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Arts & Culture

Two tight tomes you need in your homes

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Arguing For Our Lives: A User's Guide to Constructive Dialog
By Robert Jensen, Ph.D.
City Lights Publishers
132 pp., $13.95
 
In these dumb-downed days when boob-tubers are encouraged to tolerate all manner of reality show lowlifes and school districts insist that every C-student get shoved into some form of higher education, University of Texas at Austin professor Robert Jensen is justified in penning a populist book. A pamphlet in the classic sense of all good-hearted propaganda, Arguing For Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog, addresses America’s fear of intellectualism and the trepidation many people (including Dr. Jensen’s journalism students) feel about claiming the very achievable title of critical thinker. Jensen — whose previous book, Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, dealt with the societal ramifications of rationalizing degrading smut — humbly, if not happily, remarks on the anathema pronounced on those who assume the title of intellectual these days, even in the ivory tower of academia, where eggheads should feel safe from cracks. Being a critical thinker has only ever been about calling people on their bullshit; and right now, with issues ranging from global warming to food scarcity, the stakes are high as the caca.

Is That You, John Wayne?
By Scott Garson
Queen’s Ferry Press
164pp., $16.95
 
The short short, as a form of fiction, often escapes even a devoted reader’s long-term attention span. Perhaps we too easily assume that there will always be time enough to get to something shorter, later. Scott Garson’s latest collection of micro-fiction, filled with characters who come to fast fates by negotiating with the nature of nuance, suggests that there is no time for that kind of stalling, that in a world where hoarders are held up to a kind of monastic light, carpe diem is not about copping a feel so much as catching contemplation. Is That You, John Wayne? is an epiphany of echoes; the gem-like pieces refract upon each other in ways that propel every well-wrought line toward a tract of existential occultism. The author of American Gymnopédies — whose prose kicks and itches like Eric Satie’s less soothing stabs at dissonance — invites the kind of immediacy that calls for urgency. With tales that revolve around fake IDs, Gothic sports gossip, and the residual cryptic haze of Kubrick screenplays, this collection of flash fiction hits upon the caviar cohesion of 1960s’ Frederic Brown with the wreck and doom of Revenge of the Lawn Richard Brautigan, and establishes Garson as a master of hitting that mote note.

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