Cults! Sexbots! Con artists! So it's another Monday roundup.


  • How can any novel as widely read as The Catcher in the Rye be a "cult book"? L. Ron Hubbard's work is certainly cultish; ditto Ayn Rand's. Ah, but aren't they widely read, too? Of course, but they are completely humorless and consider no perspective to be justified other than their own -- sure signs of the cult mind. After giving up any real attempt at defining a "cult book" -- akin, one suspects, to distinguishing a cult from a sect from a religion -- the Telegraph takes a shot anyway at the "50 best cult books." But ... but The Confederacy of Dunces? In that case, "cult" would seem to mean "beloved novel that, for the fan, was not appreciated widely enough."
  • Why, robot, as Isaac Asimov might put it. book/daddy is a little surprised that a review of a book about sex with robots never makes reference to the recent, wonderfully understated film, Lars and the Real Girl. Bianca, "the real girl," may not be an automaton, yet the question of creepiness vs. acceptance is very much the same  (as is the "pathetic fallacy," the human need to anthropomorphize the inanimate). And in the film, all of this, surprisingly, is rather sweetly explored. But then, judging from its index, David Levy's Love and Sex with Robots doesn't consider Bladerunner -- or Philip K. Dick at all. Or Kokaku Kidotai (Ghost in the Shell). Or the old TV series, My Living Doll. Not a cultural study, we can say with some certainty. It does make one brief, early reference to Asimov, though -- the author of I, Robot.
  • In American culture, we are all thieves, jokers and con artists now. To Lewis Hyde, Hermes is one of the generative figures in culture, a figure "of many shifts, blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver." For him, Hermes is "an American hero for 'the land not of natives but of immigrants, the shameless land where anyone can say anything ... the land of opportunity and therefore of opportunists ... Trickster has not disappeared. 'America' is his apotheosis; he's pandemic.'
  • Thank goodness. Everyone has finally gotten their story straight. The Bush presidential think tank connected to the Bush presidential library at Southern Methodist University really isn't going to be a blatantly partisan propaganda machine. That might not be good for SMU's academic credibility. Which the school is very keen on leveraging to Ivy League status. But this means SMU has put its future reputation in hock -- to an outfit over which it has no control.

April 27, 2008 2:43 PM | | Comments (3)



Mr. Levy:

Perhaps I wasn't clear in my posting, but you seem to have misread me: I wrote that the REVIEW didn't reference Lars. But then, I added, the BOOK itself didn't mention the other art works I listed. (Read those two particular sentences again in my post, and you'll see what I mean). I'm well aware that Lars was released too recently for the book to acknowledge it, but my general point still stands: Love and Sex with Robots hardly counts as a cultural study.

As for Steve: I am extremely sorry, but I have read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead -- rather, I am sorry I ever opened those pages.

OK, I skipped some pages, but the rest of the books and their fatheaded, hamfisted pronouncements that we must free ourselves from altruism and that raw, free-market capitalism is the solution to just about everything -- this nonsense, plus the style that The New Yorker once called "a triumph of English as a second language" convinced me I could miss a few pearls of wisdom. I might add, I wasn't the only one who cited Rand (and Hubbard) as a cult author. I was responding to the Telegraph's list -- where The Fountainhead appears as #22. Just below Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, an association and a position Rand would doubtlessly have gone into a frothing fit over.

Oh, and I notice you didn't try to defend her total lack of humor. Smart move.

How un-intellectual of you to dismiss something out of hand by labeling it a cult and never even attempting to define what a cult is. A basic definition of a cult is a group of people that accept on faith what the leader tells them is the truth. Usually the leader claims to be divine or at least divinely inspired. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism has nothing to do with anything close to that. She advocated reason and logic and using one's mind to discover truth and to gain knowledge. She denounced taking things on faith. Maybe you should actually read her writings and not just learn about her second hand. I refer the reader to Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead for evidence of Ayn Rand's advocating reason as one's means of knowledge.

book/daddy is a little surprised that a review of a book about sex with robots never makes reference to the recent, wonderfully understated film, Lars and the Real Girl.

You just checked the wrong part of the book. The preface is dated August 2005, a little early for all but the most prescient writer to know of a small indie film released in late 2007.


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Reviewing the state of reviewing


9/11 as a novel: Why?


How can critics say the things they do? And why does anyone pay attention? It's the issue of authority.

The disappearing book pages:  

Papers are cutting book coverage for little reason

Thrillers and Lists:  

Noir favorites, who makes the cut and why



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