Thursday, May 14, 2015

My Review of 'Love's Body' by Norman O Brown

I went straight from Bataille to Brown. I finished reading Love's Body a couple of weeks back. So just giving it time to sink in. Everything I read now seems a bit pedestrian after the Dionysian boys. Anyway, if my review makes you drunk with the joy of life do head on over to Amazon and ritually click the 'Was this review helpful to you? YES!' button like a madman.

"A wondrous exploration of the silent language of the unconscious

This is a stunning and unique work. Built around sixteen themes Brown provides no central narrative, but instead through relatively short sections averaging, I'd guess, between 100 and 200 words he creates a transcendental effect. A review on the US site rather aptly describes it as 'Philosophy as a fever dream'. It's philosophy laced with poetry; psychomagic invocation of the intellect.

I'd love to able to say that any reader should jump straight into it, but I'm not sure that'd be great advice. Certainly I'd recommend reading Life Against Death prior to Love's Body if you're not too sure of your psychoanalysis and philosophy. I would love to be wrong about this. There is a mystical element to the work that perhaps some readers might be able to connect to regardless. But generally, if you're approaching it on an intellectual level, work your way up to it. I think if you can approach it with a degree of intellectual confidence - and an open mind - you'll be more likely to enjoy the experience. At it's best I found it simultaneously profound and hypnotic.

Don't confuse this description of my reading experience with Brown's academic credibility, though. He is a very serious scholar (and hugely overlooked in my view). Even though Love's Body has this dream-like quality, I still find more solid ground in it than in much European postmodern writing. The full expression and exploration of psychoanalytical ideas (Freud, Klein, Ferenczi - Jung is not mentioned) would certainly put off anyone grounded in a materialist ontology. They even made me grimace at points. But somehow the totality of the work gets across that these uncomfortable words, about how polymorphous perversity develops into sexual desire directed by familial relations, are an attempt to reach toward a kind of silent language that mediates unconscious processes. And moreover, that its not just the flows of sexual energy but its also the silent language, that's real.

I came to appreciate that, more through reading this work than any other. And I suspect that has less to do with intellectual journey and more to do with what is somehow invoked by it's other more magical qualities of tone and tempo and rhythm and structure. I'm never going to convince any skeptical materialists of this, nor of the value of psychoanalytical thought and existentialist philosophy generally and how it offers a rich and meaningful understanding of what it is to be. But hey, fuck 'em. I loved it."

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