Category Archives: Karl Marx

Ted’s Top 50 Books of the 2000s

Originally posted January 06, 2010

OK, here’s one more end-of-decade list, a few days belated. I wasn’t planning on covering books, because I wasn’t sure how to combine fiction, journalism, memoir, history, biography, sports, gardening, cooking, and everything else into one big category, and I hadn’t read 50 books in any subcategory. Plus, I’d already lumped graphic novels in with the comics list. But I did want a place to lay out the really satisfying reads (and audiobook listens) I had over the decade. I decided to skip the academic works; that stuff already has a home on this website, in my syllabi and footnotes. Everything else, fiction and nonfiction, is on the list below. As with the other lists, series are lumped together, but only the volumes published in this decade; for example, the Harry Potter ranking only covers books 4-7.

All of my lists are inherently scattershot, but this one is probably the most unreliable. I managed to catch up with most of the most buzzed-about American comics, TV shows, records, and movies. But it takes a long time to read a book, and I have finicky tastes. I tried and bailed on lots of critics’ darlings, and ignored many more. And there are probably hundreds of books I would have enjoyed, if I’d ever heard of them.

As you’ll see, I read a lot of fantasy this decade, after reading mostly SF in the 1990s. Many of my favorite “literary” novels engaged fantasy culture as well, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think this has something to do with the zeitgeist, as I argue here, but obviously it has a lot to do with the vagaries of my tastes, as well.

1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
2 – The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
3 – Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart
4 – Game of Thrones series, George RR Martin
5 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
6 – The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenberger
7 – 3 Bags Full, Leonie Swann
8 – Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield
9 – Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
10 – The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
11 – Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
12 – His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman
13 – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke
14 – Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
15 – Born Standing Up, Steve Martin
16 – The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons
17 – The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
18 – Samaritan, Richard Price
19 – The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
20 – Have a Nice Day, Mick Foley
21 – Foreign Babes in Beijing, Rachel DeWoskin
22 – Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
23 – The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver
24 – Moneyball, Michael Lewis
25 – The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Neal Pollack
26 – Old Man’s War series, John Scalzi
27 – The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
28 – The Wife, Meg Wolitzer
29 – Karl Marx: A Life, Francis Wheen
30 – The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, Julian Rubinstein
31 – Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
32 – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
33 – Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Vinkatesh
34 – Heat, Bill Buford
35 – The Geese of Beaver Bog, Bernd Heinrich
36 – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
37 – The Magicians, Lev Grossman
38 – How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
39 – The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman
40 – Little Children, Tom Perotta
41 – The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
42 – The Columnist, Jeffrey Frank
43 – A&R, Bill Flanagan
44 – The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas
45 – Bangkok 8, John Burdett
46 – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Toby Young
47 – From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, Amy Stewart
48 – Six Seconds or Less, Jack McCallum
49 – In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
50 – Stardust, Neil Gaiman

Tedcast #3: Interviewed by Erik Davis

The third Tedcast takes a break from my Fantasy & Science Fiction lectures to present an interview with me conducted by Erik Davis. Erik hosts Expanding Minds on the Progressive Radio Network, and is author of numerous books, including a great study of Led Zeppelin IV and the new collection Nomad Codes. Erik and I go back to college, where we worked together on a zine. Here we talk about the Centaur Manifesto, critical theory, and the tensions between being an academic and a public intellectual.

Centaur Manifesto

I’m writing a book about centaurs and cyborgs – about trying to bring together mythos and logos, magic and science, Carl Jung and Karl Marx, Maria Von Franz and Fredric JamesonI’m podcasting the book via my lectures on Tedcast. I’m tweeting the book via the #centaur hashtag. And I’m blogging the book here.

The book expands my work on politics, myth, fantasy, and the ideas of Karl Marx and Carl Jung. Theoretically, it’s a marriage of post-Marxist critical theory with post-Jungian depth psychology. My hope is the combination will prove, if not a dialectical synthesis, perhaps an alchemical reaction – what Jung calls syzygy, the marriage of opposites.

