In brief

5th March 2004 at 00:00
I Love the Middle Mind. By Curtis White. Penguin. pound;12.99.

This is an infuriating book, in an endearing kind of way. It overstates its case, that for all of us in the United States and its dependent colonies the ability to think has already gone to hell in a handbasket. Its most interesting central point, that the nefarious misdeeds and destructiveness of foreign policy and environmental pillage are right out there in public discourse but denied true discussion precisely by being aired, is interesting and contentious. It is largely swamped, though, by numerous sideswipes at everything from "PC" (Professor White is black and able to fight his own battles just fine, thanks) to Disney to Noam Chomsky (whose anti-war message is neutered, apparently).

It's a funny book, sometimes intentionally, with its energetic mix of street slang and Eng-lit-crit jargon, and sometimes unintentionally, as when White grumbles that, sure, he says, he "likes" movies just like anyone else but, he asks, walking away from the cineplex, is that really the issue? Never see a film with this man. Instead, to challenge the unjust imperialist status quo, we should remember that true art, as practised by the poet Wallace Stevens, the pop group Radiohead and several obscure postmodern novelists, has the power to enable us to change everything for the better, just like that. Well, maybe on a college humanities course, but out here in the (I hesitate to say real) world, Chomsky looks the braver, sounder bet.

Victoria Neumark

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