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Philosopher, film star, father of “post truth”—the real story of Jacques Derrida Who is Jacques Derrida? For some, he is the originator of a relativist philosophy responsible for the contemporary crisis of truth. For the far right, he is one of the architects of Cultural Marxism. To his academic critics, he reduced French philosophy to “little more than an object of ridicul Philosopher, film star, father of “post truth”—the real story of Jacques Derrida Who is Jacques Derrida? For some, he is the originator of a relativist philosophy responsible for the contemporary crisis of truth. For the far right, he is one of the architects of Cultural Marxism. To his academic critics, he reduced French philosophy to “little more than an object of ridicule.” For his fans, he is an intellectual rock star who ranged across literature, politics, and linguistics. In An Event, Perhaps, Peter Salmon presents this misunderstood and misappropriated figure as a deeply humane and urgent thinker for our times. Born in Algiers, the young Jackie was always an outsider. Despite his best efforts, he found it difficult to establish himself among the Paris intellectual milieu of the 1960s. However, in 1967, he changed the whole course of philosophy: outlining the central concepts of deconstruction. Immediately, his reputation as a complex and confounding thinker was established. Feted by some, abhorred by others, Derrida had an exhaustive breadth of interests but, as Salmon shows, was moved by a profound desire to understand how we engage with each other. It is a theme explored through Derrida’s intimate relationships with writers such as Althusser, Genet, Lacan, Foucault, Cixous, and Kristeva. Accessible, provocative and beautifully written, An Event, Perhaps will introduce a new readership to the life and work of a philosopher whose influence over the way we think will continue long into the twenty-first century.


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Philosopher, film star, father of “post truth”—the real story of Jacques Derrida Who is Jacques Derrida? For some, he is the originator of a relativist philosophy responsible for the contemporary crisis of truth. For the far right, he is one of the architects of Cultural Marxism. To his academic critics, he reduced French philosophy to “little more than an object of ridicul Philosopher, film star, father of “post truth”—the real story of Jacques Derrida Who is Jacques Derrida? For some, he is the originator of a relativist philosophy responsible for the contemporary crisis of truth. For the far right, he is one of the architects of Cultural Marxism. To his academic critics, he reduced French philosophy to “little more than an object of ridicule.” For his fans, he is an intellectual rock star who ranged across literature, politics, and linguistics. In An Event, Perhaps, Peter Salmon presents this misunderstood and misappropriated figure as a deeply humane and urgent thinker for our times. Born in Algiers, the young Jackie was always an outsider. Despite his best efforts, he found it difficult to establish himself among the Paris intellectual milieu of the 1960s. However, in 1967, he changed the whole course of philosophy: outlining the central concepts of deconstruction. Immediately, his reputation as a complex and confounding thinker was established. Feted by some, abhorred by others, Derrida had an exhaustive breadth of interests but, as Salmon shows, was moved by a profound desire to understand how we engage with each other. It is a theme explored through Derrida’s intimate relationships with writers such as Althusser, Genet, Lacan, Foucault, Cixous, and Kristeva. Accessible, provocative and beautifully written, An Event, Perhaps will introduce a new readership to the life and work of a philosopher whose influence over the way we think will continue long into the twenty-first century.

