It was a hot, muggy summer day as MasterGote and I motored up through Staten Island. A small pile of canine massed himself upon my lap, absent-mindedly licking the salt from my arm now and then to punctuate MG’s queries about my dissertation. Responding to my whining about trying to find a satisfying means of organizing my findings, MG asked:
“Have you read Martin Jay’s The Dialectical Imagination?”The panting pet paused his preening to shake his head in dismay.
But still I was hesitant. I hadn’t looked at the book since I was an academic tenderfoot who sincerely believed that an afternoon of paging through Craig Owens and Hal Foster and Klaus Theweleit was time well spent. These days, I confess, I am wary of returning to that particular fray of navelward gawking.
But eight months after that sweaty ride, I find myself half under the covers in cold, dreary Brooklyn reading up on the Frankfurt School again, still searching for a compelling model of writing about my dissertation's little community of thinkers. (Also at my side is Henry Yu’s Thinking Orientals, which, for the record, is far more enjoyable when one isn’t reading it for those nasty prelim exams.)
Only a few pages into Jay's history, the effort already seems worthwhile, if only for this somewhat obvious gem from Max Horkheimer’s foreword:
The hope that earthly horror does not possess the last word is, to be sure, a non-scientific wish.It's almost simplistic, but there's something about it coming from Horkheimer's pen that lends a deeper resonance to the words.
Since I know you all are suckers for quotes and that one line from Max won't sustain your addictions, I give you these first and last lines, from an author with a most curious sense of beginnings and endings.
Rahula Sankrityayana, History of Central Asia (1964)Challenge: What did you read this weekend, dear readers? Go on and post first and last sentences. Can anyone top Sankrityayana's flouting of conventional narrative openings and closings?
[Gifted from my aunt in Kolkata, sent to me by way of Buster Sr.]
First: “One part tin mixed with ten parts copper yields bronze.”
Last: “These laws have been collected by Labruva from the writings of Persian historians and from the works of Carpini and Rubrik, but this is by no means a complete list.”