Summer Reading Series: Erik Davis
Categories: Literature & the Arts
Erik Davis, author of TechGnosis, shares his summer reading list. Find out which books he plans to delve into in the coming months and why he chose each of them! For more lists from our Summer Reading Series, click here.
1) Something Coming Through by Paul McAuley
I heard about this new science fiction book from my pal DJ Spooky, who has good taste in SF. It’s a thriller that combines gritty cyberpunk near-futurism with an epic cosmological scale. It is a first contact story, which I love because of the way it foregrounds the direct encounter with the Other, and McAuley’s aliens, the Jackaroo, are supposed to be very enigmatic. Plus it’s a lot shorter (and probably way more fun) than Neal Stephenson’s latest!
2) How Forests Think: Towards and Anthropology Beyond the Human by Eduardo Kohn
(University of California Press)
I am totally fascinated by contemporary anthropologists who wrestle, in a non-reductive way, with trying to articulate the experience of the cosmos found in many shamanistic and animistic cultures. Kohn did field work with the Runa in Ecuador, and his book tries to come up with conceptual tools that reflect the semiotic relationships humans have with a non-human but very lively world. It is hardly beach reading, but the word on the street is that Kohn has made some real breakthroughs.
3) Riverpeople by Peter Lamborn Wilson
Wilson has long been one of my favorite countercultural writers, religious historians, and ecological poets. I also spent a lot of time with him in New York in the early 1990s, and he played a bit of a mentor role in my own journey through independent scholarship and the ecstatic fringes of religion. Riverpeople is a psychogeographical study of the Catskills, where Wilson has been living for some time, and it weaves together watersheds, pagan cartographies, and profane illuminations.
4) Spirits Rejoice! Jazz and American Religion by Jason C. Bivins
As I dive deeper into the history of jazz, I have been waiting for a great book on the relationship between this supreme American art and American religion. Bivins is not only a musician as well as a religious studies prof, but he writes with great vibrancy, which is an absolute requirement (in my book) for music writers. He not only covers the role of the Black church, but also the alternative visions of Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and other metaphysicians.
5) The Philosophy of Science Fiction: Henri Bergson and the Fabulations of Philip K. Dick by James Burton
This somewhat puffily entitled text—which sounds like its one of those invariably pedestrian “Philosophy of [Fill in Pop Culture Item Here” books—looks to be the most philosophically capacious study of the SF author Philip K. Dick to date. Bergson’s concerns with time, religion, and organicism form the perfect matrix to try and grasp Dick’s elusive and enigmatic “gnostic politics”. I met Burton at a PKD festival, and he is also a really cool guy, which always makes scholarship go down easier!