, while ironically also being the most accurate of observations in the entirety of the book.
Scott G Bruce
PositiveThe BafflerJoyce’s immaculate and terrifying description of the damned in the eternal hereafter isn’t included in Bruce’s compendium, though much else is. Excerpts from Church Fathers, scripture, prophetic writings, Dante, William Blake, and even the playlists used to torture those indefinitely detained in American camps during the \'War on Terror\' are included in Bruce’s exploration of how hell has been represented across millennia of history in Jewish, Christian, and pagan contexts. A loss that Father Arnell’s homily isn’t included for consideration, as few secular modern depictions of hell rival the religious as much as does Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books[O\'Gieblyn] makes use of her Midwestern, fundamentalist Christian upbringing to bolster a sophisticated critical sensibility, providing astute readings of everything from Great Lakes gentrification that trades in a kitschy, hipster \'spirit of the prairie […] industrial ethos;\' to John Updike’s suburban-sexual ennui; to the hermeneutics of Alcoholics Anonymous; and to the baroque rationalizations of evangelical Trump supporters. Interior States is an exemplar of the exact sort of commentary that uses religious vocabulary to describe our current moment. O’Gieblyn’s writing works to much greater effect than the anemic hand-wringing of more secular critique ... The biographical genius of O’Gieblyn’s essays is that she uses her own experience of losing her faith to make a more universal claim: the persistence of sublimated theology is \'true of culture as it is of individuals.\'
RaveThe MillionsAccording to Ward Farnsworth, that understanding [that Stoics are unfeeling] is wrong, and he exonerates an unfairly impugned philosophy in his idiosyncratic, strange, yet convincing and useful volume ... his tone is erudite, patient, and at times dryly whimsical ... providing short, elegant commentary on quotes that contend with whatever is under discussion. Despite sometimes being dry, he is insightful; though he is occasionally repetitive, he is convincing. Farnworth’s prose, is, well, stoic, but it’s also useful—as it should be.
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"A classic rock Stations of the Cross is performed, where Hyden analyzes his initiation through radio, his study of albums as musical scripture, his concert-going as sacramental experience, his bootleg recordings as forays among the catacombs, the devotional completism of knowing deep cuts, and the cultural role of cover bands ... Hyden’s deconstruction of [classic rock\'s] mythos is rigorously honest ... One of the great strengths of Twilight of the Gods is that Hyden is able to hold onto his enthusiasm for Cream and Black Sabbath — his is a fun book — while also imploring the reader to complicate received narratives, to question rock’s strictures. As a critic, he may lack the twitchy amphetamine enthusiasm of a Lester Bangs, or the graduate-seminar erudition of a Marcus. But Hyden is willing to interrogate rock, this genre haunted by an unbearable whiteness of being, a form painted with a whiter shade of pale.\