30 review for An Event, Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida

  1. 5 out of 5

    Goatboy

    ++++Short added thought posted to review on 12/28/20++++ I read something that I’ve been meaning to comment on, but since for some reason my Verso e-books don’t seem to let me export highlights or notes, it’s taken me a bit to get around to typing the quote out: +++There is nothing outside the text. Derrida does not mean there is nothing outside of writing… He means that everything, like text, can be interpreted multiple ways and is never a pure signifier of the signified, but is always already a ++++Short added thought posted to review on 12/28/20++++ I read something that I’ve been meaning to comment on, but since for some reason my Verso e-books don’t seem to let me export highlights or notes, it’s taken me a bit to get around to typing the quote out: +++There is nothing outside the text. Derrida does not mean there is nothing outside of writing… He means that everything, like text, can be interpreted multiple ways and is never a pure signifier of the signified, but is always already a chain of supplements. Thus the theme of supplementarity ‘describes the chain itself, the being-chain of a textual chain, a structure of substitution, the articulation of desire and language’ (emphasis added). Ultimately, the power-relation of the original over the supplement is disturbed when one realizes the extent of dependency of the former on the latter. The supplement is not an optional add-on to the original: it is the condition of the original.+++ When I read this - especially the part I bolded - I couldn’t help but to think of Lacan (and by extension Freud). I have some inkling (from this work and others) that Derrida and Lacan didn’t always see eye-to-eye, even if they respected each other as thinkers. Derrida seemed concerned that Lacan (and all psychoanalysts) were always stuck looking for a “transcendental presence,” an originally cause or event to explain the chain of symptoms that were later to be found in a patient. However, anyone who has read Lacan (and especially the excellent and enlightening Seminar VII) will read those words above by Derrida - especially the ones I have bolded - and see something very familiar. For with Lacan the signifying chain always seemed to be one of slippage, of signifiers sliding along chains of signifieds. And when in Seminar VII Lacan attempts to chase down the origin (or even endpoint) of Desire, all he finds is an ever-receding horizon. A slipping away and beyond. An origin only implied by everything that comes after. In fact, when cornered into having to describe what might be at the start or center of the signifying chain, what the black hole might be around which each person’s unconscious revolves ever so surely, the closest he can come is to call it The Real and basically have to leave it at that. The Extimate. The Other that is most interior. The black hole around and through which the desiring chain of existence expands out from. Even Freud, in his Interpretation of Dreams writes of a dream’s navel, an overdetermined area of unconscious so thick and knotted that no further fruitful analysis can be achieved. They may have argued over particulars in day-to-day life, but these thinkers were on the trail of the same beast me thinks… +++++++++++++++++++ Original Review>>> I'm sure many will come out of the gate derogatorily calling this Critical Theory Lite, accusing it of simplifying and smoothing out Derrida's complex thoughts, but I found it to be an enjoyable and fascinating read. It's true you may not be getting the nuanced depth of Derrida's theories and writing (you'd have to read Derrida's own works for that), but what you do get is a well-written, completely absorbing account of Derrida's life and work, the overall structure and intent of his theory, and how he fits into the lineage of Western Philosophy. I found the combination of theory/history/biography hard to put down and often read well past the point I had set for myself to close the book and do something else. To me that seems like one of the best compliments you can give a book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dante

