Perry Anderson

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Are there any appropriate dimensions to literary biography as a form? The stature of a writer, and length of life, might be expected to provide some co-ordinates. Yet even among modern masters there is little consistency.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:14 (five years ago) link

"Marriage extended rather than altered this, Powell acquiring many an in-law from an Anglo-Irish background to which he was allergic"

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:15 (five years ago) link

To endorse, largely, what has been said: it seems plain that PA likes AP partly because he can identify with the relevant milieu. It is frustrating, in a way, that someone as brilliant as PA lacks perspective on this.

Arrival at the age of 13 at Eton, a year after the Great War had come an end, brought him in Spurling’s view

the underlying stability and continuity that came from a sense he had never known before of belonging to a community that accepted him, the nearest thing to a place where he felt at home. The school became from now on a kind of virtual extended family whose members – however rebarbative, reluctant or remote – stood in all his life for the actual relatives he hadn’t got.

Fortunate in finding himself in a house ‘with a poor reputation and no standards to keep up’, presided over by an easy-going master, he flourished as a member of the school’s Arts Society, did well academically, and emerged more polished and confident socially.

etc.

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:18 (five years ago) link

John Bayley (Letters, 10 January) wonders where I found a Russian tricolour of black, gold and white. The answer is: from the Imperial decree of 1858 which made it the correct flag of the Empire, in concord with the Romanov arms – and from the processions in Moscow today, in which rival banners express attachment to different aspects of the old order. There are those for whom it is more handsome a symbol of the past than the Batavian colours of which Bayley is fond.

Perry Anderson
Los Angeles

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v13/n04/letters#letter5

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:20 (five years ago) link

Mark S's favourite:

https://www.lrb.co.uk/v18/n04/letters#letter1

the pinefox, Monday, 30 July 2018 13:21 (five years ago) link

Like Proust he needs an editor

xyzzzz__, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:04 (five years ago) link

Seriously need to finish Lineages of the Absolutist State one of these days.
So long.
So dense.
Maybe tomorrow.

woof, Monday, 30 July 2018 14:17 (five years ago) link

I read the second half of PA's Powell epic today.

He spends most of the last pages describing AP as a very conservative or right-wing person. To what end? The only logical end really seems to be what has been a very standard PA manner for 30+ years: to play his own kind of Olympian contrarianism by writing with intimate sympathy about people on the political Right and showing no interest in criticizing their political views.

He also manages, in a predictable way, to insult people who are sceptical about Brexit. He doesn't live in the UK and doesn't face the various problems that Brexit has brought and will bring.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:17 (five years ago) link

(The one thing he has in common with Morrissey, I suppose. Irish blood, Californian heart.)

the pinefox, Wednesday, 1 August 2018 19:18 (five years ago) link

Unusually, PA picked up in a Guardian literary comment piece. The one striking thing here is that she quotes something he wrote 34 years ago - if that wasn't 'Modernity & Revolution' then I may not have read it:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/06/proust-truly-long-read-stories

the pinefox, Monday, 6 August 2018 13:46 (five years ago) link

two weeks pass...

This is the post where I ask for help in parsing one of Perry Anderson's sentences (or in this case fragment of a sentence):
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older than when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

(this is an example of one of proust's "lapses of control": who is older than what here?)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:08 (five years ago) link

Yes, I puzzled over that also. It didn't help that I haven't read Proust for nearly 15 years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:24 (five years ago) link

Odette - when Swann's wife - is a certain age

The narrator is now older than this

Now Odette visits Uncle Adolphe

...

is that what it is saying?

Again, much too far from Proust now to know - don't even remember an Uncle Adolphe.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:26 (five years ago) link

This could conceivably be a failure of prose or of copy-editing.

