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In The Dust of This Planet by Eugene Thacker
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In The Dust of This Planet

by Eugene Thacker

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This book came to my attention after it was featured on a strong pair of linked episodes of two excellent WNYC podcasts I listen to, Radiolab and On the Media. (It also inspired True Detective, a show I have never seen.) Eugene Thacker's monograph explores the way horror fiction confronts the unknowable as a source of terror, taking in texts that include black metal, James Blish's The Devil's Day, M. P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud, an episode of The Outer Limits, and an anonymous Internet poem.

Thacker writes in an accessible style for a philosopher, and the best part of the book is definitely the introduction, that lays out the difference between what Thacker calls the World (the world-for-us, that which we experience as human beings), the Earth (the world-in-itself, what we do not know but are constantly seeking, especially through science), and the Planet (the world-without-us, the impersonal and horrific part of the universe that we cannot access, that which is not defined by human experience). In The Dust of This Planet essentially traces various manifestations of the Planet/world-without-us across these various texts, arguing that they reveal "the horror of philosophy: the isolation of those moments in which philosophy reveals its own limitations and constraints, moments in which thinking enigmatically confronts the horizon of its own possibility - the thought of the unthinkable that philosophy cannot pronounce but via a non-philosophical language" (2).

The introduction, alas, is the best part of the book. The rest consists of twenty mini-essays on various topics and texts; with seven pages per essay (and many essays covering multiple texts), I found that Thacker could not probe very deeply into any one subject, and that it felt like he was mostly identifying engagements with the idea of the world-without-us in horror fiction again and again, without clearly articulating what each new example brought to the concept. I guess I expected more from this based on what I had read/heard about it beforehand, but little about the book surprised or excited me. Still, if I bump into the other two volumes of the trilogy, I'll probably pick them up and give them a read.
  Stevil2001 | Dec 19, 2015 |
Near the end of the book, the philosophical melding of Lovecraft, Zen Buddhism and Schopenhauer and its meditation on a cosmic nihilism capable of erasing the relative nihilism that afflicts our contemporary lives made me begin to wonder if perhaps just as physicists have postulated that the universe moves inevitably towards a heat death, perhaps human consciousness moves inevitably towards a thought death, in which the piecing together of disassociated knowledge is the genesis of the new Dark Age. Which I guess isn't much of a review, and is something inspired by the book instead of taken from it. Still, if the above intrigues you, I suspect the book will as well. ( )
2 vote CarlosMcRey | May 22, 2013 |
a real gift for posthuman, neo-scholastic medievalists. using this for a paper on worms and corpses. beautifully written. Thacker's a scholar well worth following. ( )
2 vote karl.steel | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 184694676X, Paperback)

The world is increasingly unthinkable, a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, and the looming threat of extinction. In this book Eugene Thacker suggests that we look to the genre of horror as offering a way of thinking about the unthinkable world. To confront this idea is to confront the limit of our ability to understand the world in which we live - a central motif of the horror genre. In the Dust of This Planet explores these relationships between philosophy and horror. In Thacker's hands, philosophy is not academic logic-chopping; instead, it is the thought of the limit of all thought, especially as it dovetails into occultism, demonology, and mysticism. Likewise, Thacker takes horror to mean something beyond the focus on gore and scare tactics, but as the under-appreciated genre of supernatural horror in fiction, film, comics, and music.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:44 -0400)

The world is increasingly unthinkable, a world of planetary disasters, emerging pandemics, and the looming threat of extinction. In this book Eugene Thacker suggests that we look to the genre of horror as offering a way of thinking about the unthinkable world. To confront this idea is to confront the limit of our ability to understand the world in which we live - a central motif of the horror genre. In the Dust of This Planet explores these relationships between philosophy and horror. In Thacker's hands, philosophy is not academic logic-chopping; instead, it is the thought of the limit of all.… (more)

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