    The central sin of this otherwise useful text is that insufficient space is given to Derrida's youthful love of football: his reverence for the game, appropriately compared to Camus's similar passion, is given only a brief mention in the book's final chapter. A great shame. Salmon's text is impressive in the material it explores - unafraid to engage his actual writing, the reader gets a considerable dose of Derrida's style and subject matter directly, while many introductions leave his own texts The central sin of this otherwise useful text is that insufficient space is given to Derrida's youthful love of football: his reverence for the game, appropriately compared to Camus's similar passion, is given only a brief mention in the book's final chapter. A great shame. Salmon's text is impressive in the material it explores - unafraid to engage his actual writing, the reader gets a considerable dose of Derrida's style and subject matter directly, while many introductions leave his own texts perpetually à venir - and offers a largely coherent image of Derrida's philosophical trajectories. Self-conscious in the narrative decisions he must make as biographer, and the violence this might entail, if a reader were to fulfil Salmon's fear that this might be the singular text they read on Derrida, I feel they wouldn't be too hard done by. The persona, philosophical or otherwise, conjured by Salmon is one that seems nearly sufficient to cut through the mystifications and mythifications that still surround Derrida, leaving the reader perhaps slightly less weighed down by the 'historical sediment' of his notoriety and prepared to make their own judgement on the duties of deconstruction. There are some flaws with the book, which I mention below, but as Derrida's infamy is perhaps now sufficiently obscure and mis-understood so as to be not so easily blindly reproduced, at least by a new generation of students who might have to duel with his work, I hope this book will be a tool in any potential regeneration of people actually reading his work (which, of course, I still need to do far more of myself!). Whatever the accuracy of his explication of Derrida's thought, of which I'm in no real place to judge, it's certainly prompting me to return to reading Derrida seriously, and refresh my grasp of his thought - particularly since any interest in doing so faded a few years ago now, and I never made much real headway into the oeuvre, anyway. (view spoiler)[ The book is constituted by certain blind spots - almost no commentary on his fatherhood or the actual nature of his relationship with Marguerite, nor on his friendships beyond those tumultous relations with other academics or figures in the Tel Quel milleu; little detail on the noted bouts of depression and ill health, nor details of his personal interests. Ultimately, it's very much a biography framed by the events of Derrida's life and how he came to negotiate them, but paints a rather limited image of his character. I'm not sure this is too great an issue, given it's primarily an intellectual biography, and equally, given that Derrida's life has been told in far-greater detail in Benoit Peeters's biography from 2010 - but it is a shame Salmon doesn't point toward Peeters' highly detailed work nor really draw from it explictly.* There are some similar minor issues (I think?) that I might point out. His commentary on Derrida's relationship to Althusser is a very fair, and moving, one but perhaps under-plays the importance of the latter's philosophical influence, or Derrida's interaction with it: Salmon writes 'It was often the work of those closest to him that Derrida felt compelled to deconstruct, but not Althusser’s.' What of the recently translated lecture series Theory and Practice from 1976-7 where Derrida very directly engages, and in a sense deconstructs, Althusser's work with quite great textual specifity? Whatever these more minor criticisms, there's a lot to enjoy and learn from in Salmon's book. It's tone is discursive and light, but serious when it needs to be and never recounts Derrida's complex life hagiographically, and frames his thought and its impact in a few useful ways: the (in)famous 1966 John Hopkins conference grounds the book effectively, and Salmon is always quick to draw out how Derrida relied on the work of the nascent feminist thought unfolding around him, from Cixous to Kristeva, or stress how his early work is very much bound up with the Husserl commentary that Tran Duc Thao had already initiated. There's much to be said of how Salmon captures Derrida's polyvalent self-interrogations and autobirographic interrogations but as is made very evident, there's no sense in trying to complete such an excercise definitively. His Jewish-ness, his sense of permanent peripherality to the metropole and inability to totally immerse himself in any identity ascribed to him seemed to be a productive agony for Derrida - and one I certainly don't envy. His final act of naming, of having Jackie on his headstone over Jacques, perhaps is all that needs to be said. Derrida might appear as out of step with the incendiary Marxist upheaval of his contemporaries when he was first gaining influence, but is never valorised as a singularly unique thinker appearing ex nihilo from obscurity. Salmon patiently works through Derrida's initial obsession with Husserl and how crucial this originary (!) phase was in articulating deconstructive practice of later work, and distributes throughout concise, short accounts of how he relates to thinkers of the era (Levinas, Genet, Foucault etc) and while certain figures were given only a glance (Barthes, Deleuze), Salmon is fairly economical in drawing out his relation to other theorists only if doing so draws out something crucial about Derrida. His re-telling of what would come to be a scandalous relationship with Paul de Man is especially interesting, and not something I was really familiar with. The style of writing and presentation is not dissimilar to Stuart Jeffries' Grand Hotel Abyss, who himself offers high-praising blurbage, in that tangents very much vivify the intellectual and cultural world and lineage Derrida was within: for example, when outlining any potential Talmudic components of Derrida’s approach, Levinas’ encounters with the mysterious Jewish peripatetic pedagogue Chouchani were definitely worthwhile interludes – as were retelling the circumstance of Spivak’s famous translations efforts. I think a lot of Marxist and critical theory types would do well to read at least a book like this, such as to appreciate even vaguely Derrida as interlocutor; as the late Moishe Postone is said to have reminded his students, when you reduce your opponent’s arguments to shit, you reveal your own argument to be only slightly better than shit. I’m perhaps already happy to seek benefit from Derrida for a Marxist project, with my constant returning to Simon Choat’s great book Marx Through Post-Structuralism likely the cause, but Salmon’s book well re-affirms this impulse for a conceptual synthesis and interaction which neither totally erases the very real and severe differences in Derrida’s thought to the critical and Marxist traditions, nor makes dialogue impossible. Along with Christopher Norris and John D. Caputo’s work, this is certainly a book I’d point toward if someone was looking for a glimpse into the spectre-ridden world of Derrida. 'The disciple must break the glass, or better the mirror, the reflection, his infinite speculation on the master. And start to speak.' (hide spoiler)]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    I thoroughly enjoyed this intellectual biography. It did well to cover much of Derrida’s development through Husserl, Hegel, Heidegger, Levinas, Foucault, among others. Four rather than five stars is the rating because it would be virtually incomprehensible for someone who didn’t have a fairly solid background in the philosopher. Limiting the scope and increasing the explanations might have produced an even better read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Domhnall