LRB editing has worsened in the last couple of years.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:27 (five years ago) link

yours is one possibilty (though it's not made clear why this causes a problem)
viz "Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanshe was when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"

another is this:
"Odette’s visit as a courtesan to Uncle Adolphe when the narrator is plainly older thanhe is when she figures for him as Swann’s wife"
(which is presumably impossible since the events come in the opposite order?)

i guess a reckless copy editor might have deleted some such phrase? (why? hardly to save space) -- it's a copy editor's failing in any case, since a good one (me or you) wd have flagged up and problem and insisted something be done about it. i agree abt the worsening in general

oddly enough an adolphe who's an uncle has already been mentioned: not a character in the book but proust's own maternal grandmother's uncle -- so i didn't blink at this till i went back just now confidently to inform you who the adolphe in the book was, and can't (the only extended proust i have read is the extracts in this essay)

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:43 (five years ago) link

in mine the bolded he is the narrator not the uncle lol, basically a copy editor shd have thrown the whole fragment back at PA and insist he restructure it more clearly and quick now, obnubilate indeed

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:45 (five years ago) link

I used to marvel at the absence of basic errors (spelling, grammar) in the LRB - say, 10 to 15 years ago.

They have come in since then, sometimes say 2 or 3 per issue. I suspect also that there were errors way back, say 35 years ago, and the period I am talking about was a high plateau of quality in between.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:49 (five years ago) link

I think it's that the narrator is older than he (the narrator) is when Odette figures for him as Swann's wife. The narrator, as a child, visits his uncle Adolphe and meets a lady in pink at his house. This lady in pink turns out to be Odette, who lived as a courtesan before she married Swann. But by the basic timeline of the story, Swann and Odette should already be married well before the narrator has reached the age of this episode. So it's unclear whether: (a) the narrator has met Odette Swann, who is implausibly reverting to her relationship with Adolphe, or (b) he's met the unmarried Odette de Crecy, and Proust has confused his timeline.

jmm, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:50 (five years ago) link

aha, thank you jmm :)

i guess that is more obvious to someone readily familiar with the text -- so that it unravels itself via information not actually available on the lrb's page -- but even so it is not terrific writing

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:06 (five years ago) link

Which is not something I would often say about Perry Anderson

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:18 (five years ago) link

rereading this essay i'm enjoying it a *lot* but i do think that writing abt fiction rather than reactionary thinkers or "politics from 30,000 feet" sometimes brings out something a bit discordantly antic in PA's prose -- actually not far from the kind of stuff that made me grind my teeth when christopher hitchens was being a bit too clever in his sentence-making (with similar pretext: i.e. when writing abt fiction rather than politics): "making an English equivalent of the Latin ablative absolute one of the trademarks of his style, with sovereign indifference to schoolroom objections to the pendant participle"

that final phrase is somehow just too cute (esp.after the clumsily repeated "to" before it): give a good example perry and stop showing off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:27 (five years ago) link

or trying to show off

mark s, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:28 (five years ago) link

Yes.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 August 2018 18:30 (five years ago) link

There are, iirc, several instances in Proust with timeline issues. I think he died before all seven vols were published but there were probably issues around any editors dealing w/Proust in the first place. Yeah, lol.

Powell is a reactionary thinker writing fiction - making the last section the strongest. Biggest laugh was Anderson sorta going along with Powell's hatred of Auden/British lefties just because Lyndon Johnson quoted the last line of September 1, 1939 in a speech.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:12 (five years ago) link

That was poor. That poem is one of the greatest modern poems in English that I can think of. PA, for all his brilliance, wouldn't have it in him to write something like it. He's unwise to mock it for the way it has been appropriated. He doesn't even bother to mention (though it's relevant) the best-known fact about the poem - that Auden kept changing the words because he was anxious and uncertain about the meaning.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:20 (five years ago) link

Is the second part of the Anderson essay still only available to subscribers?

Ward Fowler, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:22 (five years ago) link

Yes.
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n15/perry-anderson/time-unfolded

I still don't really understand PA's attraction to reactionary thinkers, let alone the way that here he makes no criticism of Powell or doesn't seek to articulate a dialectical relation between ideas that PA supposedly disagrees with and fiction that he thinks perceptive.

