[NB] Bland Insight

This post circles around Francois Jullien’s In Praise of Blandness. I first encountered Jullien during my “if I see a Zone Book I read it” phase of my college library wanderings. I stumbled into In Praise of Blandness (also a Zone Book) at a used bookstore and picked it up for old time’s sake.

This book fits into Jullien’s long-running argument about the distinctiveness of Chinese thought from Western European thought. I’m sympathetic to Jullien’s argument, but you can bracket whether or not he is precisely right about the question of cultural difference and appreciate his close portrait of a distinct form of conscious experience.

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Sobriety is a Witch’s Virtue

If you read around Deleuze and Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus, you see all kinds of weirdness that, superficially, looks like a blanket endorsement for ecstasy. The talk of deterritorialization, war machines, strange masochistic acts, solar anuses, wolf men, sorcerers, lines of flight (‘the witch’s flight’), demonic alliance, romantic love, Burroughs’s heroin addiction, lobster God, and the undoing of the mesh of concepts that sustains specific ways of perceiving subjects and objects, all sounds pretty darn ecstatic.

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W. B. Yeats’s A Vision, Prelude to a Discussion

I keep catching myself wanting to be excited about this book as I am reading it. Don’t misunderstand me–that isn’t a criticism of the book. The book is delightful: a genuine spiritualist grimoire built up around over 600 sessions of automatic writing, meditation, and dreamwork, embedded in an imaginary history recounted in a style that would have made Borges proud.

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