Holy Hatchet Job

In the literary world, a book review with this caliber of snarkiness and bite is known as a “hatchet job.” The review opens: “In disgust research, there is shit, and then there is bullshit. Colin McGinn’s book belongs to the latter category.” This is Nina Strohminger reviewing (pdf) McGinn’s The Meaning of Disgust for the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticsm. The final two paragraphs:

Perhaps The Meaning of Disgust is useful as an aesthetic object in itself: an emblem of that most modern creation, the pop philosophy book. Actual content, thought, or insight is entirely optional. The only real requirement is that the pages stroke the reader’s ego, make him feel he is doing something highbrow for once, something to better himself. The sad fact is the reader would learn more about disgust by reading Mad magazine.

For the rest of us—those who actually care about disgust, or aesthetic emotions, or scholarship at all—the book is bound to disappoint. “Who can deny the mood-destroying effect of an errant flatus just at the moment of erotic fervor?” he writes. McGinn’s book is just such a flatus, threatening to spoil an exciting intellectual moment for the rest of us. Sometimes with books, as with farts, it’s better to just hold it in.

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