I think it comes down to contrarianism, in line with Mark's observation about (C) Hitchens.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:24 (five years ago) link

admittedly i was reading it in bed late but i found part 2 quite hard going: at the start he is wrestling with the mysteries of differential popularity, which ends up being smug and dull -- popular culture is apparently wildly foreign territory to him and he's using adorno and debord as his baedecker, which lol (has he actually ever been to the cinema? he doesn't write as if he knows what films are actually like) (also is it true that there are no blockbusters than run on understatement?)

then he gets into the weeds of translateability (of idiom, of humour) -- which if course bears on global popularity -- but the survey is too sketchy to do the work he wants it to and too sketchy also for you to get into what interesting about it that isn't pretext-driven. d'you think he's actually read dream of the red chamber?

i didn't really follow the point he was making about bayley (who i anyway have zero interest in): that powell went over bayley's head? who cares?

the section on powell's knowledge of and interest in world lit -- as manifested in his essays and the quotations in the book -- is good, but a bit buried (i'd have liked more honestly, but i think perry is quite out of his wheelhouse here and couldn't risk more)

and then the actual real politics section: which becomes increasingly dispiriting, partly bcz powell's judgments are so cookiecutter tribal and his insights so meagre, and partly bcz it honestly isn't re-integrated back into any of the rest of the piece

xp

contrarianism plus staunch anti-liberalism

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 10:58 (five years ago) link

Yes, re: anti-liberalism.

I think he quotes Powell saying Labour is part of liberalism?

I suspect that he has, indeed, read the massive Chinese novel. Am sure he wouldn't bluff that. It's all the kind of thing that Moretti would have told him was important.

I think I agree with you, Mark, re: the final section, the banality of AP's views, and how non-integrated it is!

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (five years ago) link

That (from Mark S) is a pretty good critical summary of Part II.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:13 (five years ago) link

d'you think this is a colossal extract from a longer soon-to-be-pubished book? the "reactionary thinkers" essays in the LRB ended up as a book

(tho they were more easily freestanding: i wonder if some of the sketchier sections will actually exist at some point at deeper length)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:21 (five years ago) link

This is a good and intriguing thought.

re earlier book, do you mean:
https://www.versobooks.com/books/574-a-zone-of-engagement

?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:22 (five years ago) link

I don't agree with Anderson at all btw (and from a google of it I saw that Auden was ambivalent about the ending, but it stuck so..), just noting the bizarre contortion at that moment.

Xps

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:23 (five years ago) link

I think I should get a load of the older PA books. I know some of the material but tons I have still not read. Like that book and also:

https://www.versobooks.com/books/228-spectrum
https://www.versobooks.com/books/575-english-questions

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:25 (five years ago) link

PA is pretty good on Global South lit so I reckon he's read Dream of Red Chamber. There is an essay of his in the LRB discussing historical fic that pulls in a wide range of novels (Cities of Salt, Buru Quartet)

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:27 (five years ago) link

spectrum begins with a long chapter on reactionary thinkers -- hayek and oakeshott and etc -- which began life as essays in the LRB (i guess they wd have felt odd in the NLR)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:30 (five years ago) link

His essays on India (which unusually I am not sure I read!!) became a book.

And so did US FOREIGN POLICY AND ITS THINKERS after ALREADY occupying an ENTIRE issue of NEW LEFT REVIEW a few months previously.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:31 (five years ago) link

we shd post him a print-out of this thread so he can rewrite where necessary (e.g. concerning uncle adolphe and also omitting any discussion of john bayley's opinions on anything)

mark s, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:43 (five years ago) link

I read all his essays on EU states (incl his essay on Cyprus!) back in the day, and I think that became a book too.

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:49 (five years ago) link

Yes that became a big book.

I didn't read the Cyprus material because it was so vast and I couldn't find any personal interest in Cyprus. There are these rare cases where I can't get excited about PA's work.

The Germany essay in the book appeared in the NLR under the heading 'Land of Ideas?'.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 11:57 (five years ago) link

I'd second the recommendations for The New Old World (that big book w/ the EU essays and Cyprus) and Spectrum. I didn't have much personal interest in Cyprus before but found it a v gripping and fascinating read. Perhaps because I knew least about Cyprus and Turkey, those two chapters were the best parts of the book, though his essays on France and Italy are among his best (imo).

I interned at Verso five years ago and asked about what his next colossal one would be - I was told it was likely going to be a collection of the essays on Russia, Brazil, China and a longer theoretical intro/conclusion synthesizing views on the BRICs, although who knows, I could easily see him having switched gears and put out an 600 page book on the 20th century novel.

