Recommended March reads from Libreria: Feminism, buildings and consciousness

The Book of Joan

A bounty of books this month for the curious minded and the downright radical…

The Book Of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch

I rarely use ‘radical’, but a language-fatigued, skin grafting, sexless Christine de Pizan/Joan of Arc in the year 2049, works. Knockout deco/sci-fi cover art, too.


Building and Dwelling

Building and Dwelling, Richard Sennett

Ever the droll wordsmith a Jonathan Meades’ article is always compulsive reading. Add to that a review of Richard Sennett’s new book (see the Guardian Review) and we get unparalleled, sober insight into the byzantine subject of planning and the city.


Too Much and Not the Mood, Durga Chew-Bose

I’m delighted to get this little unicorn back in to Libreria. Essay writing is an art-form in itself, and Chew-Bose exhibits real and dream-like qualities that complicate the genre. Her unhurried prose beautifully cross-weaves to create new imaginings and we  love it for this.


Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin Alexanderplatz, Alfred Döblin

A new translation of Döblin’s Alexanderplatz brings fresh light on the material and technological flotsam of this modernist classic. A maximalist document, and a complex mirror for a complex world.


Down Girl

Down Girl, The Logic of Misogyny, Kate Maine

This is an important addition (and corrective) to our understanding of not just a patriarchal society but society in general – where normative structures of ‘male currency’ are so entrenched.


Back talk

BackTalk, Danielle Lazarin

This has yet to be published in the UK (cheekily snatched it from the US), but I think it’s gonna be a bit of hit, and will work as a nice fictional foil to the above academic Down Girl – come find them on our Bad Feminist shelf.


Divine Invasions, Lawrence Sutin

We at Libreria know that good Sci-fi biographies are rare beasts on the celestial savanna, so we picked up this little pulsar for our Time & Space shelf.


The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

We also know that sick Sci-fi editions are as rare as the rarest of gravitational waves, so we scooped this cerulean gem straight up off the lazer beams of the Interferometer machine, thingy…yeah…Also, check out the newly published non-fiction collection of Le Guin, Dreams Must Explain Themselves: The Selected Non-Fiction of Ursula K Le Guin.


And finally…

River of Consciousness, Oliver Sacks

Upon reading the title of Sacks’ posthumously published collection of essays, The River of Consciousness, James Joyce’s epic novel Finnegans Wake immediately comes to mind, with its opening sequence ‘riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs’.

Joyce’s Wake is a novel of the night and the sleeping mind – and the river still flows, however fragmented, however distorted. Sacks’ essays, conversely, consider the working peculiarities of waking consciousness, and how we can use these so called peculiarities and ailments to better understand the complexity of the mind.

But the standout essay in this collection is on ‘scotoma’ and the historical legacy of premature scientific discoveries, which, for whatever reason, get sidelined by way of the “brutal agon of scicence”. Stories of neurological phenomena such as the terrifying “motion blindness” are juxtaposed alongside more ancient discoveries such as that of calculus (apparently invented by Archimedes, would you believe! not Leibniz, nor Newton).

Sacks wishes to underscore the point that many interesting, original ideas get isolated and relegated in time, thus confusing and inhibiting long-term scientific development and understanding.

Our current modular, compartmental understanding of the brain (amygdala, frontal cortex etc) is a perfect example of this, such that we now know its overall function, or consciousness, is dependent on multiple, complex working parts. As with his example of the sub-retinal influence in our visual cortex (hence scotoma & achromatosia), with the cellular determination of our sensitivity to ‘horizontals, verticals, edges, alignments, or other features of the visual field’.

Or as Joyce has Stephen Dedalus ponder in that other big book of his, [the] ‘Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.’

Happy reading – see you in the shop soon to get your copies…

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