Jung like Marx began as a Hegelian. Alchemy is Jung’s own revision of Hegel’s dialectic, just as deconstruction is for Derrida. The Buddhist version is my personal favorite: the middle way. Which leads to emptiness, no-self, nirvana. And as Jack Kornfield puts it, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

The book began as a series of essays in the media studies journals Flow and Scope in 2009 on Jungian approaches to cultural studies:

My most recent work has been on games as forms of active imagination. Here’s a short slideshow I made about the social game Farmville and active imagination. It accompanied a piece I contributed to the digital humanities journal In Media Res, “Farmville: the Garden in the Machine.”

Here’s an interview I did with David Metcalfe, who runs the wonderfulOpenMythSource.com. He also wrote a very thoughtful follow-up piece about my work, “Digital Gardening,” and republished “Myth, the Numinous & Cultural Studies.”

And here’s a talk I gave a couple of years ago about the politics of fantasy films.

Farmville Mandalas

Tedwood Forest

Tedwood Forest

Ted's Labyrinth

Ted's Labyrinth

MinMax

MinMax

Winter Labyrinth

Winter Labyrinth

Poinsetta Labyrinth

Poinsetta Labyrinth

Carrot Labyrinth

Carrot Labyrinth

Peppermint Labyrinth

Peppermint Labyrinth


Click here for “Farmville: The Garden in the Machine.” In Media Res (December 8, 2010).

Tedcast #2: Magic and Extrapolation

My rebooted podcast, TedCast, is up and running. The first few episodes will come from Fantasy and Science Fiction, a course I teach at GSU. Future episodes will cover cultural studies, new media, film history, and eventually  everything else I talk about in public.

In Episode 2, we discuss the key tropes of fantasy and science fiction: magic and extrapolation.

To subscribe to TedCast in iTunes, click here.

For the TedCast RSS feed, click here.

Episode 2 – Magic & Extrapolation

Tedcast #1: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Here’s  Episode 1 of Tedcast, my rebooted podcast. It’s the first class in Fantasy and Science Fiction Media, a class I taught at GSU in Fall 2010. In this opening lecture, I introduce the concept of genre and discuss what distinguishes fantasy and science fiction, and what they share.

To subscribe to Tedcast on iTunes, click here.

The Politics of Fantasy

Here’s a talk I gave at Berry College on the politics of fantasy films, broken into six parts.

I begin by talking about the fantasy boom in the last decade, in which the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Chronicles of Naria, Spiderman and Pirates of the Carribbean franchises became Hollywood’s top worldwide grossers.

I continue by looking at the parallels and differences between fantasy and science fiction. Fantasy and science fiction are both forms of myth, I argue, and thus speak the archetpyal language of the unconscious. SF, however, dresses up this irrationality with the clothes of scientific empiricicm, while fantasy embraces the irrational logic of dreams through the trope of magic.

Here I talk about to magic as a metaphor for our alienated relationship with technology.

I quote and unpack Arthur C. Clarke‘s famous line, “Any technology sufficiently advanced from our own would be indistinguishable from magic.”

I also discuss:

– The parallels between the fantasy trope of manna and the medical/spiritual concepts of chi/prana.

– The parallels between spellmaking and computer programming.

– The fantasy genre as the realm of the unconscious.

– Jung vs. Freud

Here I get to Carl Jung’s influence on America and Hollywood via Joseph Campbell, George Lucas, and screenwriting guru Christopher Vogler.

I also talk about the limits of Jung and the ideas of post-Jungians such as Andrew Samuels and Christopher Hauke.

I end by discussing the psychology and politics of the Lord of the Rings books and films from a post-Jungian perspective.

The talk ends at 8:30, followed by the first 1:30 of the Q&A.

In this portion of the Q&A, we discuss:

– Star Wars as an SF/fantasy genre hybrid.
– The roots of both SF and fantasy in the mythic tradition
– SF as “fantasy in techno-drag”
– Fantasy as the language of the unconscious
– Horror as the return of the repressed
– Jung’s analysis of Nazism as the projection of Germany’s collective shadow onto the Jews
– Critiques of Jung’s essentialism & the value/limits of social constructionism/anti-essentialism
– Feminist critiques and reworkings of Jung
– Archetypes and cognitive psychology
– Critiques of Campbell’s universalism
– Jungian cognitive psychology as an alternative to naive empiricism

In the final minutes of the Q&A, topics include:

– Why fantasy is still underrepresented on TV
– Comic book superhero stories as fantasy/sf hybrids
– George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire
– The politics of the hero’s journey in Star Wars & Lord of the Rings