I haven't gotten to the second part of the essay yet (picked up the print copy of the LRB yesterday) so will withhold judgment on it as a whole for now. Had been a pretty big PA stan before (while not always agreeing with particular points) so am always pleased to find others (and to notice this thread!).

Federico Boswarlos, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 14:13 (five years ago) link

Federico, that is most interesting. Are you a long-time ILB poster? We have a FAP tomorrow.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:06 (five years ago) link

xp Anderson has written at length about those three countries in the LRB, IIRC

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (five years ago) link

"at length" sort of goes without saying with PAnderson of course

Neil S, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 19:08 (five years ago) link

i was disappointed by Spectrum, felt i was lacking background on some of the thinkers (esp on the right) that was assumed

flopson, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 20:37 (five years ago) link

Been on a long holiday, read through the last nine of A Dance to the Music of Time for the first time.
I liked it well enough, but Anderson seems to overestimate it/Powell massively in the two articles. Keeps taking midweight literary basics as some kind of mastery - allusion is catnip to him.
Still on holiday, but will try to get round to saying more about Powell and/or this chunk of Anderson when I get back.

woof, Wednesday, 22 August 2018 21:35 (five years ago) link

Hey pinefox, I'm a (fairly?) long-time lurker and (very) occasional poster. I'm trying to get in the habit of posting more regularly, though my schedule's been a bit crazy the last while. Unfortunately, I'm not in London, otherwise I'd happily join.

I read elsewhere (on another thread?) that the overestimation is part of PA's "bid" to elevate Powell to a more respectable, if not canonical, status, and using (abusing?) Proust in the process. It seems somewhat plausible, whether it's something he deliberately set out to do or not. Still haven't read pt 2 yet, but look forward to getting to it tmw or this weekend.

Federico Boswarlos, Thursday, 23 August 2018 02:12 (five years ago) link

That seems about right - the Tariq Ali article on Powell makes it clear that PA has been reading and rereading and laughing aloud at Dance for an age, so I suspect the article is the eruption of a forty year internal monologue where he’s arguing with himself that this is better than Proust. Writes it as a late-life treat.

(I think mark s suggests something like canonising AP for a bet in one of the other threads which I also like)

He’s an unpersuasive critic though imo.

woof, Thursday, 23 August 2018 07:23 (five years ago) link

I don't remember Ali on Powell - I don't like Ali but I like it when he drops in anecdotes about PA.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 August 2018 09:07 (five years ago) link

https://twitter.com/HeerJeet/status/1378770031044030465/photo/1

mark s, Monday, 5 April 2021 10:16 (three years ago) link

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EyJf8MUVEAIJKYw?format=png&name=small

mark s, Monday, 5 April 2021 10:17 (three years ago) link

six months pass...

That was really good guide on Britisher intellectual history.

Is CP Snow taken seriously though? Not sure if he overstates that one.

xyzzzz__, Tuesday, 5 October 2021 21:25 (two years ago) link

the totality of snow's cultural presence today is the phrase "the two cultures" for science vs arts, with (if yr lucky) snow's line tacked on, that the arts shd know more abt the sciences, to be 👍🏽 or 👎🏽. i don't believe most present-day citations recall that leavis was snow's antagonist (leavis having also fallen a very long way out of intellectual favour)

which is not being "taken seriously" -- edgerton brings up a phrase ppl recognise to introduce a debate they know only by vaguest repute, as a rhetorical move to call for its replacementment (with perry vs EP) and as a low-key burn lol ("btw perry = snow in my analogy")

mark s, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 10:08 (two years ago) link

adding: leavis IS more worthwhile than snow i think, but VERY VERY flawed (i read his book on lawrence and it's just amazingly rambly and terrible and intellectually thin)

mark s, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 10:10 (two years ago) link

Just saw this take on the piece.