    This biography is highly readable throughout and provides a light-handed introduction to the major themes of Derrida's work. It puts many of his publications into context and I think will be a helpful guide for those wishing to proceed by reading Derrida himself. Despite covering in a very clear way the development of his ideas and the key influences to which he was responding (notably Husserl and Heidegger), I would not feel confident using this book as my only source to seriously comment on De This biography is highly readable throughout and provides a light-handed introduction to the major themes of Derrida's work. It puts many of his publications into context and I think will be a helpful guide for those wishing to proceed by reading Derrida himself. Despite covering in a very clear way the development of his ideas and the key influences to which he was responding (notably Husserl and Heidegger), I would not feel confident using this book as my only source to seriously comment on Derrida's philosophy; but it gives a good enough feel to recognise where Derrida himself might fit into the wider discussions in which he is so often invoked and to appreciate why it might be worth getting hold of some of his work. To be fair, I think that is what a good biography does for any writer. Quotes "This biography aims to set out the intellectual development of Jacques Derrida; to situate it in events both private and public; and to argue for its importance as an event in the history of philosophy and of thought more generally. It will argue that Derrida is one of the great philosophers of this or any age; that his thinking is a crucial component of any future philosophy; that his thinking is immediately – always already – applicable to the world as we find it; and that this application has political heft." [p13] That his writings are abstruse is an effect of his philosophy. His thought generates his style just as Wittgenstein’s generated aphorisms, Spinoza’s numbered propositions, Heidegger’s compound neologisms and Plato’s dialogue. There is nothing fake here. [p16] Looking back, Derrida characterised his exploration of Hegel as seeking a ‘kind of general strategy of deconstruction’. We must traverse a phase of overturning. To do justice to this necessity is to recognize that in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-à-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand. To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment. This became one of the central methodological strategies of deconstruction, and perhaps has had the greatest practical and theoretical impact outside the academy of any of Derrida’s interventions. As we have seen, for Derrida the history of Western thought relies on the apparent ‘logic’ of binary oppositions, where the first term is privileged over the second. But, as Derrida points out, this is not a ‘peaceful coexistence of two terms, it is a violent hierarchy’. The task of deconstruction is to suspend the hierarchy at this moment and analyse and criticise it, in a sort of productive ambivalence.... As each of the terms has a constructed meaning, as all meaning is constructed, why does this opposition exist, why is one term privileged, whom does it serve, what does it fail to acknowledge, convey or understand? The answer may be political, cultural, philosophical and so on – each analysis may unearth more hidden assumptions – but the task of deconstruction is not then to efface the difference through synthesis, but to mark it, to note its undecidability and explore its complex interplay. [pp94,95] What happens when we speak, in all the ways outlined above, and including the voice in our head? Philosophy, alongside common sense, tends to argue that I have a thought of more or less absolute clarity; I then change it into words. I say these words. My interlocutor (in a perfect world) understands my words, and the thought I have communicated, transparently, enters their mind. The interlocutor may be myself; and ideally for Husserl, that is exactly who she or he is. Each of these steps is highly problematic, Derrida resolved. Try having a thought without words. If such a thing is possible, how is that then turned into words? .... It is not, argues Derrida, that we have self-presence and the voice in our head (or out loud) expresses it; rather, the voice in our head (or out loud) gives us the illusion of self-presence. [p115] Derrida’s criticism of structuralism (via Rousset) centres on the privileging of ‘form’ over ‘force’. Again, this is a question about time, about the static compared to the genetic... So while a book, any book, is only encountered in ‘successive fragments’, the task of the (structuralist) critic is to make the work ‘simultaneously present’, all its aspects presented as an immediate, punctual, total whole (like a Husserlian moment)... Against this, Derrida introduces ‘force’, which is a form of motion and therefore temporal. ‘Force’, for Derrida, is a product of language’s power of signification. The signifier always means more than it wants to, it escapes and exceeds the author’s intention. Criticism, in privileging form over force, the static over the genetic, freezes meaning... structuralism presents simultaneity as ‘the myth of a total reading or description, promoted to the status of a regulatory ideal.’ So here we are again. Derrida once again identifies the unacknowledged metaphysics behind a conventional reading ... As Merleau-Ponty puts it, ‘My own words take me by surprise and teach me what I think,’ echoing Flannery O’Connor, who said, ‘I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.’ [pp125-127] What can be forgotten in the deep woods of philosophy, the often abstruse and opaque world of ‘categorical imperatives’, ‘anarcho-primitivism’, ‘transcendental idealism’, ‘metaphysics of presence’, is that philosophy seeks to encapsulate, in some sense, what it is like to be alive. If a philosophy fails to do this, it is the philosophy that must yield. When, as we shall see, a philosopher of language such as J. L. Austin says that words can only be taken seriously if said seriously, he excludes a whole realm of meaning that most people, in a fairly mundane sense, regard as meaningful. Derrida seems to be saying that something should not be inexplicable to philosophy that is explicable to humans. [p135] One shouldn’t complicate things for the pleasure of complicating, but one should also never simplify or pretend to be sure of such simplicity where there is none. If things were simple, word would have gotten around. – Limited Inc. [p142] "Many have been willing to give M. Derrida the benefit of the doubt, insisting that language of such depth and difficulty of interpretation must hide deep and subtle thoughts indeed. When the effort is made to penetrate it, however, it becomes clear, to us at least, that, where coherent assertions are being made at all, these are either false or trivial." The letter was signed by eighteen academics from around the world, of whom W.V.O. Quine was probably the best known. Judging by the made-up ‘logical phallusies’ none of them had taken the time to read any of Derrida’s work – it is not as though neologisms ripe for this sort of mockery are hard to find. As Terry Eagleton noted, all that the dons who voted against him knew was probably that he was ‘radical, enigmatic, French, photogenic and wildly popular with students’. And quite what the ‘accepted standards’ Derrida failed to meet were anybody’s guess, but one suspects thinkers as diverse as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Kierkegaard might have had a struggle on their hands too – as would Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and later Wittgenstein, all of whom tended to drift from the analytic. Socrates and Plato might have struggled as well, though the latter might have agreed about excluding Dadaists and concrete poets were they minded to apply to join the academy. [p274]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    TL;DR Peter Salmon’s An Event, Perhaps is a gateway book that will surely lead people to the dangers of deconstruction and post-modernism. This excellent biography is a wonderful introduction to a titan of French philosophy. Highly Recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided an eARC for free in exchange for an honest review. The following opinions and any mistakes are mine and mine alone. This review and others can be found at my website: Primmlife.com. Review: An Event, Perhaps by Peter TL;DR Peter Salmon’s An Event, Perhaps is a gateway book that will surely lead people to the dangers of deconstruction and post-modernism. This excellent biography is a wonderful introduction to a titan of French philosophy. Highly Recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided an eARC for free in exchange for an honest review. The following opinions and any mistakes are mine and mine alone. This review and others can be found at my website: Primmlife.com. Review: An Event, Perhaps by Peter Salmon As an undergraduate, I didn’t take any philosophy classes, and I regret that. My introduction to philosophy was through the book, The Simpsons and Philosophy. A friend gifted it to me and changed my life. I loved it, and instead of going straight to the philosophical texts, I read more of the popular culture and philosophy books. Years later, I enrolled in a literary criticism class at night school to complete a certificate in writing. The literature in question was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. During the class, we would watch an episode and read one or more essays by a single philosopher. Some of whom I’d heard before; many more that I hadn’t. All of the writings I struggled with but grasped eventually. All except for the one by Jacques Derrida. I remember loving the lecture but being baffled by the reading. I’d given up on Derrida until he resurfaced as one of Jordan Peterson’s devils. I had trouble matching Peterson’s anger towards Derrida with the content of the paper that I read. So, I began to seek out Derrida’s books. They were still opaque to me, but thanks to YouTube and Podcasts, learning about Derrida has never been easier. To be clear, it’s not easy, just easier. But I still haven’t returned to the primary source, Derrida’s texts. After reading