Monday, November 16, 2009

Shock Doctrine

Surely you remember when you first read a book that stuck out for years to come as one of your favorites; for me, they seem come in spates. For example, in the year from roughly May 2004, my literary horizons were blown open by Quinn's Ishmael, Vonnegut, Calvino, and Gilgamesh. Now, I seem to be in another period of discovery.

I wrote here earlier about Hesse's incomparable Glass Bead Game. Its beauty lies in its intellectual abstraction; it exists above the plane of lowly human troubles. So too, does Ishmael, for years my starting point and guidebook to human history. And yet, for all their insights, their intellectual concerns seem worlds away from the elbow-deep reality of the book I just finished.

It's as though someone took Hesse and Quinn's bright light of understanding and aimed it in the murky recesses of the past thirty years. The result is not always comfortable — it is, in fact, terrifying — but it is more immediate and urgently relevant than I knew a book could be. It is Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine.

I couldn't overstate how important this book is; non-partisan (Clinton and Lawrence Summers get the same scrutiny as Bush & Co.), impeccably researched, and surprisingly calm given the outrageous subject matter, it deserves to be a classic in the years to come as the definitive people's history of right now.

You may be getting a copy of this from me in the near future. Not as a Christmas present (I know you didn't ask for it), and not because I think you should vote a particular way, but just because I think everyone should be aware of this book. If you want one, tell me. If you don't want it littering your already over-crowded bookshelf, find it at your local library.

In any case, it would mean a lot to me; give it a read; I want to hear what you think.

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