“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alien Phenomenology

Ian Bogost sails through OOO like a knife through butter in his forthcoming book Alien Phenomenology. I had the pleasure today of reading it. You can easily read it over a bowl of spicy udon soup at Oshio Café in Davis. I like what Bryant's and Bogost's books are doing with OOO. The Democracy of Objects is a baroque cathedral replete with fold after fold of antechapels, side chapels, whispering gallery, crypt—what else would you expect from a Deleuzian? You can find almost everything worth knowing in that book somewhere.

Ian's book on the other hand is, well, densely encapsulated. Somehow it smooths out OOO and pats it down and cuts it into tasty chunks. This is no summary, though. There are some really new ideas in there. One I like a lot (of many) is the notion of carpentry, as you may have seen from my posts on Buddhism. It's the idea that “humanists” could make things as well as write about them.

One student in a class on ecology and theory many years ago made an intriguing box, which I still have, which she called Dark Ecology. It was painted on the outside to resemble a scene from some weird Expressionist deathbed conversion narrative. Or is it a birth? Inside is a pile of sand, sticking out of which are various objects like a tiny starfish. You can't help moving the sand and the object around as you handle the box. I thought it was incredible. Still do. It was her final “essay” project.


Joseph Charles said...

Your description of Levi's book is absolutely spot on as well as very beautiful. Very well done.

Timothy Morton said...

Hi Joseph--oh, thanks! I appreciate that.

Christine said...

Link, if I may, to a humble review of *Alien Phenomenology* which links to other authoritative reviews.