An Event, Perhaps by Peter Salmon, I’m interested in giving him another shot. Peter Salmon has created in An Event, Perhaps an accessible, intellectual biography of this rock star philosopher. It enlightens as it humanizes. An Event, Perhaps begins in October 1966 when Derrida delivered a paper at Johns Hopkins University. At that moment, deconstruction was born. This moment shook the philosophical discipline of Structuralism, and that moment began a discipline that is often misunderstood and dismissed. This book mixes analysis of Derrida’s ideas with documentation of his life. Peter Salmon situates Derrida’s intellectual development with his personal growth. Whether denied schooling in Algeria to his covering for Louis Althusser during Althusser’s mental health breakdowns, Derrida’s life is reflected in his philosophical pursuits. How could his ‘hauntology’ not come from his living in the shadow of his deceased older brother? Salmon does an excellent job of mixing biography with analysis, and it makes the text readable for a hobbyist like me while still containing commentary on Derrida’s ideas. The text is a mostly linear following of Derrida’s life working its way through his bibliography. The man was a powerhouse of philosophical output, and Salmon takes us from paper to book to paper. I haven’t read the majority of the works listed here; Salmon piques my curiosity. I might just have to go back and give Derrida another read. A Life, Perhaps I have read zero biographies of philosophers. Thus, I cannot tell you if An Event, Perhaps succeeds in that genre, but in the larger field of biography, Salmon has written a wonderful text. I didn’t just learn about the man, I felt for him because of this text. His life, his triumphs, his mistakes, all made his ideas more intriguing. Setting aside the ideas, An Event, Perhaps succeeds as a biography. It reads well. I had expected a dry, scholarly tone, but the book reads like a biography with dense philosophical ideas woven seamlessly in. If other biographies of philosophers are like this, I’m going to have to seek them out. One of the things that stuck with me was Derrida’s relationship to Althusser. I can’t say why, but this friendship stood out. Maybe because of Althusser’s mental health and Derrida’s care for the man? Salmon painted this friendship here and there throughout the text, but these were some of my favorite non-philosophy moments. Even after Althusser’s murderous breakdown, Derrida (and others) continued to care for the man. One wonders how in today’s culture would view that care. Althusser’s mental illness does not excuse his actions. That’s not arguable. But Derrida’s (and others) compassion is an example of the best of humanity. Althusser’s guilt doesn’t become Derrida’s simply because Derrida makes grocery runs for the ill man. The fact that this friendship stuck out above the philosophical should show that An Event, Perhaps offers more than just ideas. It grounds the text in Derrida’s humanity. As with any biography, drama abounds. As with any academic, the drama comes in the form of those who disagree with Derrida. I appreciated that An Event, Perhaps treated this drama as the intellectual disagreements they were. While hurt feelings and bad blood did exist, Salmon shows that Derrida didn’t hold grudges and tried to acknowledge those who he argued against. I knew about his disagreements with Michel Foucault but not that he and Jacques Lacan were at odds. These feuds, if you could call them that, give the text and life a feeling of the salacious without actually being salacious. Learning about these disagreements reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low.” While the stakes weren’t low for the philosophers involved, neither were they life and death. I’m not proud, but I really enjoyed learning of these ‘feuds’ and Derrida’s reactions to them. An Event, I Think An Event, Perhaps covers a wide breadth of Derrida’s work. The reader gets to dip their toes into Derrida’s ideas. It’s a gateway book that will surely lead people to the dangers of deconstruction and post-modernism. This book conveyed a lot of his intellectual ideas in a way that I could understand, and more importantly it felt like an opening into the confusing world of deconstruction. While I appreciated Salmon’s writing about Glas, he didn’t make the book sound appealing. Of course that’s not Salmon’s fault. I struggle with experimental writing in this vain. But after Salmon’s description, I have to wonder at what Derrida would have done with today’s media. What would have have done with YouTube or Twitter? Could he have made an interactive book as a website? Conclusion Peter Salmon’s An Event, Perhaps is a wonderful book. It’s an excellent biography, a fantastic introduction to Derrida’s work, and an overall worthy read. I know one day, it’ll make a good re-read for me. In An Event, Perhaps Peter Salmon has created an accessible biography that seamlessly weaves the personal with the philosophical. An Event, Perhaps by Peter Salmon will be published by Verso Books on October 13th, 2020. 8 out of 10!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Caspar Bryant

