Sunday, September 15, 2013

Bibliophile: Murder, violence, and other white leisure activities at McMaster University

 “Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.”
Stephen King

Well, that was an unanticipated week of blog silence. Let me catch you up:
--I've got a piece coming out at First Person Scholar next Wednesday. Preview: DOOOOOOOOOM.
--The dissertation proceeds at a nonzero pace. Hurrah.
--I will complete Tales of Maj'Eyal. I will. And die trying, if current progress is any indication.
--Scandal is a strangely compelling show. Mostly, though, I just want to give Joshua Malina's character a hug.

And that's that.

This is Bibliophile.

This week, we'll be looking at the new books acquired by the McMaster University Library, after the break.

McMasters does have a new book page, but it's more of a "highlighting new collections" sort of thing. So instead, I search the database for books published in 2013. That produces some 18 000 items, so, uh, we won't be doing every possible choice on this one. Instead, we'll browse interesting call numbers. First is GV 1469, the Library of Congress designation for game studies. Yes, I have that call number memorized. What, you don't?

(Incidentally, it's actually a bit of a pain to find any particular call number section, because most of the library is online listings, and they don't bother to display call numbers for online listings, apparently.) 

Pornographic archaeology : medicine, medievalism, and the invention of the French nation / Stahuljak, Zrinka. October 2012. Sadly, they don't have any new videogame books--or at least any I haven't seen before. (Global Gaming seems like a pretty decent anthology, BTW.) But at least I found this book. Stahuljak argues that there is a connection between the history of sexuality, nineteenth century views of the Middle Ages, and the conceptualization of modern France. I like the idea of studying how different eras viewed certain periods in the past. It would be interesting, for example, to look at how the dinosaurs have been viewed throughout history, and I imagine the history of WWII is going to go through some variations as time goes on. It starts with a plea from late 19th century and early 20th century medieval French scholars to study history over literature, which is not the best way, traditionally, to get on the good side of a literature studies student like myself. From the introduction, Stahuljak is particularly concerned on the overlap between French medievalists and French physicians in the 19th century. I'd quibble about the connection between pornography and medicine, but as someone who once took a "Modern and 18th Century Reproductive Technology" course, I can affirm that scholars will jump from medicine to pornography very, very quickly. Hardcover is $67.50. 352 pages, U of Pennsylvania P. H.

 Simians, Cyborgs, and Women The Reinvention of Nature / Haraway, Donna J. Dec 1990.
  Considering the original publishing of this book, I have to question McMasters dating system. Okay, maybe it's a reprint, but it still feels like cheating. Anyway, the book's a collection of ten essays Haraway wrote between 1978 and 1989. The link between the three subjects is that Haraway describes them all as creatures which have had a destablizing influence on Western evolutionary technology and biology. The book has three sections. Part one is nature as a system of reproduction and production, and includes essays on sex, mind and profit from human engineering to sociobiology and animal sociology and psychological dominance. Part two is contested readings, and focuses more on gender issues. Part Three is differential politics for Inappropriate/d Others, and looks at the sexual politics of "gender" as a word, and contains the famous cyborg manifesto. The narrative I've been told about Haraway is that she started off in technology, and got into the animal studies stuff thereafter;It looks as if it's a little more nuanced than that. 312 pages, Routledge, $31.67 Kindle, $27.71 paperback, $1061.11 Hardcover, because apparently that's how out of print hardcovers work. H.

 Museums and the Paradox of Change /Janes, Robert R. June 2013.
 Is it weird that I associate museum curation with library curation? You could probably tease a whole post just out of that connection. The description argues that museums are under pressure after the recession, and social and environmental issues taking priority mean that it's time to think about sustainability. This book looks at how a major Canadian museum underwent a 40% budget decrease and went on to become the most financially self-sufficient of the top ten largest museums in Canada. This is apparently the revised and expanded third edition, which you might think is a lot of editions to go through since the 2008 recession--except it's talking about the budget slashes the Glenbow Museum suffered in the 90s, which makes the opening Amazon description somewhat disingenuous. Still, even if Janes' measures aren't directly relevant to the current context, it's still a historically significant piece, and if you're not paying attention to historical significance when thinking about saving museums, it feels like you're doing it wrong. $112.64 for the hardcover, $36.39 for the paperback. Routledge, 448 pages. H.

  Killer tapes and shattered screens : video spectatorship from VHS to file sharing / by Benson-Allott, Caetlin Anne. March 2013.
People watch more movies at home than in the theatres. I think that's a pretty easy statement to agree with. The description also claims that annual video revenues have exceeded box office returns for the past 25 years, which is perhaps more surprising, given the collapse of Blockbuster. This book looks at how that dominance changes the notion of the spectator, in terms of "how the movies themselves understand and represent the symbosis of platform and spectator." So I'm guessing that means a close reading (viewing) of how various films portray watching video. It purports to blend industry history with apparatus theory, psychoanalysis, platform studies, production history, and postmodern philosophy. Glad it isn't getting ambitious, then. The chapters are divided into specific case studies: video spectatorship in George A. Romero; Videodrome's format war; reprotechnophobia and The Ring; Grindhouse and Simulacral Cinematicity; and Paranormal and the P2P spectator (glad it's delving into digital distribution.) It sounds like it would be a fun read, albeit a very theoretical one. $19.75 for the Kindle, $78.87 for the hardcover, $35.64 for the paperback. It's still more than the Kindle version costs, but at least it's decent in comparison to the other pricings. 312 pages, U of California P. H.

 Whiteness and leisure / by Spracklen, Karl. June 2013.
Spracklen takes a sociological approach to determine how leisure and whiteness construct each other, using existing research on leisure and race. In particular, it's delving into sports media, participation, and fandom; informal leisure, outdoor leisure, music, popular culture, and tourism. There's not a lot of information online, but I did dig up the index, so we can at least list some of the major topics: hybridity, class folk music, gender, hegeomic whiteness,  masculinity, modernity, whiteness, racialization, racism, rap music, reading, Westernization. It uses a Habermasian framework of communicative and instrumental rationalities and actions to understand the tensions between utopian theories of individualized leisure and dystopian theories of increasing control and constraint. And I was going to make a joke about how that doesn't explain very much, but I think it actually sounds like a worthwhile premise. Palgrave Macmillan, 232 pages. $62.25 for the Kindle edition, $65.52 hardcover. That's a ridiculous set of pricing. H.

Why We Eat, How We Eat Contemporary Encounters between Foods and Bodies /Abbots, Emma-Jayne and Anna Lavis.
I have a love for food studies, one that can probably only be explained by love of food. Abbotts' book intersperces case studies and theoretical interludes to look at how we engage with food in ways that are social, economic, political, biological, and sensorial. ...I get the desire to end a series of "-al" words, but wouldn't "sensory" be the typical word used in this case? (Incidentally, it was only at this point, when I looked inside Amazon's digital copy, that I realized the book was an anthology, something neither the listed information at McMasters nor on Amazon thought it relevant to inform me.) The book has thirteen chapters and four parts. Part I is absence and present, and contains O'Connor on invisible foodscapes; Anna Lavis on eating and anorexia; Baker on the link between pigmen and pigs in industral farming; and Cohn on eating practices and health behavior. Part II is intimacy, estragement and ambivalence, and includes Aphramor, Brady, and Gingras on critical dietetics; Saleh on Karam and Vineyards; Abbots on migration and eating risk in Highland Ecuador; and Holtzman on fraught food. Part III is contradiction and coexistence, and includes Brooks, Watson, Draper, Goodman, Kvalvaag and Wills in "Chewing on Choice"; Yotova on ethnocentricism and yoghurt in Bulgaria; Ormond on low carbon milk and dairy consumption; and Murcott on the elusiveness of eating. The final part is entanglements and mobilization, with essays from Hurn on vegan anthropology and eating in the field; Kendrick on Metabolism as strategy; Coles on embodied geographies of coffee; Yates-Doerr on complex carbohydrates and ethnography in nutrition education; a final interlude looks at fish, guts, and bio-cultural sustainability. Sociology is never going to be my theoretical method of choice, but these essays sound nice and varied, and I like the idea of the theoretical interludes. $88.26 for the Kindle and $124.95 for the Hardcover. And I'm going to keep complaining about kindle prices until something's done about them, dammit. Ashgate, 288 pages. H.

