Saturday, May 15, 2010

War Books by Jean Norton Cru | Or, Why I Should Open a Book Before Judging It

I have a confession.

Sometimes, I do judge a book by its cover.

That's what happened with Jean Norton Cru's War Books. Don't get me wrong, the cover looks great. But it's a cover with a WWI soldier and the title is War Books. I'm not really a WWI buff, so I assumed it wasn't my cup of tea.

I passed this book on our shelves a thousand times, glanced at it, and then ignored it.

Shame on me.

This book is now one of my favorites from the entire SDSU Press lineup. It's not a list of books about war, or obscure facts and statistics, or a dry historical textbook. For no reason at all, I assumed it was.

It's actually a pretty darn awesome collection of non-fiction combat literature. And let me tell you something. There are some insanely good soldier-authors in this book.

The first section is called "The War Witnesses" and it has some great philosophical writings on man and war from men who've lived through it.

The second, larger section is called "Sketch of the War According to a Few Good Witnesses." For me, that's where things really heated up. I can open to any page in this section and be sucked in. I'll prove it. Here's an excerpt from a random page (132, to be exact):

July 2, 1916.--The newspapers today confirmed the news of yesterday [beginning of the battle of the Somme]. It's started then, this new orgy of death. A new charnel house takes its place in an illustrious line. How many more blond, clean-shaven Tommies and rough peasants from our fields will render up their bodies to the earth and their souls to God! And for what chimera! Do they know why they are fighting, those knotty-legged Scotchmen, those blue-eyed Bretons? For Alsace-Lorraine? What does the far-away highlander care about the valley of the Ill? What does the man from Brest, born to the sea, care about Mertz? And then who still believes that Europe is on fire for that gob of land? Are they fighting for the fatherland? They do not know what the fatherland is.

That was written by French soldier Louis Maret in 1916. He died in 1917. He had spent twenty months at the front before he was killed.

Don't make my mistake. Recognize the value of this book! You can find it here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Don't Pass Up This Chance to Feel Superior! Buy The Border: The Future of Postmodernity

Can't you just see it?

You're walking down the street and there he is. That arrogant, pseudo-anarchistic, over-compensating, Urban Outfitter's-wearing, Deleuze-worshipping, hair-always-just-a-little-too-messy, brings-his-own-coffee-mug-to-the-coffee-cart guy.

"Oh. Hey." He'll say to you.

"Hey." You'll say back, bracing yourself for his latest attempt at intellectual superiority.

"Have you ever read Chomsky's Modular Approaches to the Study of the Mind?" He'll ask you. "My friend and I just got into a debate over his comparison of Newton's postulation of action at a distance to Descartes' postulation of a creative principle. She's such a fascist."

You, as a frequenter of this blog and a lover of SDSU Press books, will reply, "Why yes, I have. Actually, something I just read in Segio Gómez Montero's The Border: The Future of Postmodernity reminded me of that. Of course, you've read Montero?" You'll query.

"Um, no. I haven't." He'll reply, looking surprised and a little flushed.

And smugly, victoriously, you'll answer, "Really? Odd. I guess some people can't recognize the value of Latin American intellectual thought."

Looking down your nose, you'll deliver the death blow. "Well, maybe you'll get around to reading it someday. When you aren't too busy shopping at Walmart or drinking Starbucks or whatever."

That's what we're offering you. Right here. Only $5.95.

Gómez Montero is considered one of the most important thinkers in northern Mexico. Director of the National University of Education in Mexicali, he's known for his work in linguistics, cultural anthropology, political economy and cultural criticism.

The Border: The Future of Postmodernity is one of his best books. It contrasts regional and national culture, explores the relationship of indigenous sources to the cultural politics of a centrist state, and critiques the tradition of the literary essay.

We have the only English translation available, the third book in our popular Baja California Literature in Translation series. We don't have many copies left, so order yours now!