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154 Leonardo Reviews and of itself, likening our freakish imagination to the space of Hollywood’s Blue Velvet and linking us forgivingly to a nostalgic history of wonderlands such as Coney Island’s Luna Park (from which the descriptive phrase “pyrotechnic insanitarium” was first coined). This creates a compelling case for his thesis that America—or maybe just New York America?—is somehow on a brink, precariously poised in business-as-usual between the real, the imagined, the hyperreal and out-and-out disaster. He provides an interesting interpretation of the role that theme parks, a proliferating architectural form, may be occupying in our millennial imagination. Dreamland may be burning! If not a reference to the Watts Riots, then Dery sets the tone for his thesis with apocalyptic style. Is this a yearning for Dreamland, a nostalgia for the theme park, a call to arms for some golden past, or a clarion call for hoped for violence and, if so, where does criticism begin and end? The world is coming to an end! Is our anxiety over this loss simply and only apparent in the plethora of media on psycho killer-clowns, mad cow disease, the return of the flesh, formaldehyde, the new “grotesque,” the airbrushed schmaltz of global Disneyland consumption or more apparent in the accruing number of Main Streets and shopping malls, corporate comfort and gated, policed communities and prisons? And if it is about yearning, then who is doing the yearning ? Who is doing the speaking? What side is our author on? Isn’t this diversion part of a postmodern-style that we already know too well? Isn’t it part and parcel of an unforgivable exclusion of the global populations who are not necessarily “helped out” at all by American global economy but who are instead colonized by it? Is “anxiety” simply sexism and racism and an unwillingness to share power? The author’s use of Munch’s painting The Scream, citing neo-surrealist Ron English’s reworking of the same Postmodern Angst: The Scream as Multiple Personality to open the book contextualizes Dery’s view of American culture within a Western art world already known for its sins of omission. Old art history is appropriated, overturned, cast in the new light of more recent events. Dery’s deconstruction of killer-clowns in Section 1 is well-executed, interesting reading. The speed with which culture is created and regurgitated is part of the author’s astonishment, the salient feature —and not a particularly original one, but one that is fun to hammer out—is that American media is earmarked and sold on obsession, that this is in fact a very American disease and the techno-boom, our growing dependency on technology, VR and cyberspace, is but a continuing symptom. Left, apparently, both “inside” and “outside” of our culture shock-paranoia -culture making processes, simultaneously unable to escape the dream factory or to discourage ourselves from recycling it, we render American pop culture as a veritable funhouse of obscuring needs and attentions. Even Dery’s section on male pregnancy-desire seems to get us around Freudian castration. Yet, I am not making fun of this work. It is creative. Dery facilitates the reading of a powerful mirage of images and sources from which to think. He raises questions about the pastiche engulfing our current state of mind, which is a sight better than not asking them at all. It is a good read. SITES OF VISION edited by David Michael Levin. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, U.S.A. 1999. 500 pp. Trade. ISBN: 0-262-62129-0. Reviewed by Robert Pepperell, Winchester Wharf, Clink Street, London SE1 9DG, U.K. E-mail: rob@ninjatune.net>. This collection of essays is themed around the “ways in which the rhetoric of philosophy has formed the nature of thought and how, in turn, the rhetoric of vision has helped to shape philosophical thought.” The various authors consider the work of a range of historical thinkers from Aristotle to Deleuze and identify their dependency on, or critiques of, visually oriented thought. In a wide-ranging introductory essay, the editor, David Michael Levin, posits the idea that there is an “ocularcentric” tendency...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 154
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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