books, again

After a mostly excellent week, I’ve spent Friday and today being both unproductive and extraordinarily tetchy. Result: I’m pissed at the world, and I’ll be spending tomorrow back behind a computer – possibly just as fruitlessly.

On the plus side, good books make things better…

Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities. Books attain apotheosis when their titles become academic catchphrases (compare: open society, public sphere, clash of civilizations). Imagined Communities managed this by being short and clear (barring a perverse habit of leaving French and German quotations untranslated). Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ are nations, which replaced dynastic states quite suddenly, from the end of the 18th century. This, he argues, was because of a mix of capitalism, printing, bureaucracy, and anti-colonial movements in America (South as well as North). Once the idea of the nation got going, it took on a life of its own, and could spread back to Europe and around the globe.

Erik Davis, Techgnosis. An account of ‘myth, magic and mysticism in the age of information. Highly impressive, with much more dense, clearheaded analysis than you’d expect from a book in this area. I’m not sure quite how to summarise it; just going through the topics it covers wouldn’t do it justice. Very Californian, very 90s.

Now I’m going to abandon hope of getting anything useful done today, and invoke foreigner’s privilege to claim that sitting in a bar is ‘practicing my German’.

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