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Reviews157 desert areas, to the dreamtime ofaboriginals, to the superficial abyss of signs— to curious and often hilarious reflections on mud-wresding, houseflies, cloneboys , frozen embryos, paraphysics, striptease, Sony Walkmans, MichaelJackson. Cool Memories is itself an ironic record of distraction, a testament to the sacrifice of time in the pursuit of endless distraction—a miniature model, a perfect simulation, of our violent, bored, media-saturated, hyperexhausted culture. This is a book I find impossible to read without laughing out loud. But I am also certain that readers who are so disposed will find plenty of things to hate about Cool Memories: its virtual lack of seriousness, its seeming fondness for things stupid and low, scattered remarks that appear to be openly sexist (about "shitty feminism," or women as natural seductresses) or naively racist ("black is the derision of white," "Africa's contempt for its own authenticity"). It is, I think, all too easy to miss the irony and excessive hyperrealism ofthese remarks. One cannot read Baudrillard without being mindful of his project, viz., that writing become its object, and that it excessively reduplicate that object in an attempt to seduce it away from its principle of reality. Referring at one point in the text to Bataille's work on general economy, which gready influenced his own thought, Baudrillard notes that "one cannot write about the accursed share without becoming part of that share." That is, one cannot write about excess without being excessive. Cool Memories is part of the curse of contemporary culture, partaking ofits excessiveness and waste, its triviality and ridiculousness, its vanity, its fascination with catastrophic events and the end of the world, its utter incapacity to surpass itself except in pure superficiality. Cool Memories is a hyperstylized parody of itself. In this sense, it is an empty, purely formal gesture, but a gesture pervaded by a strange sense of loss, the loss one experiences when meaning dies and depth becomes an illusion. Like the culture which produced it and which it simulates, Cool Memories has no deep meaning. To find one would be as absurd as to find a reason for being idle. Whitman CollegeWilliam Bogard Critical Theory, Marxism, and Modernity, by Douglas Kellner ; vii & 270 pp. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, $36.50 cloth, $14.95 paper. Kellner's ambitious and usefulbookattempts notonly to provide a conspectus ofcritical theory, but to carry forward what he takes to be its essential designto "do" critical theory as well as to analyze it. The difficulty of this project is 158Philosophy and Literature evident, in part because critical theory from its earliest Frankfurt days (Kellner avoids the term "Frankfurt School" for the odd reason that the School didn't remain in Frankfurt) involved the collaboration of a number of original and often contentious thinkers. He writes in some detail about Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, Marcuse, and Habermas, in lesser detail about Lowenthal, Pollock, Neumann, and the fringe figure of Walter Benjamin, in part because of the scope and the complexity of the issues that they addressed and that Kellner himself now would confront in light of the changed historical context. It is understandable that Kellner would not also be eager to take on the task of comparing critical theory with social theories in other contemporary schools of philosophy or of social science. This omission, however, removes part of the dialectical underpinning ofcritical theory itself. Nonetheless, Kellner's account, even without this contrast, points up the explicidy moral telos that motivated the work ofthe Frankfurt School and that to its honor distinguished its analysis ofboth social and theoretical issues from virtually all other philosophical writing of the same period. It is not only that a not atypical statement holding that "at no time has the poverty of humanity stood in such crying contradiction to its potential wealth" could appear in a "critical" text (Horkheimer 1933), but that the research program of critical theory—in its "supradisciplinary" mingling of economics, sociology, psychology, political theory, aesthetics, and epistemology —was constandy directed toward analyzing the specific forms that this "poverty " took: in the instrumental strategies and ideals of science, in the fetischization ofthe arts, in the rationalized abstractions of philosophy, most pressingly in political fascism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 157-159
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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