I have lots of thoughts about this from @DEHEdgerton about Perry Anderson and declinism - mainly that it's great to see a such sharp and appreciative essay on PA. I still think that DE bends the analytic stick too far though, missing lots on the processhttps://t.co/O9TtGmGVR3

— John Merrick (@johnpmerrick) October 5, 2021

xyzzzz__, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 12:19 (two years ago) link

merrick's unfleshed suggestion is i think on point, that PA's version of gramsci and hegemony pays too much mind to elites (and the formation of shaping cultural ideologies), with the key money-stuff morphing away hugely under the cultural radar.

tbf of course the NLR has published lots on the role of finance so the overall anderson project *does* address it, it's just that, having allowed space for all this important scholarship, anderson himself seems to pay it mind only rarely in his work

tl;dr: PA is an idealist gramscian not a materialist gramscian lol

mark s, Wednesday, 6 October 2021 12:55 (two years ago) link

eleven months pass...

I've always viewed gulf between NYT, & Times of London, as evidence of the Nairn-Anderson thesis (that our bourgeois revolution is incomplete and is fused with plenty of feudal aspects).

While the NYT published Krugman, the Times *genuinely believed* Ed Miliband was a Marxist > https://t.co/Irm6MNjtM1

— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) September 12, 2022

the pinefox, Monday, 12 September 2022 22:21 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

today in claims i'm afraid i don't actually believe:

If you want to know “how to be like that” Mike Davis read 500 pages a day and apparently Perry Anderson reads a book every afternoon

— Matthew Zeitlin (@MattZeitlin) November 2, 2022

mark s, Friday, 4 November 2022 13:44 (one year ago) link

Is the book by Perry Anderson?

the pinefox, Friday, 4 November 2022 13:52 (one year ago) link

https://miro.medium.com/max/1000/0*71MbysBs606ZN8Nr

Mike relaxing with a book after he'd finished feeding his collection of exotic pets

calzino, Friday, 4 November 2022 13:55 (one year ago) link

Nobody ever got smart by reading a book in two weeks and taking time to think about it.

jmm, Friday, 4 November 2022 14:13 (one year ago) link

everything fredric jameson writes is terrible

― mark s, Wednesday, September 28, 2022

the pinefox, Tuesday, 8 November 2022 23:33 (one year ago) link

That one book with the Andy Warhol ballet slippers on the front sure had a nice cover design though.

Me and the Major on the Moon (James Redd and the Blecchs), Wednesday, 9 November 2022 09:57 (one year ago) link

Perry Anderson reading a Goosebumps a day.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 9 November 2022 10:29 (one year ago) link

mofo finishes the quick crossword in matrix bullet time

calzino, Wednesday, 9 November 2022 13:12 (one year ago) link

not me spending 20 minutes hunting the internet for news on the longest word perry has ever used (and whether you could contruct a crossword round it)

mark s, Wednesday, 9 November 2022 14:05 (one year ago) link

Not read it for years, but I *think* I'd stan for *The Logic of Late Capitalism*.

Shard-borne Beatles with their drowsy hums (Chinaski), Wednesday, 9 November 2022 15:53 (one year ago) link

The essay?

the pinefox, Wednesday, 9 November 2022 22:47 (one year ago) link

two months pass...

long solid thread on PA's "in the tracks of historical marxism" -- useful at least a marker on specific conflicts and how accurately PA summarises them, in particular the debate pro and con althusser (kind of homework list in a moment when further homework may be a distraction and a luxury?) (anyway and however… )

I started Perry Anderson's In the Tracks of Historical Materialism. Early on he provides a hand summary of his Considerations on Western Marxism, which I generally think is good and right, but Tracks has raised a new doubt or two for me that I want to think about. He talks about

— Nate Holdren (@n_hold) January 14, 2023

mark s, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:29 (one year ago) link

IN THE TRACKS OF HISTORICAL MATERIALISM

the pinefox, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:40 (one year ago) link

I find it a bit odd to make a statement like this author has done through a series of tweets, not a piece of connected prose (eg: linked from a tweet).

I fully realise that Twitter is attractive and consumable and that Twitter threads have their appeal.

