Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Book Review: Jennie Erdal - The Missing Shade of Blue | Deconstructing Hume
21 May, 2012 - Mark Hubbard - on his blog behind the IRon Drape on books, films, Libertarian - Classical Liberal - politics, Objectivist philosophy, and laissez-faire capitalism.
This piece started out as a simple book review written for Amazon, then morphed into a short essay deconstructing Erdal, via Hume. I use the term 'deconstruction' deceptively, given my purpose is to highlight the contradictions of this dead-end to literary criticism, and to point out the same contradictions in the moral dead-end of Hume (1), for whom the meticulous concern of finding the right words to express himself, confounded the dangerous ideas he used those words to express, and thereby undid him. Objectivism - my agenda, clearly stated - has no fear regarding the inherent nature and beauty of language; deconstruction, rather than a cleverly pointless subjectivist deceit, simply translates to 'real world' premise checking. So here we go: my new - quite possibly clumsy - integration, the essview.
Let's get perfunctory matters out of the way: Scottish writer Jennie Erdal's novel The Missing Shade of Blue is a fabulous book. The copy reviewed below was a Kindle download I purchased from Amazon and read on an iPad, and I'm pleased to say, unlike some ebook offerings, has high production values that made it as pleasant to read as a dead-tree counterpart. Better, the start of the novel, on the iPad at least, takes you to the cover page, which is surprisingly rare with ebooks, given the trend to dull the importance of cover art which remains a weakness in the ebook revolution. (Publishers', I want my cover art - don't cheapskate on that, please.)
In almost all ways that matter, Erdal has ticked, with this novel, all my reading pleasure centres.
In the age of Generation Text, if you like a deep read that proudly proclaims itself a philosophical novel and really delivers on weighty subject matter to make a reader think about the world they inhabit both physically and in their head: this is a fabulous, refreshing book.
Conversely, if you like whimsical, playful writing exquisitely delivered with a deft, Scottish dry humour: this is a fabulous book.
If you like writing anchored in a geographic place (Edinburgh): this is a fabulous book.
And if you like fly fishing, (and by good chance I'd already decided to learn fly fishing this winter), then this is a fabulous book.
Although, in this review, if you like the work of eighteenth century Scottish philosopher, David Hume, then be warned, he's about to get an Objectivist drubbing: albeit that is a matter attaching not to the class of this novel, but the muddled mind of Mr Hume. Given the clever architecture of Erdal's novel is, itself, built upon a Humean construct,I can only unravel the truths lit up in it, by first shining the torch of reason on the deadly contradictions of David Hume.
I read everything with the mind of a writer (even if my negligible creative publishing record would suggest, not a good one). From that, I am guided by Orwell's quoted desire to turn political writing into art, and though Erdal's novel is not political, there can be no politick without the secular trinity of philosophy and economics which are informed by it, and it by them. Thus, I fell into the purchase of The Missing Shade of Blue easily after being directed from (sadly deceased) Denis Dutton's 'Arts and Letters Daily' blog to an essay by Erdal in The Financial Times on the philosophical novel, musing if such a novel was still possible (2). The irony being such a novel is possible, here it is, but it had to be based on Hume, the thinking of whom I am implacably opposed to. I am aware my interpretation below at times runs counter to Erdal's own writing on her novel in the mentioned essay: for a start she sees Hume as benign - pfui - however, I don't believe these differences diminish either the novel (certainly), or my interpretation, and this perhaps because Erdal is hamstrung by the same contradiction that cripples Hume. Objectivists understand there can be no contradictions, so when you come up against one, it's time to check your premises, or in this case, Erdal's, which is what I propose to do.
The statue of philosopher David Hume on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Photo: Getty Images
I shall go outside the text of the novel to get immediately to my central problem with Mr Hume: