The Liv­ing and the Dead

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Nonfiction - MEAGAN LOGSDON

Toby Austin Locke Re­peater Soft­cover $14.95 (300pp) 978-1-910924-32-7 The Liv­ing and the Dead is a chal­leng­ing and in­trigu­ing coun­ter­point to the mod­ern em­brace of the static and the tan­gi­ble.

Toby Austin Locke’s The Liv­ing and the Dead ven­tures into the neb­u­lous in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness of life and death in an as­tute and bold way.

Es­chew­ing mod­ern ten­den­cies to­ward cold ra­tio­nal­ism and hard sci­ence, Locke takes a ro­man­tic and sur­re­al­ist tack to present a view of death that is open to the pos­si­bil­ity of some­thing be­yond an an­ni­hi­la­tion. Though the con­cept of the en­dur­ing soul is ex­ten­sively dis­cussed, Locke does not af­firm monothe­is­tic no­tions of death as mere pas­sage into other forms of life, whether they be eter­nal bliss or damna­tion.

Here, the line be­tween life and death is far more blurred, with the liv­ing act­ing upon the dead, just as the dead act upon the liv­ing. The work presents in­ter­est­ing no­tions, such as that the dead dis­solve into the earth and re­turn as fos­sil fu­els. Draw­ing on philoso­phers from Aris­to­tle to Bataille, Locke presents his par­tic­u­lar vi­sions of life and death with skill.

The book is in­tel­li­gently con­structed. The writ­ing style is dense and seems in­tended for avid stu­dents of phi­los­o­phy, rather than ca­sual au­di­ences. The ex­plo­rations are im­pact­ful. In a way, the style of the book em­u­lates the mys­te­ri­ous call of the dead, and a dis­cern­ing ear is re­quired in or­der to fully grasp it.

Step­ping out of the realm of the spec­u­la­tive, Locke also ex­am­ines the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of how we per­ceive life and death. Cap­i­tal­ist re­al­ism, he ar­gues, with its laser­fo­cus on the “world of things” and ram­pant ma­te­ri­al­ism, in­her­ently em­braces the no­tion of death as the ul­ti­mate end of life, what is called the fi­nal­ist-death. A Marx­ist per­spec­tive is heav­ily em­ployed to pro­vide a provoca­tive thought ex­per­i­ment, even for those mar­ried to cap­i­tal­ism as the ideal eco­nomic sys­tem.

Deeply in­tel­lec­tual, The Liv­ing and the Dead is a chal­leng­ing and in­trigu­ing coun­ter­point to the mod­ern em­brace of the static and the tan­gi­ble.

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