Reviews of two of our biggest fall titles are in the latest Publishers Weekly.
The Left at War by Michael Bérubé.
Fresh off the 2008 election and anticipating an ascendancy of leftist thought and political success, Bérubé (Rhetorical Occasions), cultural studies and literature professor at Pennsylvania State University, provides robust intellectual arguments for how to reshape leftist thought into a powerful, constructive and measurably successful political philosophy—and how to mitigate the damage caused by the “Manichean” left: notably Chomsky and other members of the hard left whom he disparagingly describes as ready to sympathize with “any ‘anti-imperialist’ who comes along to challenge the Western powers, from Milosevic to Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” He provides an assessment of Chomsky’s appeal and a balanced critique of Chomsky’s failings, juxtaposing him with Stuart Hall, who brings what Bérubé believes is the necessary nuance to leftist thinking. Bérubé forthrightly identifies himself as a social democratic leftist, and his effort not only identifies left-wing excesses and elevates its more viable and strategically sound currents, but puts critical thinking back into vogue on both sides of the political spectrum. (Nov.)
Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by José Esteban Muñoz.
Gay liberation’s activist past and pragmatic present are merely prologue to a queer cultural future, Muñoz (Disidentifications) suggests in this critical condemnation of the political status quo. Casting his vision of a radical gay aesthetic through the prisms of literature, photography and performance, the author dismisses commonplace concerns like same-sex marriage as desires for “mere inclusion” in a “corrupt” mainstream. More defiantly, he exalts the persistence of commercial sex spaces in the face of “antisex and homphobic policings,” and celebrates the overlay of punk and queer in performance spaces. Muñoz draws on a dynamic roster of seminal artists to illustrate his vision of a utopian queer future, from the well-known (LeRoi Jones, James Schuyler and John Giorno) to edgy artists, including homo-core punk queen Vaginal Davis, club photographer Kevin McCarty and drag chanteuse Kiki (Justin Bond). Queer theorists will find the book’s provocative thesis stimulating; lay readers unfamiliar with Ernst Bloch and the Frankfurt School of philosophy on which the author builds his argument may find it a slog. (Nov.)