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Wesley Aptekar-Cassels's books

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2023 Reading Goal

8% complete! Wesley Aptekar-Cassels has read 2 of 24 books.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (2019, Ignota Books) 5 stars

In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, visionary author Ursula K. Le Guin tells the …

If science fiction is the mythology of modern technology, then its myth is tragic. "Technology," or "modern science" (using the words as they are usually used, in an unexamined shorthand standing for the "hard" sciences and high technology founded upon continuous economic growth), is a heroic undertaking, Herculean, Promethean, conceived as triumph, hence ultimately as tragedy. The fiction embodying this myth will be, and has been, triumphant (Man conquers earth, space, aliens, death, the future, etc.) and tragic (apocalypse, holocaust, then or now).

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time's-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.

It is a strange realism, but it is a strange reality.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by  (Page 35)

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (2019, Ignota Books) 5 stars

In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, visionary author Ursula K. Le Guin tells the …

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again—if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by  (Page 32)

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction (2019, Ignota Books) 5 stars

In The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, visionary author Ursula K. Le Guin tells the …

Fifteen hours a week for subsistence leaves a lot of time for other things. So much time that maybe the restless ones who didn't have a baby around to enliven their life, or skill in making or cooking or singing, or very interesting thoughts to think, decided to slope off and hunt mammoths. The skillful hunters then would come staggering back with a load of meat, a lot of ivory, and a story. It wasn't the meat that made the difference. It was the story.

The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by  (Page 27)

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia

3 stars

I'd been waiting for years for this book to come out in English, so I was excited that it finally did.

Like many books written by anthropologists, it spends a lot more time discussing facts and histories than it does trying to argue a political point: more than halfway through the book, Graeber writes “At this point, we can finally turn to the story of Ratsimilaho, and examine it in its proper context” — a story which is mostly history, rather than the argument of a thesis I was expecting from this book.

On the one hand, I'm not especially interested in the history of 16ᵗʰ and 17ᵗʰ century Madagascar — on the other hand, going into depth on that history is the only way to avoid the exoticization that's so endemic to political texts drawing from other cultures.

The tension between the ideals that it's pleasant to image the …

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

[A]nyone who has spent much time in a Malagasy village knows how much the combination of the prevalence of different sorts of magical knowledge, and sexual intrigue, can make life almost infinitely complex, and provide an unending source of byzantine gossip. If nothing else, life in such communities is never boring.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by  (Page 75)

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

The world of course has long been full of petty bandit kings making grandiose claims, but the peculiar situation of northeast Madagascar in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made this an unusually easy game to play. The existence of vast amounts of pirate booty gave such men the ability to perform all the external trappings of a royal court—the gold and jewels, the harems, the synchronized dance routines—even in the complete absence of the means to mobilize any significant amount of human labor outside their own home settlements.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by  (Page 39)

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

We would seem to have a genuine historical anomaly: a political entity that presented itself to the outside world as a kingdom, organized around the charismatic figure of a brilliant child of pirates, but which within operated by a decentralized grassroots democracy without any developed system of social rank.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by 

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Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

In fact, one reason the Golden Age of Piracy remains the stuff of legend is that pirates of that age were so skilled at manipulating legends; they deployed wonder-stories—whether of terrifying violence on inspiring ideals—as something very much like weapons of war, even if the war in question was the desperate and ultimately doomed struggle of a motley band of outlaws against the entire emerging structure of world authority at the time.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by 

Page xx

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

It's as if history, and especially radical history, has become some sort of moral game where all that's really important is to make clear just how much one is not letting the Great Men of history off the hook for the (obviously, very real) racism, sexism, and chauvinism they displayed, without somehow noticing that a four-hundred page book attacking Rousseau is still a four-hundred page book about Rousseau.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by 

Page xi