Bloody murder : the homicide tradition in children's literature / by Abate, Michelle Ann. Feb 2013.
John Hopkins UP. 280 pages. Abate explores how acts of homicide connect various children's literature works through literary, social, political, and cultural issues. Particularly, she looks at how they reflect changes in the American justice system, the rise of forensic science, shifting cultural attitudes about crime and punishment, and the nature of evil. Essentially, then, the obsession with violence in our culture starts long before a kid watches television or plays videogames. There's something comforting about that. The chapters are divided largely by topic and works, with a chronological progression: we have Snow White and fantasy filicide; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the Antigallows Movement; Tarzan and Criminal Anthropology; Nancy Drew and Psychic Sleuthing; The Outsiders and Juvenile Delinquency; Walter Dean Myer's Monster and demonization of murder; My So-Called Death and Adult Zombie Fiction. My immediate response to that list is to think about all the other works with interesting examples that Abate could have addressed (Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events, Wizard of Oz--you could do a whole book on Roald Dahl), which is a good sign that the idea behind the book is a good one. $44.56 Kindle, and $49.50 hardcover, because those production costs are the same.  280 pages, John Hopkins UP. H.

Gender, violence and popular culture : telling stories / by Shepherd, Laura J. August 2012.
 Shepherd combines media studies, critical international relations, cultural studies, and gender studies to do close readings of Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Generation Kill, The Corner, and The West Wing. (I can't remember gendered violence being particularly frequent in West Wing, except for the time the President's daughter got kidnapped. Come to think of it, "kidnap the president's daughter" is a gendered violence trope in and of itself.) The idea here is that we view international relations through narratives, and violence and gender is one of those common focal points through which we view the world. It's an argument that we're always being faced with ideological interpretations of the world around us, even when we're performing activities we traditionally regard as leisurely. It's also got a chapter on Oz, which makes sense, given the topic; I kind of can't wait for all the prison gender analyses we'll get when Orange is The New Black hits the scholarly microscope. And Breaking Bad's due a closer examination, for that matter.  Kindle edition $35.60 (with option to rent for $10.70), hardcover $20.83, and paperback $42.70. That's right, the hardcover is notable cheaper than the rest of them.168 pages, which is kind of short, from Routledge. H.

 Here be dragons exploring fantasy maps and settings / by Ekman, Stefan. Feb 2013.
 Interesting story behind this one: I came across the book while doing research for a roundtable on space and fantasy literature, and I was convinced at the time that the author was someone I'd met at a conference in 2006. And then I found out, while looking up this, that Ekman was born in 1961, and the guy I talked to who was working on fantasy and maps was my age, so it couldn't him. ...Okay, so "interesting" is probably the wrong word. Still, the book sounds interesting. Ekman argues that the fantasy world is always an integral part of the fantasy narrative, and Ekman studies what the fantasy map has to tell us about location. The focus is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (and rightfully so, since, as with so many things in fantasy lit, Tolkien set the tone and the pace). But it also includes readings of Steven Brust, Garth Nix, Robert Holdstock, Terry Pratchett, Charles de Lint, China Mieville, Patricia McKillip, Tim Powers, Lisa Goldstein, Steven R. Donaldson, Robert Jordan, Neil Gaiman, and Charles Vess. And if you suddenly hear a strange panting sound, that's just me salivating. Sometimes I really wish I had pursued fantasy literature as my main focus.Ah well, at least the videogames overlap.  Individual topics include borders in Nix, Vess, Gaiman, and Brust; geography in Pratchett, Holdstock and Tolkien; Conflux in New Crozuban; and landscapes of evil in Tolkien, Donaldson, and Jordan.  I would love to read this at some point. 296 pages, Wesleyan. And look--relatively sane book prices: $12.60 for Kindle, $67.50 for hardcover, $25.16 for paperback.

And with that, we conclude with four books left over from previous weeks. from Carleton U and August 5th:
 The soul of anime : collaborative creativity and Japan's media success story /Ian Condry
After attending a group viewing of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, I feel like I'm an expert in anime. Luckily, Condry is here to show me how wrong I am. The book is part of a series called "Experimental Futures," which is a pretty ambitious interpretation of anime.  Condry argues that anime's fictional characters and worlds are platforms for collaborative creativity, and a global success that emerges across industries including film, television, manga, and toys, among others. And the connection between fans and creators this engenders is the (sigh) soul of anime. Chapters one and two look at how professional animators design anime around characters and the worlds they inhabit; chapter three is about different forms of anime, in terms of film and television and how they intersect with manga; chapter four is synergy between anime creators and toy companies, and how both emphasize real themes to keep fans from child to adult; chapter five is on how studios design their own field of creativity; chapter six is on how file sharing and fansubs expand anime admid copyright debates; and chapter seven is on the more obsessive side of kotaku, and what it has to do with the overall anime world. It certainly sounds like Condry knows what he's talking about. $13.56 for the Kindle, $76.46 for hardcover, $20.64 for the paperback.264 pages, and Duke UP. H.

