February 11, 2008

Criticisms Welcome

I just read this review of my book on a blog called Unionstreet

The author is a PhD candidate in Education and seems to know his stuff, which is why I'm putting part of his critique up here. The review is, on the whole, positive--I get likened to W.G. Sebald--minus the "transcendent" quality, which I'll take any day of the week. The gist of his critique takes aim at the perceived "pop-culture is to blame" message in my book. I don't think that's really what I'm saying, but enough caveats--here it is (note that my last name is Griffith, no "s":

Griffiths periodically succumbs to a familiar argument: that it is our pop culture that has inured us to violence, that has removed any shame that we may feel from the sight of people being humiliated, burned, tortured in our name. But his own experience indicates something more subtle, and difficult to diagnose, at work than this. One of the most riveting passages of the book recounts the events of a Halloween party, in which he poses as a guard from Abu Ghraib, giving the notorious ‘thumbs-up’ sign before another guest, hooded for the moment as an unfortunate prisoner while carrying a beer cup in one of his outstretched hands (Griffiths includes the photo into the narrative, and the reaction becomes all the stronger when you realize that it’s not from Abu Ghraib, but from the party itself). How could someone so sophisticated in his sensibilities succumb to such moral indecency? Surely it is too lame an answer to blame it on Pulp Fiction, video games, or the stupidities and embarrassments of youth.


unionstreet said...

Hi David,

I just noticed my misspelling of your family name, and corrected the post when I saw your incoming link. Apologies for the error.

My post was a quick reaction based on a first read, and I'm perhaps guilty of falling a bit on standard critical tropes. In any event, I liked your book certainly for its topic but also for its tonality, if that makes sense. I hope to revisit it later when I get a chance to think about the contrasts and mediations between print/literary and visual culture, which is something I did take away from the work and which sort of prompted the Sebald reference.

Amanda said...


You read this evening (2/21) at Hope College; I'm a student there, bought your book, had the pleasure of meeting you and receiving a signature. Upon deciding to Google you and your work, found your Blogger... how interesting.
This blog that I'm writing from is where I occasionally post prose that I write... If you ever get a chance, read some of it, tell me where I'm going wrong =]

It was wonderful to meet you and Mr. Nordan. I enjoyed the reading very much.

Travel safe!

- Amanda