virus: Book Reviews

Reed Konsler (
Fri, 7 Mar 1997 22:01:13 -0500 (EST)

Yes, it is I...your local text addict...pointing out some stuff you might
like. You know, in your spare time. ;-)

Introducing The Reed Rating System:
Level-1: If you get assigned it, it won't be a chore. Borrow it from the
Level-2: Worth it in paperback. Put it on the list.
Level-3: Trancends mortality. Find it. Read it.
Level-pi: Trancends level 3 (Richard B's protests notwithstanding!)

"AdcultUSA" by James B. Twitchell (1996, Columbia University Press)
Level-2: Worth it in paperback. Put it on the list.

This book is a riot. Twitchell provides a hearty meal of history and
current advertizing business practices combined with his own pithy
analysis. The style is definately gen-X posmodern, though the author is
obviously older. Erudite. Lots of pictures from print ads...I LOVE the
pictures. Very fluid, easy read. Twitchell either doesn't know anything
about memetics or dosn't like the theory...which only means one hip to the
newest theory on the block can read with smug satisfaction. Rich with
ideas, Twitchell is pro-advertizing (more or less) and the book provides a
good counterpoint to the "advertizing is the tool of Chuck's evil brother
Vic" mentality which seems to infect (can I use that word?) a lot of
current intellectuals like some authors who post regularly to this list.
Twitchell makes your standard Advertizing/Church analogy but he sees it in
a GOOD way. I don't know if I agree with him...but if your into "flexing
you meme-space on the fly" this book provides an interesting analysis from
a point-of-view completely outside those we throw around. But if you like
living in a hole... I found it at the Harvard Book Store in paperback so
you should be able to get it (or get you local library to get it) pretty

"This Book Is Not Required" by Inge Bell (1985, Small Press)
Level-2: Worth it in paperback. Put it on the list.

Well, all right...I admit to having sentimental attachment to this book.
My best friend and I found it in a used book store in Ann Arbor in 1991,
during my first year in college. It is the only book I ever purchased with
someone...there was only one copy and both of us wanted it...almost for the
title alone. Bell writes this book as a professor to college students, and
while it also doesn't say anything about memetics, it does make most of the
points Richard makes in "Getting Past OK" and "Virus of the Mind". It is
essentially a "how to get an education even though that isn't the purpose
of a university" sort of guide. Chapters cover how professors get tenure
and why that makes them the way they are, the difference between wisdom and
knowledge, writing, the demon of careerism, dealing with love, dealing with
parents [love optional]...the text is essentialy based on Bell's course
"Ventures in Desocialization" She recognized the same tendencies and
problems as Richard but doesn't use the same language. Instead she does
her best to borrow from Buddhism. Anyway, having recently read Richard's
books I was fondly reminded of this little gem and felt I should plug it.
It also has the neat characteristic of being avaliable only from the
publisher: Small Press; 18603 Highway 1, Suite 15; Fort Bragg CA 95437;
(707) 937-3044 [this information as of 1990 when I ordered my copy to avoid
losing my best friend]. Anyway, if you're in college it's a must. If you
remember college it might be enlightening. The only reason I give it a 2
is it's pretty context specific.

"Understanding Media" by Marshall McLuhan (1964, 1994 MIT Press)
Level-3: Trancends mortality. Find it. Read it.

Perhaps I've mentioned McLuhan before? Remember, repetition is one way to
transmit memes! McLuhan rocks! You can read it as literay analysis (but
it isn't quite) or as cultural analysis (not this either) or as poetry (not
really, but kinda). If you're looking for consistency, and logical
linearity I guess McLuhan is NOT your boy. The wonderful thing about his
books is that they are designed such that you can strat reading anywere and
read the chapters in any order and get pretty much the same meaning out.
This is kind of...

...Oops. 10:00pm. Gotta work up that reaction now.


Reed Konsler