Color and Brightness

Gift guide

Color and Brightness

Holy Terror

by Terry Eagleton

Oxford University Press, 148 pp., $22

To my knowledge, perhaps the most cogent words yet spoken or written about terrorism actually belong to Osama bin Laden, who issued a statement just before last year's election calamities in which, among other things, he asserted that if al Qaeda hated freedom, they would have attacked Sweden. A shame and a disgrace, really, since not only was this penetrating analysis delivered by a real asshole, but articulacy and critique are what we're supposedly good at, part of Western Civilization's greatness that concerned intellectuals like Christopher Hitchens believe the White House to be defending (keep clapping, Chris, and I'm sure you'll save Tinkerbell eventually).

But then again, the post-9/11 period has been marked by some dazzling displays of articulate incoherency, of which Terry Eagleton's new book is probably the most thought-provoking and entertaining example since Trey Parker and Matt Stone's misunderstood nihilist spectacle, Team America: World Police. What Parker and Stone did for Jerry Bruckheimer movies, Eagleton does for the great books, probing their latent content to tie himself up in the manifest contradictions, dualities, and desires of civilization's defenses against barbarism and itself.

Sure this slim little volume is pretty academic, assuming a passing familiarity with stuff a little more heady than Top Gun and Pearl Harbor as it tours from Dionysus to Aquinas to Freud and back with notable detours into bracing readings of D.H. Lawrence's Women in Love and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa. And while it doesn't have catchy songs or an adorable Kim Jong Il puppet, it does possess a readably convoluted and witty style, light on jargon and heavy on inducements to check out the texts that you're unfamiliar with ... and reread everything else. If he concedes the tragic inevitability of shock and awe in the project of civilization, this conflicted lefty does make a case that the best defense of our culture of freedom is the culture itself. To quote the sharpest contradiction from Team America, "freedom is the only way."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Spencer Parsons
The Cutting Edge
The Cutting Edge
Trailer-maker Mark Woollen talks shop

March 13, 2009

Slipped Discs
Focus: The Collected Filmstrips of Brian Dewan, Vol. 1
Just the thing for the hyperactive adult on your Christmas list

Dec. 5, 2008

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle