Day Four: What is the last book you flung across the room?

I can think of three reasons why I would want to fling a book across the room:

1) Naivity and Provincialism
Example: John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty


Political Economy is not a place for wishful thinking. On Liberty reads like it was written for managing a homogeneous and congenial society of good old boys who all went to the same schools, attend the same clubs, read the same newspapers, smoke the same cigars and laugh at the same jokes. It’s a comforting fairy tale but seems irrelevant to a world of rapacious plutocrats and intolerant zealots. I would expect better from a man of Mill’s stature and learning but perhaps he lived a sheltered life and had no experience with real world politics.

2) Senseless academic careerism and trendy cultural studies nonsense/discourse
Example: Vivienne Brown’s Adam Smith’s Discourse: Canonicity, Commerce, and Conscience


This is what that looks like in practice:

“The approach taken here will not privilege authorial unity or authorial intentionality as guarantees of consistency … therefore follows neither from the presumption of a unified authorial origin guaranteeing a single meaning, nor from the postulate of a unified authorial design which guarantees a seamless oeuvre. Instead, this chapter will offer a reading of the two texts where the figurative and stylistic differences between them are shown to be indicative of their different moral positioning … in a way that is not simply reducible to the issue of authorial coherence or consistency.”

Through her haze of repetitive jargon she seems to be saying that meaning is constructed entirely through the act of reading and that authorial intent and historical context are irrelevant to understanding. Translation: “I’m making this up as I go and it doesn’t matter what Adam Smith said.”

3) The PowerPoint slide that wanted to be a book
Example: Eric Ries’
The Lean Startup


I admit there are some good ideas in this book and unlike the previous two examples these ideas have application in the real, and messy, world. He speaks clearly, shows examples and understands the gap between theory (a.k.a. wishful thinking) and practice.  This would have made a great 15 minute TED talk or a long magazine article. But as a book there are about 50 pages of good content and 250 pages of padding, repetition and fluff. His points are so stretched out that they become hard to follow. This might be fine if you’re watching TV at the same time but for those of us that are (or were) paying attention, just give us the PowerPoint slide and be done with it.


~ by severalfourmany on September 12, 2013.

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