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  • On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture
  • Roger Corless
On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture. By Robert Magliola. Preface by Edith Wyschogrod. American Academy of Religion Cultural Criticism Series, edited by Cleo McNelly Kearns, Number 3. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1997. xxii + 202 pp.

How does one review a deconstructionist book—a book that seeks not only to discuss deconstruction but to be deconstructionist, a book that simultaneously takes books seriously and mocks both the author and the reader for imagining there could ever be such a thing as a book, a something that is written and then read, a writing that says that everything is Writing but that all Writing/writing is written under erasure and so is (as p. 202 explicitly, self-reflexively proclaims itself) an empty page that is, by that very emptiness, marked? Derrida derides the Introduction, for, he asks (without speaking, parlant avec dénégations, denying that he is expressing denials) what is being Introduced? What do we think we are doing when we lead a reader into (introducere) something that is not there to be lead into until a reader is lead or leads himself or herself into it? Do we not, thus, need an Introduction to the Introduction, and another Introduction to that Introduction, a regressus ad infinitum introductionum? Edith Wyschogrod writes a Preface. Does she mean us to think that the book has a Face, and that it therefore needs a pre-Face? Does she think that she/we face toward the book, or does the book face toward her/us, or does/do she/we both together face toward the putative subject matter, which itself has two faces, Buddhism and Christianity? And who am I, the reviewer?

This cannot be a review (a looking-over), but it might be a re-view (a looking-again), which informs (in-forms, incarnates) itself so that you, dear Introducer of Yourself, can review (look over) your presuppositions about Buddhism, Christianity, life-worlds, and reality in general, and re-view them (re-visit them, look again at them) so as to reform (re-view, see-again, as formless, and thus re-form) them.

One draws a circle, says Charles Fort, beginning anywhere. So let us open the book at random. On page 84 we find: “Taiwan has over 25,000 students studying in the United States, the largest foreign contingent in American universities.” This aggressively logocentric sentence is provided with a footnote: “Statistic of 1987. Since then, the proportion of Chinese from the People’ [sic] Republic has become much more noticeable.” Hmm—a little typo, but nevertheless we are, to our surprise, deep in the overheated hotel conference rooms of the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. So, why are we told this? It is part of a section that cuts (“Lt. sect-, cut”, we are reminded on p. 175) across (cross-hatches) Magliola’s life/lives run/runs (Curriculum Vitae, Curricula Vitae, Curricula Vitae Novae, Curricula Vitarum, as the chapter headings have it) as an academic, a Catholic, an almost-priest, a Buddhist meditator, a husband, a divorcé, an Italian, an American, [End Page 216] a resident of Taiwan. All these spill out from the overstuffed closet of Magliola’s life/lives, which, without warning, he opens upon us and then sits among the salade challenging the reader to become bricoleur. But if we do, we feel we have missed the point. Or we have seen the point—which is just as bad.

Crosshatch: that’s the theme, I think. Cross, “X” (both the Roman character “eks” and the Greek character “chi”), crucifix, saltire, cross-religions, cross-cultures, cross-countries, cross-country, crossing-out (rature), and finally, revelation by relationis oppositio under/through four forks (“Il ne s’écrit que sous la grille des quatre fourches”—p. 177, quoting Derrida).

Magliola is on this cross, he is cross (angry/mad), he is crucified by it, he hopes to cross over by means of it. “This book is not written for the arrived by the arrived” (p. xix), yet he is “on the water, not at sea” (p. xx).

It may not be incorrect to say that the book is in...

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