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1 74Philosophy and Literature But the critic and die researcher wanting, and needing, to engage with die critical issues of our time will find much less here. We find no gender studies, no sexual-textual politics, no new-historical contexts. Indeed, the book has no argument or diesis at all. Rather, it seeks to locate the tragic and sublime and make the reader sensitive to it and, no doubt, to the beauty of the poetry. Some critics will find this dangerously outdated and even politically irresponsible, beauty and the "quality" implied by sublimity being oppressive constructs of one kind or anodier. Odiers may find the absence ofpolitics a refreshing boon. In short, the book is quite frankly about an Italian professor's love for Dante, and Boitani clearly explains his authorial status: "any Italian critic must sooner or later confront his greatest poet . . . and that moment has now come for me" (p. xi). Readers are forewarned in the preface, and diey will have to decide whedier to witness this important moment, or these several moments, of confrontation that Professor Boitani has bound together. Whitman CollegeMichael Calabrese Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania, by Avital Ronell; 175 pp. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992, $9.95 paper. The writings of Avital Ronell have become ever more ambitious in scope. Dictations (1986) brought Goethe, his secretary, Eckermann, and Freud togetiier . The Telephone Book (1989) analyzed Heidegger, fascism, technology, and electronic speech. With Crack Wars, she has taken on her most far-ranging project yet. Simply put, Ronell provides a Heideggerian, Derridean, and Freudian analysis of modern American drug addiction, using as her example of the first addict Emma Bovary, a character addicted to reading and other mindaltering habits. Of course, such a project cannot be "simply put." Crack Wars begins with a series of aphorisms called "Hits," in which the author drops, like so many tabs of acid, the names and pertinent insights of her guiding authorities: Heidegger, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Freud, Goethe, Burroughs, Jünger, and Benjamin. Before these hits kick in, Ronell offers a "narcoanalysis," coherently linking the hallucinations ofdrugs with the visions ofliterature, thus providing the pivot to a novel like Madame Bovary. Ronell's philosophical trip begins in the section called "EB on Ice," consisting of papers found in the twenty-first century, written in the twentieth century, about a nineteenth-century character named "E.B." In hindsight, the fictional editor of these papers notes, among other things, that America's problem with drugs was that it instrumentalized or Reviews175 "used" drugs. Coming down to the level of academic prose, Ronell then provides a thorough analysis ofFlaubert's text, drawing special attention to the unmourned losses of both Emma and Flaubert (losses that are at the root of Bovary's addiction) and to the role of the pharmacist Homais, whose drugs satisfy her cravings. Ronell concludes the book's analytic portion with a physician's report on Emma's death. In a final flashback, the hits taken at the beginning of the book return to haunt the reader in the form of a dialogue Ronell has written in which many of the thinkers cited in the opening aphorisms reiterate some of the book's basic themes. Heidegger and Jünger agree that acid is "television without the apparatus, technopower without technology" (p. 162). Women are more skeptical: Freud's Irma is suspicious of the cocaine he offers her; Marguerite Duras prefers alcohol to hard drugs, and Marguerite Faust has sworn offjunkies forever, demanding drug-free love. Ronell's style raises eyebrows, and sometimes hackles. While Heideggerianisms like the "ahead-of-itself-in-Being-already-in" are not, strictly speaking, Ronell's fault, they remain hard to swallow, as do neologisms like "cryptaphorizing." On another level, Ronell's inside academic jokes seem inappropriate for drug addiction. In addition, the unclear meaning of the sections presented in nonacademic genres such as aphorisms, science fiction, autopsies, and dramas presents interpretive dilemmas. These objections miss the point, however, that Ronell's prose deliberately calls attention to itself, emphasizing the signifier at the expense ofthe signified in an effort to prevent its readers from "using" it as a drug that provides all the answers. The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 174-175
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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