Blog Entry

The Books on my Nightstand

Posted on: April 21, 2008 8:06 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2010 5:43 pm
What books do you have on your nightstand and/or what are you currently reading or looking at?

7/1/10 -


The Visual Culture of Violence in the Late Middle Ages

Valentin Groebner
Zone Books
New York 2004

From the fourteenth century on, the artifacts of Western visual culture became increasingly violent. Destroyed faces, dissolved human shapes, devilish doppelgängers of the sacred: violence made real people nameless exemplars of formless, hideous horror. In Defaced, the historian Valentin Groebner provides a highly sophisticated historical, cultural, and political model for understanding how late-medieval images and narratives of “indescribable” violence functioned.

Early-modern images formed part of a complex, often contested, system of visualizing extreme violence, as Groebner reveals in a series of political, military, religious, sexual, and theatrical microhistories. Intended to convey the anguish of real pain and terror to spectators, violent visual representations made people see disfigured faces as mirrors of sexual deviance, invisible enemies as barbarian fiends, and soldiers as bloodthirsty conspirators wreaking havoc on nocturnal streets.

Yet not every spectator saw the same thing when viewing these terrifying images. Whom did one see when looking at an image of violence? What effect did such images have on spectators? How could one distinguish illegitimate violence that threatened and reversed the social order from the proper, “just,” and sanctioned use of force? Addressing these issues, Groebner not only calls into question contemporary habits of thinking about early-modern visual culture; he also pushes his readers to rethink how they look at images of brutality in a world of increasing violence.

"A shocking study that demystifies the significance of suffering in late-medieval society by placing representations of penitence and the Passion on a par with the political uses of brutality against the body. Iconoclastic yet, humane, Groebner's compelling essays uncover the full spectrum of acts and images that, no matter how grisly or grotesques, formed part of a semiotics of savagery that continues to inform representations of law and order and the practice of compulsion and constraint well into the modern era."
-Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University

This is an amazing study into signs and symbols worn by miscreants in the past and also displayed over entrances of public buildings. Severed ears and hacked-off hands, bodies broken on the wheel or beheaded, appear in court records and by the media of that time.... unrecognizability of the victim became commonplace.


Since: Sep 23, 2008
Posted on: July 6, 2010 12:35 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

I really related to Eye of the Red Tsar , because I had the misfortune of being in Russia in the 1970s, and Stalin was still proudly displayed in the mausoleum in front of the Kremlin wall in Red Square.
Monsters like that never really fade from the memory of their co-contemporaries. A lot of the people on the streets of Moscow still loved him, and a lot more still feared him.

I'll start digging for any books by "Dean Moriarity's" wife. I did find a book of all old snap shots (really bad quality) of the whole gang taken by some girl with whom they hung.

Since: Jan 9, 2008
Posted on: July 5, 2010 3:43 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

Hey JD - wow! what an awesome wife you have. I got very confused reading his works, I could pinpoint some of the real names but a few left me boggled. It would be nice to have such an edition. That is one of my favorites and makes for delightful reading. Didn't Cassidy's wife (one of them) write? Joanna I think is/was her name? Crazy shit! oh, there had to be some wild female beat writers, I just can't think of any off the top.

I have heard of 'Eye of the Red Tsar' but never picked it up. sounds up my alley too. our Borders has gone down the toilet but will see if they carry it. you never know.

hey, awesome of you to stop by. I really enjoy reading your Atheist Voice stuff, will gladly contribute.

CHEERS and I am envious of your free time. :)

Since: Sep 23, 2008
Posted on: July 2, 2010 5:47 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

jaggrrrl: Here's the excellent book set in Stalinist Russia:

Eye of the Red Tsar , by Sam Eastland. It's 70% psychology/philosophy, 20% history, and 10% detective story.

Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time in Russia, but I found the work compelling.

Since: Sep 23, 2008
Posted on: July 2, 2010 3:58 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

Hey, jaggrrrl, I cannot get into soccer, but that's no doubt my personal problem.

I'm basically retired until some desperate, corporate loser needs to consult with me at my price. So I get to read a bit.

My wife got me the original "scroll" version of Kerouac's "On the Road". It's the same novel but the names are named and the guilty are not protected.

Being an less-than-young male, I get such a freakin' kick out of that novel! I've been with girls wilder than young Jack, but I've never seen one of them write a novel to compare from the feminine point of reference.

If there is something, let me know...

Since: Jan 9, 2008
Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:03 am

The Books on my Nightstand

Greetings to one and all! What a wonderful treat the US soccer team was in the 2010 WC. Sadly, Donovan will probably be saying goodbye to the Galaxy and entering into the United English teams for big bucks. But it was a blast. Have been out of loop for awhile and my brain matter has been a bit rusty so I am dusting off the cobwebs and picking up books again off the shelf. It has been too long my friends. Open the velvet curtains and let the sun shine in and put the coffee on.

Hope to see you all stop by for some friendly discourse. I am about to reread:

Harriet the Spy..... where's my notebook? Smile

Since: May 31, 2009
Posted on: May 31, 2009 3:30 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

i'm new here and i'm really sorry if the name of the books doesnt ring a bell for you, is just that i'm from costa rica and i read in spanish, so i really don;t know the names in english.....

well i just finish:
treasure island from Stevenson(jajaja that's the only tittle i know in english)(and honestly, i'm not sure is written right)amazing adventure.
Resurreccion from Tolstoi, didnt like it, way to boring but i had a nice message.
El diario de Ana Frakn, wasn't that interesting for me.......
La mala hora from Garcia Marquez(my favorite writer), not his best work, but i mean, if you compare it wit cien años de soledad nothig is gonna be good....

currently reading:
Billy Budd, marinero from melville........
La divina comedia fron dante(the three parts in one book: hell, purgatory and heaven), this one is awesome....
El diablo embotellado from Stevenson(small story), just havent got time to finish it....
Ines del alma mia fro Isabel Allende, it;s really entertaining but also really light....

p.d.: amazing topic, thanks

Since: Mar 1, 2007
Posted on: May 29, 2009 9:30 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

"The Book" by Alan Watts who was a favorite of the beat nic hippies types in the 50's 60's and 70's is the book on my nightstand.
I would liken him to a cross between Timothy Leary and L. Ron Hubbard. He certainly has an an interesting take on things.
As far as how Jim Jones was remembered in Indy. He was an activist advocate for the oppressed and economically disadvantaged, basically blacks and hillbillies seeing how he was basically a hillbillie himself.
He was born and raised down in or abouts Bedford Indiana and attended a small bible college just outside Shelbyville In back in the fifties.
His first big break came in the late fifties when he was brought up to Indy to act as an associate pastor at The Rev Greg Dixons Baptist Temple on the near south side, The neighborhood was  a refuge for the poor, ignorant, inbred unwanted's that were driven out of Kentucky by the semi educated plutocrats who run the show down there (see Sen Mitch McConnell for example). The high falooting aristocrat types that the Rev Jimmy grew up resenting as a child. The Reverend saw the world as two sides the have and the have nots. He was a simply a Marxist Christian Evangelist. Che Guevera meet Jim Bakker.
Anyhow Indy was still a completely segregated northern city at the time and the Rev Jones found that equally distasteful and broke away from the Rev Dixon whites only hillbillie clan to start his own Baptist Mission in downtown Indy thats doors were open to all who wandered in. Soon thereafter he became involved in the local civil right movement and the local Democrat party, which is how my parent knew him back in the late 50's through the early 60's.
How he wound up in San Fran was partly due to his involvement in civil rights and also because he felt a "calling" to greater things and so he left Indy. There were also rumors in Indy of his philanderings with some of the more attractive members of his congregation.
Mostly he is remebered in Indy with a sense of embarrassment. Charlie Manson is hushed under the carpet, but John Dillinger is buried at Crown Hill about 100 yards from the tombs of President Benjamin Harrison and James Whitcomb Riley. 
Dillinger is a villain/hero in the hearts of most folks around Indy.
..... and nobody has a clue what to think of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. He might as well be an alien from outre space as compared to the thinking of most Indy locals.

Since: Sep 23, 2008
Posted on: May 25, 2009 9:02 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

JG, I just cannot get past the Impressionists, especially Monet, Cézanne and Pissarro. Spent a couple of weeks wandering the attics of The Hermitage, and got good and spoiled. For that matter, I love Albéniz ' music, and absinthe. I'll think about your post for awhile...

Since: Jan 9, 2008
Posted on: May 24, 2009 4:40 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

Wyo - long time, it's been almost forever it seems!!! How have you been my friend? Hope all is well with you, too.

I have not read the Last Tsar but will definitely pick it up after reading the Files. There was so much going on during that period that it always helps to have some knowledge of what was going on. I really like his writing style. Haven't gotten to the part on the "holy fools" yet, but will look forward to it - especially since you mentioned it.

Always wonderful to see you and hope to again soon!!!!


Since: Jan 2, 2008
Posted on: May 24, 2009 3:08 pm

The Books on my Nightstand

Hi jaggrrrl. It's been awhile since I've dropped by. Hope you are well. Glad to see this still going.....a nice break from the endless Red Sox Yankee threads or whether people should own pit bulls.

I enjoyed The Rasputin File a lot. I will say though that I was glad I read The Last Tsar first. I really do believe the two works fit nicely together. The latter provides a little context regarding the mind set of the Russian people, the economics of the time, and most importantly, the tsars during this period of the last Romanov's. Without the context some folks may get a little lost. As a fan of Russian history I particularly enjoyed the material in The Rasputin File on the "holy fools" - what the Russian Church calls the Yurodivy - fools for Christ. A great read!

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