In Review…

In Review

Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press, 2001
$8.95 ($13.50 Canadian)

Few commenters on American political life are more astute than Noam Chomsky, famously referred to by the New York Times as “arguably the greatest living American intellectual.” Since the attack on the WTC, he’s also become (arguably) the most reviled American intellectual.
Chomsky-bashers would do well to read this instant book, rushed into print in the wake of the attacks in September 2001. Cobbled together from a string of interviews with the world press, 9-11 shows Chomsky at his best: a thoughtful, compassionate analyst of terrifying world events.

9-11 is flawed. The editors seem to think we have the IQs of porch light moths. In chapters taken from overseas interviews, references to events in those countries are followed by bracketed reminders that the interview took place in that country. Elsewhere, the editors place unnecessary notes saying they’ve excised material repeated elsewhere in the book, as if Chomsky’s words were holy writ to be edited trepiditiously.

Still, 9-11 is invaluable. Chomsky abhors the loss of life committed by 9-11’s perpetrators, and asks us to similarly abhor the murderous acts committed with our tax dollars in our names. Perhaps the single most valuable part of the book is Chomsky’s analysis of Bin Laden’s ideology. While some have imputed anti-globalization motives to Al Qaeda, Chomsky will hear none of it. Pointing out that bin Laden “has probably never even heard of globalization,” Chomsky says that Al Qaeda “has as little concern for… cultural hegemony as they do for the poor …of the Middle East who they have been severely harming for years.” To read progressive intent in the atrocities of last fall, says Chomsky, is to “wallow in self-indulgent fantasies.” 9-11 is a salutary antidote to some of the pronouncements of the American left in the last year, and well worth reading despite the obstacles the book’s editors place in our way.

– Chris Clarke

Please visit Eco Books if you’d like to purchase this or other books.

Small Wonder
Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Collins, 2002

Ever since 9/11, many writers the world over have crossed swords to vindicate or vilify the United States. Some of those writers, having pointed out the attacks may have been considered, political retaliation against the American Way, have been labeled unpatriotic, anti-American and worse.

Among them is Barbara Kingsolver. Small Wonder, Kingsolver’s new collection of essays, is a compelling, provocative series of meditations on how the world has changed since 9/11.

Kingsolver’s voice, at its clearest, resembles that of a wise, non-judgmental elder. Anger, she tells us, is human. Fear is human. But it is also human to use adversity as an instrument of understanding. This is not a battle between East and West, North and South. This war is one between poverty and riches, the possessors and the dispossessed.

It is Kingsolver’s gift to explain, in the plainest terms, the mechanisms of the human heart. She brings to her topic not just a facility with language, but the gift of understanding without making judgments, and of empathizing without taking sides. We are all victims, she says, but with effort we can affect a change.

Kingsolver brings a scientist’s eye to the intricacies of the natural world: the wing-beats of a scarlet macaw, or the inherent insight a child may bring to the human arena. These essays place their author firmly in the upper echelon of American letters. Kingsolver is anything but anti-American. She loves her country and says so, in a voice of distinctly North American origin. That she has the courage to do so, in the current storm of xenophobia and ire, does credit to herself and the land that nurtured her.

- Piers Moore Ede

Please visit Eco Books if you’d like to purchase this or other books.

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