Archive for October, 2007

oh vienna. you won’t feel the same about the city again. the piano teacher stabs all the senses, a disparate flinging of words unified by the protagonist erika kohut’s austerity and the author jelinek’s control. to gingerly peer out at jelinek’s vienna through peeled fingers is to chafe your hands as well.

with barely a hint of gentleness, the triangular becomes the linear as the imagined and actual interactions between erika, her mother and erika’s student walter klemmer fail to resist the banality of infected self-awareness. though the main source of misery is patently the inflamed relationship between mother and daughter, much more in the novel than in michael haneke’s 2001 film does the relationship between erika and klemmer attain its horrific and destructive character from the sense that they are both diseased, not just erika – two blind bulls thrusting their crenellated horns at one another.

the volatility of the interplay between the kohuts and klemmer eventually explodes in a painful, technicolour rumination on sequestration and etiolated delusion. though the novel thrusts individual acts of violence upon the reader, most terrible is erika’s fate; she is not wholly self-destructive but is able to sustain her cursed context. an anti-triumphal masterpiece, the piano teacher‘s every word is lacerating.

the best thing about reading this book is annoying the shit out of everyone saying that everything they do is ‘freudian’. seriously, try it.

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i juxtapose this with no logo for the following reasons. whereas no logo is radical, thorough, wide-ranging and empowering, judith levine’s not buying it is whatever words occur to you as the opposite of those preceding. i probably deserved what i got for buying this. i assumed that this book would be at least predominantly one of the following: a) radical, b) inspiring, c) instructive, d) entertaining, e) heart-warming. but i did not feel radicalised, inspired, instructed, entertained or heart-warmed by it in the least.

not buying it is a title which speaks to radicalism, but levine’s method wasn’t aimed at, or informed by radicalism at all. levine allowed herself to buy things, albeit basic ones. however, these things weren’t necessarily radical in themselves, like fruit trees. she still bought food (though restricted types) and other necessities. this strategy raises the question of what her goal is – to actively and sustainably reduce materialist wastage? or ‘just to see’? there is no question that not buying it treads the latter path, which makes for minimal education and challenge.

equally ambivalent is levine’s writing style. occasionally her use of personal anecdotes as jumping boards for wider discussion of consumption and capitalism works, but it doesn’t happen enough. there are lots of cute stories about making gifts for family members and joining non-consumption groups that fall slightly flat once you realise levine has a limit in terms of how far she’s willing to go. at the resolution of levine’s travails, her relief is palpable, which is discouraging to say the least.

end with a ready-made joke right here:

October 9, 2007

people are real assholes about naomi klein these days. i don’t mean media, because i haven’t noticed any, but normal people. when i was reading no logo, someone asked me why i was reading ‘that‘. but it is honestly the most influential book i have read this year. i know i am a little late. and it is outdated, though not due to any missteps on klein’s part. but i passed by her new book the shock doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism in borders last week, for fuck’s sake. and i thought ‘oh shit. i’ve got to get onto that’.

i’m fuzzy on the detail of no logo because i read it months ago now. but when i did, it galloped around lassoing many of my left leanings with logic, research and optimism. i think i would have killed myself if i was naomi klein by now. i should probably still consider some kind of self-punishment: i still own nike shoes. i still have friends who go to starbucks. but i am trying to be more political with my money. everyone should read this.