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What accounts for the apocalyptic angst that is now so clearly present among Americans who do not subscribe to any religious orthodoxy? Why do so many popular television shows, films, and music nourish themselves on this very angst? And why do so many artists—from Coldplay to Tori Amos to Tom Wolfe—feel compelled to give it expression?
It is tempting to say that America’s fears and anxieties are understandable in the light of 9/11, the ongoing War on Terror, nuclear proliferation, and the seemingly limitless capacity of science to continually challenge our conceptions of the universe and ourselves. Perhaps, too, American culture remains so permeated by Protestant Christianity that even avowed skeptics cannot pry themselves from its grip.
In A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse, Eduardo Velásquez argues that these answers are too pat. Velásquez's astonishing thesis is that when we peer into contemporary artists’ creative depiction of our sensibilities we discover that the antagonisms that fuel the current cultural wars stem from the same source. Enthusiastic religions and dogmatic science, the flourishing of scientific reason and the fascination with mystical darkness, cultural triumphalists and multicultural ideologues are all sustained by the same thing: a willful commitment to the basic tenets of the Enlightenment.
Velásquez makes his point with insightful readings of the music of Coldplay, Tori Amos, and Dave Matthews and the fiction of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, and Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons. Written with grace and humor, and directed toward the lay reader, A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse is a tour de force of cultural analysis.
|What They're Saying...||
"Eduardo Velásquez has written an unusual and stimulating book in the philosophy of culture. His range of topics is broad; his insights about particular cultural products as well as about what he takes to be the pervasive theme of “the apocalypse” are intriguing; and his conclusions about what American cultural and “popular” artistic productions say about who we are will surprise and provoke many readers. This controversial book is well worth reading."
"Criticisms of the degradation of our culture permeate conservative commentary; what is new and refreshing in Velasquez’s book is his resistance of the claim that we ought to understand our culture in terms of a great ideological war that pits secular science against fundamentalist religion.
Despite the despairing subtitle, Velasquez hopes to offer us a way out of contemporary nihilism, a return to pre-modern ways of thinking, particularly what he calls Socratic skepticism, which is not really skepticism at all…but rather a balanced recognition of the limits to our knowledge."
"It is refreshing to explore Velasquez's brilliant observations and not
see him slip into easy, moralistic diagnoses. He is inherently a
teacher, and his focus is aptly on prompting serious self-reflection
in his audience. On reaching the end of the book, rather than being
confronted with a neatly packaged answer to or disdain for American
society's numerous problems, the reader will find himself or herself
instead left with the most haunting of questions, one that is hinted
at in the subtitle of the book and may just be the most significant
one he or she will ever answer."
|Eligible for Readers Club Discount||Yes|