the contextual life

thoughts without borders

writing about the book i read

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zizeki read a ton. it’s what i do. i measure my productivity in page count. one book leads to another, or at least the good ones do – the writers who reference other authors are always my favorite.

sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. with a book by the author or a book about the author?

the other night i went out to my favorite local bookstore. it’s one of the few surviving independents. they have a great political, cultural theory section and i rarely leave without spending at least 40 dollars. this time was no exception. i had picked up ’50 Key Contemporary Figures: From structuralism to post-humanism’ edited by John Lechte. i’ve seen some other titles in the series and had to fight really hard not to buy a few of them. but i picked this one up, thumbed through, and felt only what i can describe as love. i got all warm and gooey inside and wanted to hug the thing while dancing around the store in mock-ballroom fashion. everyone who’s anyone – at least from structuralism to post-humanism – is in it.


i almost made it to the counter – about to escape in under 30 dollars – but instead i was drifting over to the new paperback non-fiction shelf. this was where they had all the latest damning political books. the ones that tell of corporations are running the government and ruining your life. in the sea of all this horror, i saw ‘In Defense of Lost Causes,’ by the slovanian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. ok, so the cover has a photo of a big, rusty guillotine blade on it but it’s zizek and he is very trusting.  

as with many things, i forget how i first came across zizek. i think i read something about him and bought a book off amazon. i found a collection of essays and thought it would it be a good way to start. i was wrong. when it came in the  mail and i had a chance to look at it, i realized that i had no idea what he was talking about. he was referencing people i’d never heard of, using vocabulary that might has well have been another language. the only time i’ve touched it since then has been to clean.

but i didnt give up. zizek is too fascinating a figure to ignore. luckily he’s a cult icon and a media darling. my first full-length exposure to zizek was the film by his name, created by filmstress, astra taylor called Zizek!. the filmmaker follows him around the US and his home in slovenia. it’s just him talking about philosophers and life. he’s actually pretty accessible if he’s talking.  it was suiting that i came to understand him through film since he’s probably best known for his film theory and hitchcock fascination.

zizek is a compelling figure but it’s healthier to see him as a conversation. reading zizek with a bit of skepticism can be a thought-provoking experience. he’s name-dropper but but does a really good job – at least in this particular book – to show you why he is using a specific philosopher to compare his ideas to. in this way he’s an amazing educator; he knows how to speak to his audience. 

In Defense of Lost Causes is the perfect start to zizek’s work.


Written by Gabrielle

October 12, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in books

Tagged with , ,

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