But in this instance the format isn't the best way to follow an argument.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:42 (one year ago) link

"in the tracks": could mean like sherlock holmes! could also mean PA has been left lying bruised in its foosteps after it passed on its way

mark s, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:44 (one year ago) link

The thread is odd in not mentioning a large part of IN THE TRACKS, which is a critique of post-structuralism. A critique that Terry Eagleton opportunistically attacked at the time, before going on to say very similar things himself.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:44 (one year ago) link

I agree it's a funny title, with those connotations. My sense has always been that it means something like "French theory today is merely following in the tracks of Marxism", but I would have to return to the book to corroborate this.

the pinefox, Monday, 16 January 2023 10:45 (one year ago) link

"I wouldn't trust Anderson on any empirical matters" lol

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Monday, 16 January 2023 10:50 (one year ago) link

"did you pick up the milk Perry?"
"as to whether Anderson purchased the aforementioned dairy product, the record must remain forever in a state of occluded obscurity"

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Monday, 16 January 2023 10:53 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

The P-Dawg on Mike Davis and Tom Nairn, good stuff, he even manages to admit that not all was plain sailing for Davis at the NLR
https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii139/articles/perry-anderson-two-great-losses

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Thursday, 23 February 2023 13:44 (one year ago) link

"from lower depths of redneck aliteracy"

🧐

mark s, Thursday, 23 February 2023 14:14 (one year ago) link

yes, that certainly caused a caesura in my reading, if you will

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Thursday, 23 February 2023 14:25 (one year ago) link

three weeks pass...

https://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk/podcasts-video/podcasts/perry-anderson-and-john-lanchester-powell-v.-proust

This is now announced, but, not being into the podcast world, I don't know how to listen to it.

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 March 2023 12:37 (one year ago) link

i think just click on the sound bar (the triangle-arrow) below the faintly coy photo of perry and make sure yr volume is up

mark s, Thursday, 16 March 2023 13:05 (one year ago) link

You're right !

the pinefox, Thursday, 16 March 2023 13:09 (one year ago) link

Poster Map on another thread mentioned Fredric Jameson and Mike Davis. I wish to reply so I bring it to this slightly more appropriate thread:

...

Davis was a major figure, and certainly commands respect. So my personal irritation with one phrase isn't at all meant to belittle him in general, as if I could.

I was aware that he had written a reply to FJ on PoMo - it's collected, as I recall, in an old volume called JAMESON/POSTMODERNISM/CRITIQUE (1990?) - where I think, possibly, FJ acknowledges him more generously in a reply to critics (though may be fabricating this notion). I am fairly sure that FJ here and there in his work cites CITY OF QUARTZ, if not other works, favourably.

Davis's critique of FJ is surely valid - I have no criticism of it as such.

Davis might well have been justified in some kind of frustration with the English NLR crowd, and specifically the Old Etonians among them (unsure how many that is, maybe just 3, or more). My one substantial, small comment was that this could not logically include FJ, who never had anything to do with English public schools. FJ probably met Anderson et al in the 1970s (just a guess) - say, after MARXISM & FORM and THE PRISON-HOUSE OF LANGUAGE. Terry Eagleton (also no kind of Etonian, though he became an Oxonian) went and taught with FJ for a term in California in the late 1970s. But FJ - to my surprise - seems never to have published a word in the NLR till 1984, when the most famous essay of his whole career appeared there. He was already 50. He has contributed frequently since, but I don't suppose he has been on the editorial board; don't think he has ever resided at length in the UK.

So in sum:
1: yes, Davis in general was good
2: Davis's critique of some affluent leftists could possibly be valid
3: but Davis couldn't literally have been referring to FJ in the specific comment that was cited.

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 March 2023 20:05 (one year ago) link

I like Mike Davis and read Victorian Holocausts back in the summer, loved it apart from sections of the book where he goes way too deep into the science of the El Nino phenomenon, which was a bit too much for my brane. And I started City of Quartz last week, it's good stuff - never knew about Llano del Rio the socialist city, which at the time the book was written - the ruins of it still existed.

calzino, Tuesday, 21 March 2023 20:58 (one year ago) link

I meant colony obv.. "city" is a bit of a stretch!

calzino, Tuesday, 21 March 2023 21:00 (one year ago) link

That's a good reminder Calzino - had read about that place and TBH forgotten that Davis discussed it. Apparently a library in CA has a big archive of documentation about it. And I seem to recall that it eventually relocated to another state!?

the pinefox, Tuesday, 21 March 2023 21:01 (one year ago) link

up to where I'd read he was visiting the ruins and bumped into 2 refugees from El Salvador seemingly living rough there, who he describes as like "hobo heroes from a Jack London novel". When he told them about its socialist history one of them asked did the rich people come and bomb them with planes? No he replies, their credit failed!

calzino, Tuesday, 21 March 2023 21:08 (one year ago) link

thanks for the clarifying information the pinefox, i stand corrected.

