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Reviews

Charles Levin, Jean Baudrillard: A Study in Cultural Metaphysics. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996. ISBN: 0134333683 (paperback). Price: £12.50Stuart Sim, Jean-François Lyotard. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1996. ISBN: 0134334345 (paperback). Price: £12.50[Notice]

  • François Lachance

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  • François Lachance
    University of Toronto

Two books. Same publisher. Same series. Big differences. A sharp pithy volume on Lyotard prepared by Stuart Sim. Charles Levin's bulging bucket of dross on Baudrillard in 9 1/2 point—2 point sizes smaller than the Lyotard volume (albeit in a different font) and very very much longer. Obviously there is here a lack of equivalent editorial guidelines. All is not well in the house of Prentice Hall. Else, how could the Baudrillard volume's appearance in the Modern Cultural Theorist series be only signalled in the Library of Congress catalogue criteria thoughtfully supplied by the publisher? It contains no mention of the other volumes in the series and the other volumes do not mention it. It only appears to belong to the series. How tempting it is to spin a scenario casting Levin's lack lustre account of Baudrillard's reputedly sparkling speculation as a simulation. This is, of course, a key concept found often in Baudrillard's ruminations. It is speculation that finds some paratextual evidence since the series's moniker appears neither on cover nor spine (nor in the list provided in the Lyotard volume of the same year). In a kindly mood, one begins to suspect a very elaborate joke about the status of a book on a hyperrealist seer. That is the generous interpretation. However the joke if it is indeed being perpetrated suffers from prolixity. Levin's book on Baudrillard could be cut in half and not suffer. Indeed, it would improve. A good copy editor would have improved the jumble of a bibliography. Its chronology is out of whack not only because most the references to translations lack reference to original publication dates but also because it is actually an abbreviated list of titles abbreviated in Levin's text. The value of a proper bibliography eludes both author and editor. A copy editor must have dozed off when ten pages on Levin takes up verbatim a remark on McLuhan (52; 62, n. 32). Such repetition in a tedious undergraduate essay would be considered padding. Here it is but pataphysical prattle. Much of this volume, especially the rather facile, sketchy and dubious hyping of Canada as the ideal postmodern state, reeks of the off-the-cuff ill-prepared seminar. After plodding through this collection of loose titbits and diligent digressions, one can sense a delicious irony in its dedication to Levin's students who no doubt suffered through their rendition in the flesh. Taken in small doses it is barely bearable. A marathon reading session through the entire text reveals an unshapely mass of non sequiturs. It is no wonder the strength is in the glossary. It serves well as an introduction to key terms such as hyperreality, seduction, simulation. In lieu of an index accounting for the instances of citation from Baudrillard's texts, the glossary reveals where Levin is wont to place emphasis in the Baudrillardian corpus. He is lured by the seemingly untranslated late work. Levin fails to make note of Chris Turner's 1994 version of Baudrillard's 1992 L'illusion de la fin. The failure is not just a consequence of a lag between preparation and publication since other items, in French however, from 1994 appear to have grabbed Levin's attention. It is a matter of a lack of thoroughness. Or to be uncharitable, a matter of simulating a philological mastery, pretending to be ahead of the translators. Monsieur Levin may perhaps give the impression of being à la page, however, there is a rather glaring linguistic blooper relating to Oublier Foucault (254 n.9). Levin claims "It should be pointed out [...] that contrary to the available English translation of Oublier Foucault, Baudrillard's …