René Noël Théophile Girard, 1923-2015

I hesitated to post about this here, but if Paul West made the cut….

René Girard died yesterday in his nineties.

Link from Stanford. Wikipedia.

I’ve struggled with his ideas for 15 years, moving from enthusiastic assent to incredulous disbelief and back again often within the space of a single book or interview. His ideas were big, capital “B,” and may well turn out to be lasting. He was a name the humanities, including in theology (whatever that even is anymore), and in literary theory. Anthropology? I dunno. Even if pressed, I’m not even sure if I could articulate exactly where I stand on a lot of it right now. I can say that when I read his book on Dostoevsky, it was as “helpful” and “illuminating” to me as any therapy I’ve had, and his ideas pop up in very interesting places. His hermeneutic was seemingly able to take in everything, and as a writer he was penetrable in a way some other French theorists in the humanities just aren’t.

The passing of a giant, for sure. RIP.


Paul West, RIP

M. Orthofer at the Lit Saloon alerted me to this bad news. West was a very good writer. He wrote exuberant prose in novels like The Rat Man of Paris, The Dry Danube, A Fifth of November, excellent nonfiction (reviews, profiles, little lit-squibs, all compelling), and the memoir of this word-drunk writer who lost all ability to speak and slowly got it back. Few mentions yet online, as the Saloon notes as well, but this NY Times obit gives the particulars. Rest in peace.


John A. Williams, 1925-2015

Sad news, which I missed while travelling this weekend. Jackson’s own (though he wouldn’t likely claim it) Williams was a writer and thinker whose work is criminally underrated. I have never understood why he wasn’t much more popular than he was. I find him a better novelist (and more “radical”) than James Baldwin and every bit the equal of Richard Wright as a writer, if less immediately palatable to the literati.

Start with The Man Who Cried I Am, if you can find it, then continue on to Clifford’s Blues (which is in print). He also wrote nonfiction, and, with his son, wrote a book on Richard Pryor. He also wrote poetry. He will be missed. Condolences to his family.


RIP Levi-Strauss

I’m mildly embarrassed because I thought he was already dead.  100 a nice round number.

French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss dies

(AP) – 1 hour ago

PARIS — The Academie Francaise says that Claude Levi-Strauss, an influential French intellectual who was widely considered the father of modern anthropology, has died. He was 100.

Levi-Strauss was widely regarded as having reshaped the field of anthropology, introducing new concepts concerning common patterns of behavior and thought, especially myths, in primitive and modern societies.

During his 6-decade-long career, he authored many literary and anthropological classics, including “Tristes Tropiques” (1955), “The Savage Mind” (1963) and “The Raw and the Cooked” (1964).

The Academie Francaise said Tuesday that it plans a tribute later in the week.

It did not give the cause of death or say when Levi-Strauss had died.