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Marooned! on Mars with Matt and Hilary

116 EpisodesProduced by Matt Hauske & Hilary StrangWebsite

a kim stanley robinson read-along podcast with regular forays into utopia. hosted by some friends who are into communism, science fiction and other stuff

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The Years of Rice and Salt 1: "Awake to Emptiness," Provincializing Europe, History, Modernity, and Structures of Feeling

Hello! We’re back. Sorry we’re late, but we’re back now, to discuss THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT, book-by-book.

We recommend you read this book through once already if you’ve never read it before for its own pleasures. It’s a great, great, great book that you should just read and delight in. Then tune into our commentary for a re-read, which I assume is what a lot of you are doing. And in advance, thank you for listening! Matt apologizes in advance for his complete ignorance about Buddhism.

“Awake to Emptiness” follows Bold Bardash and his adventures with the slave eunuch Kyu. Matt and Hilary talk about this book’s mode of narration, its unique mixture of materialism and spiritualism, and the way that, from the perspective of someone who has been raised in America in the American education system, it completely defamiliarizes the reader as regards world history and geography.

Matt and Hilary compare this to the Mars books a bit and we talk about the patterns of subjectivity that emerge between characters. Characters appear not as monadic individuals, but rather as being produced in and through networks of relations that are both social and, in this case, cosmic.

We talk alternate history, provincializing Europe (shout-out to Dipesh Chakrabarty), and the way the book reveals that what we understand to be modernity has in fact been produced to a significant extent in places that are not Europe and by peoples who are not European. And, of course, we return to the structure of feeling.

For tons of more info and analysis of this book, see the page, which also has a key to what the characters represent. Our method of reading is to find the text’s pleasures and discuss its mysteries without thinking that the only (or main) goal of reading is to uncover an author’s intent. For us, texts should remain open to readerly interpretation, and giving some kind of authoritative account about what the meaning of the novel “really” is tends to be limiting. BUT all that said, the page has invaluable information and we’ll probably rely on it at various points during this season.

Thank you for listening!

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