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Deconstructed News


Read this post on my blog.

Deconstruction was a hot, new technique in literary criticism 25 years ago when I was a grad student in English studies. It was hot because it was favored by the sexy French theorists like Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan and also because it authorized a detached, cynical approach to works of art. Deconstruction differs from analysis. The goal of analysis is to identify and examine parts that contribute to a whole. Analysis presumes integration: there is one work with perhaps multiple meanings but still an overarching significance. The goal of deconstruction is also to identify and examine parts, but not so one can see how they contribute to a whole. Indeed, the whole is illusory. The task of deconstruction is to reveal the constructedness of a work and examine how it produces the illusion of wholeness despite tell-tale signs of its constructedness. Deconstruction became the darling of postmodernists because of its suspicion of absolute categories like truth, reality, and meaning. Like all the darlings of the elite, the concepts of deconstruction soon found their way into mainstream culture stripped of all nuance and philosophical underpinnings. So it’s no surprise that “deconstruct” now appears in place of “analyze” in news stories:

New York Region
Published: October 11, 2009
Deconstructing a care package headed to a friend serving with the British Army in Afghanistan.
The article just details what’s in the care package. It’s even short on analysis and certainly does not represent deconstruction. They don’t always get it wrong, though:
Published: October 11, 2009
By slowing down a short film, Ken Jacobs shows not a work of art but what is behind its illusions.
You might expect a New York Times’ film critic to get it right, and she does.

Spook Country


Spook Country is only the third of William Gibson’s novels that I have read. The first—and, I have to say, best—was Pattern Recognition. Spook Country shares with it the same sense of incipient danger amidst a cultural malaise spiked with a curious hope. It also shares the wealthy and enigmatic Hubertus Bigend. If you’ve read and liked Pattern Recognition, you will like Spook Country. I highly recommend it.

Some of the claims in the book are too bizarre to be true, yet they are. For example, one character tells the protagonist, Hollis Henry, that a staggering $12 billion was sent to Iraq and distributed without any oversight or monetary controls. This was true; you can read about it here. One shipment consisted of shrinked-wrapped hundred dollar bills totaling over $2 billion. That’s nearly a ton of currency. The money was not US taxpayer funds; it was seized Iraqi assets, so it belonged to the Iraqis. Nevertheless, you can imagine the potential for abuse and corruption with that much money flowing freely into a war zone. If you can’t, Gibson can.

Like other books by Gibson, Spook Country requires careful reading and attention. Gibson seems to have an encyclopedic knowledge of recent—and not so recent—popular culture. His characters are comfortable with Google, GPS systems, and Internet-enabled phones. Comfortable but also distrustful. The book follows three characters whose stories seem at first unrelated. The switch from one story to another was disorienting at first, but quickly took on a rythmn of it s own. It was a fascinating and satisfying read.