    The latest in my ongoing attempts to turn my brain into electric cauliflower stew (70s album title?? tongue-in-cheek poetry collection???) This is a lovely biography that leans greatly upon the philosophical elements - provoking both delight and headaches. It's also a source of perhaps amusement to me that the first thing I read this year was perhaps again Derrida. With any luck, we'll see more in this vein. (Deconstruct year, read, first? Let's not get distracted (but what else is this for?)) A st The latest in my ongoing attempts to turn my brain into electric cauliflower stew (70s album title?? tongue-in-cheek poetry collection???) This is a lovely biography that leans greatly upon the philosophical elements - provoking both delight and headaches. It's also a source of perhaps amusement to me that the first thing I read this year was perhaps again Derrida. With any luck, we'll see more in this vein. (Deconstruct year, read, first? Let's not get distracted (but what else is this for?)) A strong introduction to his thinking, if one is so inclined/masochistic.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    Derrida. Deconstruction. Post-modernism. French philosophy in general. Pretty forbidding subjects for some of us, and so I was delighted to find this biography and exploration of Derrida’s work and ideas at least relatively easy to follow and much more comprehensible than I’d feared. It’s an intellectual and academic book, which is to be expected when the subject is Derrida, and I’m sadly aware that much of Derrida’s thinking remains opaque to me. But at least I’ve dipped my toe into the water a Derrida. Deconstruction. Post-modernism. French philosophy in general. Pretty forbidding subjects for some of us, and so I was delighted to find this biography and exploration of Derrida’s work and ideas at least relatively easy to follow and much more comprehensible than I’d feared. It’s an intellectual and academic book, which is to be expected when the subject is Derrida, and I’m sadly aware that much of Derrida’s thinking remains opaque to me. But at least I’ve dipped my toe into the water and all credit to the author for making his book as readable and accessible as it can be.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It's a luxury -- for me, a rare one -- to be able to also >like< the writers, thinkers, artists whose works one admires. Long an intellectual companion (there was a time in my live when I practically cohabitated with Truth in Painting), and studying English in American during the time when his voice was ubiquitous, I came away from the Salmon biography liking Jacques/Jackie Derrida for the first time. It's a luxury -- for me, a rare one -- to be able to also >like< the writers, thinkers, artists whose works one admires. Long an intellectual companion (there was a time in my live when I practically cohabitated with Truth in Painting), and studying English in American during the time when his voice was ubiquitous, I came away from the Salmon biography liking Jacques/Jackie Derrida for the first time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jay Rothermel

