OR Books

The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor Edited by Andrew Ross

The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor Edited by Andrew Ross

Much has been written in recent years about the exploitative labor practices inherent to globalization, especially those pertaining to vulnerable migrant workers from the developing states. The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Andrew Ross and featuring a deep bench of contributors from the social sciences, labor advocacy groups, and protest artists from around the world, provides a distinct voice and a highly specific contribution to the conversation. Focusing on the labor systems and practices of Persian Gulf states and the massive investments those states have recently made in cultural institutions–landmark museums, Western university satellite campusesThe Gulf makes a compelling case for opportunities to shine light on both egregious conditions ongoing from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Riyadh, as well as opportunities to confront and dismantle these oppressive systems.

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Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring by Charles Glass

Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring by Charles Glass

While many might be familiar with the uprisings surrounding Arab Spring, it is hard  to say the same about what came before or after. Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of Arab Spring elaborates on what we think we know and more importantly, reports on what we need to know. In the text’s foreword, Patrick Cockburn, a fellow journalist, introduces the crucial value of Charles Glass' perspective on the series of events following the rise of Arab Spring four years ago. From a realm of bias and othering, former ABC NEWS chief Middle East correspondent Glass offers insight of the war and its aftermath.

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A Narco History by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace

A Narco History by Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace

"This," writes historian James Loewen in his classic deprogramming text Lies My Teacher Told Me, referring to the murky use of "chaos" to describe complicated conflicts in foreign lands, "is standard textbook rhetoric: Chaos seems always to be breaking out or about to break out, and Americans intervene only 'reluctantly.'" "Chaos breaking out," as Loewen points out, is typically a means of exonerating the United States of its role in bringing about the very violence it then "reluctantly" decides to alleviate through military intervention.

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Method and Madness by Norman G. Finkelstein

Method and Madness by Norman G. Finkelstein

Norman G. Finkelstein’s latest volume chronicling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Method and Madness, immediately outlines the scope of the book in the preface. Unlike his earlier books, such as 1995’s seminal Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, here Finkelstein focuses on a narrow temporal and substantive series of events: the evolution and escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza between 2006 and late 2014. Rather than developing a broad explanation of the socioeconomic and geopolitical forces which have long prevented a resolution of the decades-long conflict, Method and Madness seeks to explain three major Israeli operations in Gaza: Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), and Operation Protective Edge (2014). Finkelstein provides a contrarian account of “the accepted interpretation” and the “key triggers, features, and consequences” of each new operation by  chronologically tracing Israel’s strategic and domestic political developments across successive assaults (xi). Throughout this concise book, ancillary issues are brought into focus, including Israel’s relations with key Western allies—such as the United States, notably—as well as the domestic Israeli political actors’ motives for rhetorical and military escalation of strategies against the Gazan population. Overall Method and Madness remains a primarily descriptive account, albeit one which will resonate with longtime critics of Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories, and one which explores primary source accounts of the three operations in extraordinary detail.

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The Jihadi's Return by Patrick Cockburn

The Jihadi's Return by Patrick Cockburn

According to his acknowledgments page, Patrick Cockburn originally conceived The Jihadis Return as a kind of clarion call to the West, sounding the alarm about the growing power and influence of ISIS and other al-Qa’ida-style jihadi movements in Syria and Iraq. Given the current state of our media’s coverage of the Middle East, with near daily updates about the newest grisly execution video or the latest teenaged recruit to pack off to Syria to fight the bad fight, all underlined by an incessant B-roll of Kalashnikov-toting ISIS militiamen waving the ominous black flag, it can be difficult to recall that a year ago, few in the West had even heard of ISIS, and the War on Terror was thought by many to be all but won.

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Blood Spatters Quickly by Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Blood Spatters Quickly by Edward D. Wood, Jr.

At the time that the majority of the stories found in the wonderfully titled Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. were being written, the author—better known as Ed Wood—was deep in the throws of alcoholism, out of work as a film director, married to a woman (despite being a lifelong transvestite), and bouncing from apartment to apartment in the seedier sections of Hollywood. As described by Bob Blackburn, who wrote the incredibly insightful introduction to this book, Wood was cranking out story after story for Bernie Bloom, head of Pendulum Publishing. The stories contained in Blood Splatters Quickly graced the pages of such prestigiously named magazines as Horror Sex TalesBoyplayWeird Sex TalesHellcatsLezo, and Man to Man.

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Bowie by Simon Critchley

Bowie by Simon Critchley

Simon Critchley’s Bowie is not a biography. It is not a memoir (“The unity of one’s life consists in the coherence of the story one can tell about oneself … It’s the lie that stands behind the idea of the memoir” (15)). No, Bowie is a book about Simon Critchley via Bowie’s music and personae; Bowie is a book about David Bowie and his music via Simon Critchley’s child- and adulthood minds (and hearts). Yes, plural. For identity, as Critchley writes, is not some “grand narrative unity.” Rather, paraphrasing Hume, it ”is made up of disconnected bundles of perceptions that lie around like so much dirty laundry in the rooms of our memory” (16). I am thrilled Critchley decided to pick up some of his own and move it around, re-curate (recreate) the amassed piles, and allow us to walk through those pungent rooms with him.

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