What’s the relationship between immigration, globalization and demographics? What do a badly characterized, racist novel and an imaginatively metaphoric biology article from the 1970s have to do with that? And what is woke particularism? John and Elizabeth find out all of that and more in this discussion with Quinn Slobodian, professor of history at Wellesley College and author, most recently, of Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism.
They first discuss Jean Raspail‘s racist 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints, a book whose popularity in certain quarters since its publication might explain how Europe has gone from Thatcher to Brexit, from Vaclav Havel to Viktor Orban. How is this xenophobic screed related to science fiction of the same period–and to John Locke? Pat Buchanan, American early adapter of Raspail’s hate-mongering, figures prominently.
They then turn to Garrett Hardin’s “Living on a Lifeboat” and John Lanchester’s recent novel The Wall to work out the ideas of forming a society beyond or beneath the state in less obviously racist terms than Raspail’s. What kind of hard choices need to be made in allocating resources? What claims about hard choices are just a screen for the powerful to make choices that, for them, aren’t actually that hard? Does gold make things more or less nationalized? Finally, in Recallable Books, Quinn recommends the forthcoming collection Mutant Neoliberalism, edited by William Callison and Zachary Manfredi, for an attempt to really understand the politics of 2016 and beyond; Elizabeth recommends Douglas Holmes’s Economy of Words, an ethnography of central banks; and John recommends Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, a novel of solitary solidarity.
Discussed in this episode:
The Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail
Dune, Frank Herbert
“Living on a Lifeboat,” Garrett Hardin
The Lobster Gangs of Maine, James M. Acheson
The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome
Libra, dir. Patty Newman
The Wall, John Lanchester
Mutant Neoliberalism: Market Rule and Political Rupture, eds. William Callison and Zachary Manfredi
Economy of Words: Communicative Imperatives in Central Banks, Douglas R. Holmes
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, Ursula K. Le Guin
Listen to the episode here:
(episode transcript available here: RTB Slobodian episode 11 6.15.19)
Bonus! Available only on our website, Episode 10X includes a brief RTB discussion about Exit Zero, a stunning “auto-ethnography” that raises fascinating questions about what it means when people retell stories or anecdotes about their own lives as a form of evidence that helps explain their overall worldview.
How does the past live on within our experience of the present? And how does our decision to speak about or write down our recollections of how things were change our understanding of those memories–how does it change us in the present? Asking those questions brings RTB into the company of memory-obsessed writers like Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. But it also takes up into the modern phenomenon of “autofiction,” a term which, if you’ve never heard of before today, you’re in good company! But by discussing autofiction writers like Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti and Karl Ove Knausgaard, we begin to understand that the line between real-life fact, memory, and fiction is not quite as sharp as we had thought. Continue reading “Episode 10: Life, Writing, and Life Writing with Helena DeBres”
Helena DeBres had so many brilliant insights about the ethics and the future of life writing that the final third of our discussion overflowed the bounds of our ordinary format. So we present that final conversation to you here as a bonus episode–well, episodelette.
Elizabeth, John and Helena here discuss Christine J. Walley’s “autoethnography” Exit Zero: Family and Class in Postindustrial Chicago. They talk about the relation of an autoethnography to life writing a la Woolf or Cusk, the capacity of stories to both empower and to constrain, the semiological differences between Marxist philosophers and ministers, and when and how to use scare quotes. Continue reading “Episode 10x: Bonus! “Exit Zero” and Life Writing”
Evita, Thatcher and HRC walk into a glass ceiling…In this episode, John and Elizabeth are joined by MIT anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger to discuss women in political power in Argentina, Mongolia, the UK, the United States and beyond. At the conversation’s heart: Manduhai analyzes the legacy of “female quotas” in Soviet-era politics, as well as the narrow “lanes” that women politicians are sorted into.
For starters, Elizabeth discusses Santa Evita, Tomás Eloy Martínez’s riff on what happened to Evita Perón’s body before and after her death, and how much she looked, eventually, like Grace Kelly. Continue reading “Episode 9: Women in Political Power; with Manduhai Buyandelger”
When Recall This Book started back in January, we modestly thought we might manage one episode per month.Instead, we bolted from the gate fast: eight episodes in our first two-and-a-half months.
That is a sprinter’s pace, when what we have in mind is a marathon. So: a slowdown of sorts…but with the prospect of some great upcoming items. Continue reading “Spring Schedule and our new partnership with Literature Lab”
We frequently worry that we live in a “distracted age.” But perhaps the human condition is always to live “almost always in one place with our minds somewhere quite another” (Ford Madox Ford, “On Impressionism”). Join John’s conversation with Marina Van Zuylen of Bard College.
Van Zuylen, the author of The Plenitude of Distraction, makes the case that some aspects of distraction that are far more positive than they initially appear. Kierkegaard’s image of saving yourself from a boring philosophy lecture by watching sweat trickle down the speaker’s face is one highlight; her story about her real-life brain scan is another. Continue reading “Episode 8: Distraction, a Conversation (Marina Van Zuylen and John Plotz at Harvard’s Mahindra Center)”
Fresh on the heels of our conversation with Madeline Miller, author of Circe, John Plotz has a talk with Samuel Delany, living legend of science fiction and fantasy. You probably know him best for breakthrough novels like Dhalgren and Trouble on Triton, which went beyond “New Wave” SF to introduce an intense and utterly idiosyncratic form of theory-rich and avant-garde stylistics to the genre. Reading him means leaving Earth, but also returning to the heady days when Greenwich Village was as caught up in the arrival of Levi-Strauss and Derrida to America as it was in a gender and sexuality revolution. Continue reading “Episode 7: Samuel Delany in conversation with John Plotz (Nevèrÿon, Triton, Gertrude Stein and more….)”