Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 2, #45]

November 20, 2009



I’m a sucker for the 12-month seasonal essay types of books, but when The Wild Marsh crossed my desk, I hesitated to dive in. I’ve tried reading environmental activist and author Rick Bass’s nonfiction before, and found he tended toward strident rather than prosaic. That’s okay if I’m getting ready for a global warming rally but less inviting if I want a good porch-side read.

Bass quickly put my doubts to rest. By his own admission, The Wild Marsh aims to be “all celebration and all observation, without judgment or advocacy.” An admirable goal, which of course he falls short of—he can’t help preaching the green gospel or lapsing into sermonizing about the environment as he goes—but he does concentrate, as Wendell Berry once said, “on the matter at hand, which is living.”

The Wild Marsh was written over the course of a decade, encompassing both the turn of the millennium and 9/11. Bass compresses his observations, then frames them as a year of life lived off the grid with his family in northwest Montana. This is a book about divides in time and in place, as well as a philosophical reflection.

Read the full review:

The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana.
Rick Bass.

Hardback: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Powells Books Reviews
FEMINISM, INC by Emilie Zaslow

Run a Google image search on “girl power,” and what comes up is a series of visual contradictions: a pink woman’s symbol with a fist in the circle; a photo of a businesswoman’s legs, in stockings and stilettos in front of a chorus line of men’s trousers; girls sporting athletic gear; “girl power” emblazoned across bikini underwear; and an ad for a porn film. In these images the power afforded girls is mixed. A working woman is reduced to her girly fashion sense. A little girl’s source of influence is what’s written on her panties. And almost every image is linked to consumerism. “Girl power” is up for sale.

In Feminism, Inc., Zaslow details the contradictions within a media culture that’s been pervasive and potent ever since the Spice Girls popularized the phrase in 1997. On the one hand, she writes, “girl power is a commodification of opposition to traditional femininity.” Epitomized by such popular figures as Lisa on The Simpsons and rapper Missy Elliott, girl power encourages young women to be independent choice-makers and suggests they can control their own sexuality, style and sense of self. Yet Zaslow points out that such feminist discourse is undercut by corporate media, explaining that “[girl power] does not celebrate a feminist movement for social change at structural levels.”

Read the full review:

Feminism, Inc.: Coming of Age in Girl Power Media Culture.
Emilie Zaslow.

Hardback: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Soong-Chan Rah Raises Some Pointed Questions
About Foster and Wilhite’s
Deadly Viper Character Assassin

Let me begin by stating that I applaud the intent and subject matter of your book.  Integrity and character in leadership needs to be discussed and should be an important part of leadership development.  But the “theme” you have chosen and the application of that theme (particularly in your media clips) reveals a serious insensitivity to Asian culture and to the Asian-American community.

My contention has nothing to do with the content of the book itself (i.e. the material that discusses integrity and character).  It is with the way in which you choose to co-opt Asian culture in inappropriate ways.  Let me cite Edward Said in Orientalism where he states:

Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient — dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style of dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.

Mike and Jud, you are two white males who are inappropriately co-opting another culture and using it to further the marketing of your book.  You are not from our cultural framework, yet you feel that you have the authority to represent our culture before others.  In other words, you are using what are important and significant cultural symbols to make a sale or to make your point.  It is an affront to those who are a part of that culture.  You’ll notice that there are a number of individuals that take offense at the ways you misuse Chinese characters.  You also confuse aspects of Japanese and Chinese cultures.  These are two very distinct and ancient cultures that you did not take the time to understand before using those symbols as a fun way to market your products.

Read the full review:

One response to Reviewed Elsewhere [Vol. 2, #45]

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