    An Event, Perhaps: A Biography ofJacques Derrida by Peter Salmon (2020) is a brief, careful biography. While telling the story of a scholar interested in pulling away the threads of thought and its assumprions, it remains clear and cogent at every step.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    I received this book as a part of the October Verso Book Club selection. The man, the myth, the legend. Philosopher, poet, literary critic, film star. Derrida is an icon, even if he doesn't want to be. Even if he is incredibly misunderstood, and his most diehard fanboys completely misunderstand him (probably due to never having actually read him). Jackie, as his parents named him, was a genius who cared deeply about society, his family, his friends, and humanity by and large. As he says time and a I received this book as a part of the October Verso Book Club selection. The man, the myth, the legend. Philosopher, poet, literary critic, film star. Derrida is an icon, even if he doesn't want to be. Even if he is incredibly misunderstood, and his most diehard fanboys completely misunderstand him (probably due to never having actually read him). Jackie, as his parents named him, was a genius who cared deeply about society, his family, his friends, and humanity by and large. As he says time and again, deconstruction is NOT destruction. It is a philosophy of positive action. This book is grand. If you have interest in Derrida, the development of French philosophy in the mid to late 20th century, and/or postmodernism, just read it. Salmon does a fantastic job of walking the line of biography/narrative of Derrida's life parallel to Derrida's publications and main ideas. Perhaps the best place to start with Derrida, given the accessibility and narrative placement. Derrida feels approachable: both in thought and personhood. Like, I want to be the guy's friend after reading this. He comes across as a warm, trustworthy man. We see his lifelong friendship develop with Althusser, amidst his mental decline. They often play father figure for each other at different points in life, and it's a truly beautiful (albeit tragic) story. As Wolfgang Streeck recently wrote, book reviews can be used to say something important, even if not directly about the book. I'm going to follow suit for a minute. Derrida is incredibly misunderstood. Especially by religious folk. ESPECIALLY by the Christian Church, which often fails to understand just how religious Derrida can be, even if may not have been explicitly so. While he often leaves it up for interpretation, he is undoubtedly influenced by Jewish theology/philosophy, perhaps even moreso than the Greek philosophers most of Western philosophy fetishizes. Derrida has A LOT to offer theology, and his methods of deconstruction can actually be quite beneficial in theological development and criticism, contrary to what mainline Christian apologists would have the laypeople think. The most threatening and scary aspect of post-structuralism is just how many people misconstrue what is actually happening. It is telling that one of the most widely disseminated introductions (in non-religious, undergraduate circles) to Jacques Derrida's thought is written by James K.A. Smith, a Reformed Christian theologian. Smith realizes the great debt the Church owes Derrida for his methods. Until the rest of the Church can understand that, people will continue leaving in droves, shunning the defunct hypocrisy of modernity. I digress.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Lunceford

    A beautiful book. A captivating and thoroughly satisfying introduction to the polarizing thinker and his enigmatic ideas. While challenging in several places, this is a decent place to begin a serious attempt to understand Derrida, after a cursory introduction elsewhere--YouTube, perhaps.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathanael Pribady

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Scott

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul L Kane

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joe

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Bisché

  20. 4 out of 5

    Milos Vukelic

  21. 5 out of 5

    nisarg

  22. 4 out of 5

    Adam

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kerr

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pj Zettle

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Scott

  26. 5 out of 5

    March

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dan Stiver

  28. 4 out of 5

    Xander Mitchell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karl

  30. 4 out of 5

    Simon Barraclough

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