Some Quick Reviews Part 1: Books

I’ve recently finished a good chunk of media, and since there wasn’t one thing that really stood out to me I figured I’d just give some simple opinions without going too in-depth. I’m going to split these posts up into the different media. Today we’ll be focusing on three books I’ve read.


Moby Dick Rehearsed by Orson Welles, adapted from the novel by Herman Melville

I’ve never read Moby Dick, I’ve always wanted to but I haven’t gotten myself a copy yet. Nonetheless, I’ve always been intrigued by the novel. Hearing that legendary filmmaker (and before that, theatermaker) Orson Welles made a dramatic adaptation I figured that the play would be worth checking out.

I was right.

Moby Dick Rehearsed reminds me of Shakespeare at its best. Obviously Melville’s original novel has been compared to Shakespeare as well, but the play’s use of blank verse and minimal stage directions further the comparison. The epicness of the story is remarkably maintained within the 76 pages of the script. During the ending sequence where they actually encounter Moby Dick I could feel my heart racing as I read the lines. I know that the adaptation (obviously) skipping a lot, but it still manages to contain a lot of the philosophical commentary attributed to the novel. I can’t help but feel like most attempts to adapt Moby Dick onto the stage these days would skip some of the great scenes used in this version.

I would highly recommend this play to anyone who likes the original, or anyone who just likes theater that thinks on a great scale.


The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy by David Graeber

This book originally showed up on my Amazon “recommended for you” list. It seemed somewhat interesting and was supposed to be well-written, so I thought I’d give it a try. I suspected from the beginning that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with David Graeber’s arguments, but I figured it would be a book worth thinking about.

I enjoyed this book, but I feel that my suspicions were right. Graeber is an entertaining writer, but as an argumentative text I take some issue with Utopia of Rules. While Graeber does use a fair amount of statistical and academic sources, he also uses a lot of anecdotes and hand-waves for his arguments. Saying “as we all know” as a counter-argument does not make your point right. His deconstructions of media definitely have some interesting arguments, but I think that some of his points have been made by other media studies experts (I can’t point to any specific resources though, so maybe his arguments seem too broad to me).

The book does admit that it is intended to provoke conversation about trying to “find a way to talk about what it is we actually object to in this [bureaucracy’s] process, to speak honestly about the violence it entails, but at the same time, to understand what is appealing about it…” rather than  be a real manifesto or alternative. If the reader can keep this mind, then it really is a book that inspires ideas and discussion, but I wouldn’t claim that it’s a book with a really iron-clad argument.

Imaginary Cities by Darren Anderson

I got this book for a couple reasons. One of my friends had directed me towards the author’s twitter feed, and around the same time I started an Urban Studies course.

Imaginary Cities doesn’t really pretend to be a work with an argument, it proudly wears the label “creative non-fiction” and intends to be as creative as possible while still being non-fiction. Like its poetic inspiration Invisible CitiesAnderson’s book weaves a long and winding path through real history to take a look at cities that never existed (or the imaginary cities that existed on top of our so-called “real” cities). The book talks about everything from the Tower of Babel, to steampunk, to Philip K. Dick, pontificating about different ideas with a slew of great quotes and poetic observations.

While some will probably find the book too broad, or perhaps a bit tedious because of its somewhat poetic structure, I personally found it very fun, very entertaining, and very thought provoking. This book knows what it is and is entirely happy to forsake other, safer roles. Very original, and very interesting.

That’s it for now. Next, I’m going to look at some movies and Television shows.



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