 Korean horror cinema / edited by Alison Peirse and Daniel Martin. March 2013, reprint.
As little as I know about anime, I think it's safe to say I know much, much less about Korean horror cinema. But I have a feeling I'd like it better than the torture porn that is Western horror, at the moment. (Or maybe it's the same, or worse. For all I know, we took it from them.) But I don't have to know--it's an anthology, so I can make my judgements from the essay titles. Part I is Classic Korean horror, and includes four essays: Lee on Family, Death, and wonhon (which Google Translate is not being helpful with); Peirse and Byrne on fox ladies; Morris on war horror and anti-communism; and Oh on the mother-monster figure. Part II is Contemporary domesit horror, and includes Hwang on the female ghost in Shadows in the Palace; Chung on Adoption Anxiety in Acacia; Lee in apartment horror in Sorum and Possessed; Diffrient on faces and physiognomy of affective extremes; and Shin on high school horror and Death Bell. The final section is contemporary international horror, with five essays: martin on asian horror in Phone and Bunshinsaba; Cagle on Victoriana in A Tale of Two Sisters; and Wing-Fai on A Tale of Two Sisters and The Uninvited; Smith on Zimba and the appropriation of the South Korean extreme; and Kim on body, guilt, and exsanguination in Thirst. If nothing else, it's a good list of films guaranteed to scare the bejeezums out of you. 256 pages, Edinburgh UP, $114 for the hardcover, $31.50 for the paperback.H.

From September 8th, and Laurentian University:

Digital labor : the Internet as playground and factory / edited by Trebor Scholz. Sept 2012.
It's a book examining the labor markets of the internet--how we create data, and how it gets harnessed by big business and government. The division between leisure and work has vanished, so every aspect of life drives the digital economy, and playbor (ugh--there's a neologism I hate) reigns. Although really, considering leisure was more or less invented as a concept with the rise of the middle class in the 19th century, couldn't we say there was NEVER a real division between leisure and play? The book has fourteen chapters, four parts, and it's a who's who of digital scholars. Part I is the shifting sites of labor markets, with essays from Andrew Ross, Titiziana Terranova, Sean Cubitt, and McKenzie Wark, on paychecks, free labor, political economy, and his Hacker Manifesto revisited, respectively. Part II is on interrogating modes of digital labor, with essays from Ayhan Aytes and neoliberal states of exception; Abigal De Kosnik on fandom as free labor; Patricia Ticineto Clough on digital labor and biopolitics; and Jodi Dean on blogging. Part III is the violence of participation, with essays by Mark Andrejevic on estranged free labor; Jonathan Beller on digitality and dispossession; and Lisa Nakamura on racialization of labor in World of Warcraft. Part IV is Organized Networks in an Age of Vulnerable Publics, with Michel Bauwens on P2P economies; Christian Fuchs on class and exploitation; and Ned Rossiter and Soenke Zehle on translation and algorithmic technologies. If you want to keep up to date on digital scholarship, you could do a lot worse than this. $30.36 for the kindle, $9.07 to rent it; hardcover is $133.48 and paperback $36.05. It's 272 pages, published by Routledge. H.

Dying on the job : murder and mayhem in the American workplace / Ronald D. Brown. 
"Dying on the Job is the first book on workplace violence to focus exclusively on workplace murder." Italics not added, which says a lot about the type of book we're dealing with here. You don't here a lot about workplace murder anymore; the headlines seem to be more focused on school violence. I remember in the 90s that it was a much greater media focus, and seemed to center around disgruntled postal employees. Brown's book covers topics such as workplace suicide, gender splits, how to spot likely murderers, and so forth. It's a pop nonfic sort of book, and feels a little ghoulish, frankly. I think it's an interesting topic, and one worthy of a more scholarly approach, but this is... well, for an example of the tone here, the appendix of people who have been involved in workplace violence is called "Appendix of the Perpetrators in the Study." You know, in case you want to skip ahead and look for your favorite killers. On the other hand, I'm as guilty as anyone here, as the title jumped out at me for one to explore. ...Not a great selection to end a Bibliophile on. Can we all remember that fantasy map book instead? (Fantasy videogame maps--now there's a topic with some meat on it.) H.

And that's it for this week. See y'all next time.

Later Days.

No comments: