Monday, September 10, 2007

Pg. 69: "A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Eduardo A. Velásquez's A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse: Why There is No Cultural War in America and Why We Will Perish Nonetheless.

About the book, from the official website:
What accounts for the apocalyptic angst that is now so clearly present among Americans who do not subscribe to any religious orthodoxy? Why do so many popular television shows, films, and music nourish themselves on this very angst? And why do so many artists — from Coldplay to Tori Amos to Tom Wolfe — feel compelled to give it expression?

It is tempting to say that America’s fears and anxieties are understandable in the light of 9/11, the ongoing War on Terror, nuclear proliferation, and the seemingly limitless capacity of science to continually challenge our conceptions of the universe and ourselves. Perhaps, too, American culture remains so permeated by Protestant Christianity that even avowed skeptics cannot pry themselves from its grip.

In A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse, Eduardo Velásquez argues that these answers are too pat. Velásquez’s astonishing thesis is that when we peer into contemporary artists’ creative depiction of our sensibilities we discover that the antagonisms that fuel the current cultural wars stem from the same source. Enthusiastic religions and dogmatic science, the flourishing of scientific reason and the fascination with mystical darkness, cultural triumphalists and multicultural ideologues are all sustained by the same thing: a willful commitment to the basic tenets of the Enlightenment.

Velásquez makes his point with insightful readings of the music of Coldplay, Tori Amos, and Dave Matthews and the fiction of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. Written with grace and humor, and directed toward the lay reader, A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse is a tour de force of cultural analysis.
Among the advance praise for the book:
"Eduardo Velásquez has written an unusual and stimulating book in the philosophy of culture. His range of topics is broad; his insights about particular cultural products as well as about what he takes to be the pervasive theme of “the apocalypse” are intriguing; and his conclusions about what American cultural and “popular” artistic productions say about who we are will surprise and provoke many readers. This controversial book is well worth reading."
Charles Griswold, Professor of Philosophy, Boston University
Read an excerpt from A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse and learn more about the book at the official website.

Check out -- and perhaps contribute to -- the on-going discussion at the book's blog. The latest entry: "Richard Dawkins on Christopher Hitchens (w/ a note from Tocqueville)."

Eduardo Velásquez teaches political philosophy, science and the arts, literature, and popular culture at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He has taught or held residence at Lake Forest College, the University of Chicago, Haverford College, the University of Edinburgh, University College, Oxford, and at Denmark’s International Study Program, affiliated with The University of Copenhagen. He received his BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara and his MA and PhD from the University of Chicago, all in political science. He is the editor of Love and Friendship: Rethinking Politics and Affection in Modern Time and Nature, Woman, and the Art of Politics.

The Page 69 Test: A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse.

--Marshal Zeringue