Net of Magic: Wonders and Deceptions in India

Lee Siegal

“This voyage through the netherworld of Indian magic unveils the contemporary world of the Indian magic of street and stage entertainers. Siegal’s journeys take him from ancient Sanskrit texts to the slums of New Delhi to find remarkable magical tradition… Intersperses travelog, history, ethnography and fiction. A world where deception is celebrated and lies are transformed into compelling and universal truths.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 455 pages

Bread of Dreams

Piero Camporesi

“An illuminating study of the lives and attitudes of peasants in pre-industrial Europe who lived in a state of almost permanent hallucination, drugged by their very hunger or by bread adultered with hallucinogenic herbs. The use of opiate products, administered even to infants and children, was widespread and was linked to a popular mythology in which herbalist and exorcist were important cultural figures.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 212 pages

Music and Trance: A Theory of the Relations Between Music and Possession

Gilbert Rouget

“From Siberia to Africa, from antiquity to modern times, music has been associated with ritual trance and altered states of consciousness… Rouget demonstrates that neither the neurological effect of rhythm nor drug use nor mental illness can account for the power of music in trance states.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 395 pages

On the Heights of Despair

E.M. Cioran

“Here is the paradigmatic cry of the tortured artist. In this meditation on darkness stemming from a sustained insomniac hyperlucidity, Cioran grapples with life wearing the gloves of anguish and despair.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 128 pages

Precision and Soul

Robert Musil

A collection of essays and speeches from the author of the deftly ambitious novel trilogy The Man Without Qualities, from “The Obscene and Pathological in Art” (1911) to “On Stupidity” (1937). Musil searches for a new system of values amidst the bankruptcy of bourgeois Vienna as its plunges headlong into Anschlüss with Nazi Germany. From “The German as Symptom” (1923): “I believe that the average person is a far more avid metaphysician than he admits. Avid is probably not the right epithet, but a dull accompanying awareness of his curious situation rarely leaves him. His own mortality, the minuteness of our little ball of earth in the cosmos, the mystery of personality, the question of an afterlife, the sense and senselessness of existence: these are questions that the individual ordinarily brushes aside his whole life long as in any case unanswerable, but that he nonetheless feels surrounding him his whole life like the walls of a room… Generally speaking, the cure is sought regressively. (Nation, virtue, religion, antagonism to science.) Only very rarely is it made explicit that a new problem has been posed here, that its solution has not yet been found.” SS

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 301 pages

Holy Anorexia

Rudolph M. Bell

Compares contemporary anorexic teenagers with ascetic medieval saints and determines that in both cases “the aberrant behavior is symptomatic of a struggle to gain autonomy in patriarchal environments.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 248 pages

Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide

Berel Lang

The sign over the gate of Auschwitz read “Arbeit Macht Frei,” (Work Makes One Free) and the Zyklon-B gas canisters for the death camp were shipped in Red Cross trucks. Sick jokes, both. Why did the Nazis use such obvious irony? Such imaginative evil? “The ancient categories of moral philosophy—responsibility, intent, choice, forgiveness, shame, and all the rest-are horrifyingly repositioned when applied to the German mass murder of the Jews in Europe.” The author argues “that the events of the Nazi genocide compel reconsideration of such fundamental moral concepts as individual and group responsibility, the role of knowledge in ethical decisions, and the conditions governing the relation between guilt and forgiveness.” Chapters include: “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” The Decision Not To Decide,” and “Language of Genocide.” GR

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 258 pages

Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust

Robert Melson

“Jews in Imperial Germany and Armenians in the Ottoman Empire had survived as ethnic and religious minorities until they suffered mass destruction when the two old regimes were engulfed by revolution and war. Focusing on these episodes as well as mass killings in the Soviet Union and Cambodia, Melson creates a framework for understanding the link between genocide and revolution.”

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 363 pages

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Thomas S. Kuhn

Perfect complement to Charles Fort’s anti-scientific crusade and research, from within the scientific community. Looks at how, by its very nature, science is resistant to new ideas about the world, and how shaky the foundations of scientific “fact” actually are at all times. “No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others… The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced. Lifelong resistance, particularly from those whose productive careers have committed them to an older tradition of normal science, is not a violation of scientific standards but an index to the nature of scientific research itself. The source of resistance is the assurance that the older paradigm will ultimately solve all its problems, that nature can be shoved into the box the paradigm provides.” SS

Publisher: University of Chicago
Paperback: 212 pages

Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile

Samuel Kinser

While some of the author’s critical apparatus might be goofy, he nonetheless takes a distinctive approach to Mardi Gras. He disputes commonplace thoughts about the roots of carnival traditions in rural pagan rites; judging them fallacies of the nationalistic “folk spirit” ideologies prevalent in 19th-century Europe. Instead, European Carnival is seen to be a 14th-century, urban, courtly response to the meatless fasting and sexual abstinence of the 40-day Catholic Lent preceding Easter.
Carnival as practiced in New Orleans, and in Mobile, Ala., takes many of its prominent features from these 15th- and 16th- century European celebrations, as filtered through the fantasies of the 19th-century imagination: pseudoclassical origins and decorations, Renaissance attire and secular acceptance of human folly. Mardi Gras’ faux aristocracies and courts are seen as fantasy enactments by elites who saw their political and social power slipping away in the industrial and political changes leading up to and following the Civil War. The more rigid racial divisions in Mobile created a “ceremonious carnival” that reaffirmed existing social barriers, while the more diverse population of New Orleans generated a “carnivalesque carnival” that titillated itself with transgressions. Certainly food for thought when one is passed out in a New Orleans alleyway, face-first in a half-eaten King Cake. RP

Publisher: University of Chicago
Hardback: 415 pages