Book Review

Ontology of the Accident

A mini book review of Catherine Malabou’s Ontology of the Accident: An Essay on Destructive Plasticity (2012 translated by Carolyn Shread)

French philosophy has such a certain… je ne sais quoi about it. Sometimes I find the deconstruction-flavored denigrating tone to be a very pleasant literary experience, with specters of cigarette smoke and cafĂ©-au-lait swirling in my mind. While at other moments the self-referential language games are merely annoying. The cascade of nihilistic hot-takes can really sear my nostrels as lyrical metaphors get stretched to a bitingly acidic thinness.

Catherine Malabou is a real remedy for expectations of the latter! In this short collection of essays she bridges an academic gap between Neuroscience and Ontology via a surprisingly fun tour of writings by Spinoza, Deleuze, Proust, and Kafka. Malabou is expanding and elaborating her already rich speculations on Plasticity. It is a brave and honest exploration of the inverse to the commonly celebrated aspects of neuroplasticity; the violent moral shadow of Plasticity. Destructive Platicity.

I especially enjoyed Malabou’s connecting some subtle points on Freud’s incomplete views about ageing mind with Marguerite Duras stylistic use of “asyndeton”, a literary device in which conjunctions are deliberately omitted from a series of related clauses to the effect of eliminating the sense of causal flow in a sentence. These kinds of poetic high-wire acts are best savored between long-stares out of a rainy-day windows.

Depending on one’s patience for intransitive language (the cornerstone of post-structuralist French philosophy?) this little book is well worth a read for its real bounty of interesting, meaningful, and challenging insights. The English translation by Carolyn Shread is a delight.

Book Review

The Metabarons

Mini Book Review of Jodorowsy and Gimenez’ Epic Graphic Novel

Jodorowsky is a madman. His cult filmic work is legendary, and his Incal (with Moebius) is a masterpiece. The Metabaron’s definitely satisfies any curious reader’s yearning for more after finishing The Incal. Gimenez’ art is glorious and disturbing.

The framing device of these lil’ robot buddies works better than it should. A touch of comic relief between psychospiritual space-saga is more than welcome.

The graphic violence and misogyny upset me more than I had expected. I had been cautioned about this before – but gave it little thought. Its… not subtle. However, getting beyond that, the multi-generational intergalactic soap opera delivers plenty of cool ideas. A big reason I finally delved into this massive tome was Juan Gimenez’ tragic passing this past year. It was worth the price of entry to pour over his insane pages. Bristling with techno-gothic arabesques and oozing with bio-horror monstrosities, it is an overwhelming, maximalist achievement of personal style.

RIP Juan Gimenez, 1943-2020
Book Review


A mini comics review of Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini’s “Low” 2014-2020.

Just, Wow.

I understand some reviewer’s reticence about the third and fourth volume. In a future where the sun’s expansion has forced humanity’s survivors into underwater domes for survival, Stel’s unbreakable optimism is an immediate hook for the reader. As the cruelty of this future world reduces hope more and more, issue by issue, it can test the reader’s willingness to keep reading. But, true believers, the fifth (and final) volume totally delivers on the themes set up in those first few issues.

The art and writing are beautiful. I was put off at first glance by the loose style and wild fish-eye perspectives. But, as I read on I was quickly converted as these aesthetic nuances pare so elegantly with the storytelling. The loose lines read as wet and slippery, and the wide-angle shots telegraph the feel of living an entire life nested in helmets and underwater globes.

The massive world-building is a visual treat, and in the long-run the emotional story-arcs satisfy with a deeply human message.