Editor’s Note: This is the third interview of several we’ll be publishing this month, all with our section editors. They’re an eclectic bunch, each with their own projects and day jobs. Like the rest of the LARB ecosystem, they rely on the donations of our readership, and we hope you’ll consider giving this month. This one is with Arne de Boever, our Philosophy/Critical Theory Editor.
Give us some background – how did you end up working at LARB? What do you do for LARB? What do you do when you’re not working for LARB?
Arne: I became involved with LARB in the early days of the review, when Executive Editor Jonathan Hahn asked me to write something for the review’s old website. I’d just moved from New York to Los Angeles to take up a teaching position in the School of Critical Studies at CalArts. Shortly after that, I sat down with Tom Lutz to discuss the possibility of a philosophy/critical theory section in LARB. He didn’t need much convincing. He asked me why LARB should have such a section. I made my pitch (I think it may have involved Adorno and Hollywood). He simply told me to go set it up. That part of the conversation probably took less than five minutes. As a literary critic working on the contemporary novel and philosophy, I was surprised to find so much support for philosophy/critical theory at a predominantly literary review. I’ve also been surprised by how much traffic the reviews published in our section have been attracting. It’s encouraging to see there is a general audience for the challenging work that we have published
Could you talk about one of the pieces you submitted for the 2014 LARB Digital Anthology? What was it, what was the editing process, and why did you submit it? (The 2014 LARB Digital Anthology is available as a thank-you to donors of $50 or above during our fund drive.)
Arne: One of the pieces I submitted was an essay titled “Jacques Derrida’s Urgency, Today,” which was written by Elizabeth Weber for a very successful forum we ran on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Derrida’s death. Elizabeth’s text deals with Derrida’s recently published seminar on the death penalty, and ties it to the ongoing critical conversation about drones. It’s philosophy/critical theory crossed with the emerging field of drone studies, if you will. I liked Elizabeth’s mobilization of Derrida to think about drones: it seems important to revitalize what is by now established thought to see what it can still teach us about our lives today. When I initially contacted Elizabeth to write a text for the forum, she said she very much wanted to send us something but didn’t know whether she would be able to get it to us in time. I said I’d check back in closer to the forum publication date. When I did, she just sent me this extraordinary essay, which was pretty much published “as is.” It felt like an important piece, about an important issue, and an important contemporary thinker. All I did was ask her to write it. There was hardly any editorial work involved.
Talk about a book you read this year you’d recommend – could be recent or old, well-known or unknown. As long as you read it this year and you think it’s worth reading.
Arne: There is really too much to recommend; I can give you a title for every week of the year. The last two philosophy/critical theory books I read – and I read them obsessively – were Frédéric Lordon’s Willing Slaves of Capital: Spinoza and Marx on Desire (first published in French in 2010 and now out in an English translation with Verso); [click here to read LARB‘s review, written by Jason Read] and Laura Kipnis’ Against Love: A Polemic (which was published in 2003 and which I’d never read). Lordon is an economist. His book tries to answer the question: why do we work for bosses? What is the passion that makes us work for others? He’s using Spinoza, theorist of desire, to answer a question we know through Marx and the history of Marxism. It’s an incredibly important book, especially today, and we just published a review on it.
The Kipnis book had been on my shelf for a while, and its project resonated with the Lordon. Kipnis polemically takes down the theologico-political form we give to desire — what she calls “marriage,” but that term really stands for any marriage-like relation— asking, among other things, why that form requires so much work, why it generates over and over again the excessive surplus of adultery, and what those things (as well as other issues she raises) have to do with politics, our forms of citizenship, democracy, and more. I think her new book, Men, is now out.