ꙮ (map), Tuesday, 21 March 2023 21:32 (one year ago) link

Thanks Map - I appreciate your civility here. I have a couple of follow-ups.

1: to support your and Calzino's appreciation of Davis, I remembered that what I admired about Davis was that after every US election - including midterms! - he would write a long, detailed analysis of the results for NLR, in terms of individual states, psephology, demographics. It was extraordinary work; I marvelled at the expertise and data. Marxists are not always thought to be interested in 'bourgeois democracy' - here was a contradiction of that view.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 10:37 (one year ago) link

2: I don't have POSTMODERNISM / JAMESON / CRITIQUE here and couldn't find references to Davis in the other FJ I have to end. Finally I looked in POSTMODERNISM itself and found the endnote that the critic you cited had cited. And I'm afraid that here FJ, indeed, doesn't come out so well. What he praises in Davis, he immediately takes away, in a very uncomradely way. His tone is not well judged. He could engage much more with the substance of Davis's critique, and at least in this particular case, he doesn't.

As noted before, this can't have anything to do with a UK background (which frustrated Davis in the UK); it may have something to do with a US academic turf war which is opaque at this distance.

I still have the feeling that in later work, FJ acknowledged Davis more generously, but I may be imagining that. I have 10 of FJ's books to hand but don't think any of them provide such evidence.

Perry Anderson in THE ORIGINS OF POSTMODERNITY (1998) cites Davis (p.78) as 'Jameson's earliest critic [re PoMo] on the Left', and implies that he had made a valid point about FJ's periodisation.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 10:42 (one year ago) link

as much as i can appreciate the need to deflate arrogant, vacant intellectualism, i do find that davis's shtick can sometimes lapse into into fetishization, especially when he starts calling people "effete". philosophy and theory were a refuge for me, and helped me to name the false consciousness that had made my own midwestern, blue collar milieu so hostile to creativity and intellect. these qualities are important too, and, to keep things short, i guess i think it's okay that some of our leftists are more about wit or playfulness than they are about centering labor. we need a bit of the former aspect, too.

of course, ideally you'd have somebody like e.p. thompson, who seems to embody the best aspects of both worlds.

budo jeru, Wednesday, 22 March 2023 23:07 (one year ago) link

Well said.

the pinefox, Thursday, 23 March 2023 10:35 (one year ago) link

nine months pass...

He only reads the intro to them

At the party last night talked to someone who used to check out books for Perry Anderson as an undergrad. Terrifying. Said he'd bring a trundle and load it up with 40 books every 3-4 days.

— jq di zuppa🥫 (@outsidadgitator) December 30, 2023

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 30 December 2023 17:52 (six months ago) link

four months pass...

Perry has finally gotten round to reading Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers, which was published in 2012. A masteful essay of course.
https://newleftreview.org/issues/ii146/articles/perry-anderson-pathbreakers-high-and-low

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Monday, 13 May 2024 13:39 (two months ago) link

As someone who doesn't know much about WWI I am really enjoying the piece.

The section on Imperialism is terrific.

xyzzzz__, Monday, 13 May 2024 17:23 (two months ago) link

The Sleepwalkers is a great book but I'm troubled by the information in the opening paragraph of this piece that Clark claims to be descended from Irish famine refugees and that also he accepted a fucking knighthood!

vodkaitamin effrtvescent (calzino), Monday, 13 May 2024 17:31 (two months ago) link

still, all history profs are melts but tbf on him Iron Kingdom is a good book as well.

vodkaitamin effrtvescent (calzino), Monday, 13 May 2024 17:40 (two months ago) link

yeah that struck me as a bit strange too, I guess Clark has been thoroughly assimilated into the ruling classes now!

Perry does go on to talk about Clark's latest book, Revolutionary Spring, tbf.

Critique of the Goth Programme (Neil S), Tuesday, 14 May 2024 08:19 (two months ago) link


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