Derrida: A Guide for the Perplexed (Book Review)

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Derrida: A Guide for the Perplexed (Book Review)
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  Derrida: A Guide for the Perplexed. By Julian Wolfreys (London: Continuum, 2007), xvii + 172  pp. £55.00 cloth/£12.99 paper. One approaches Julien Wolfreys’  book,  Derrida: A Guide for the Perplexed  , and reads the first few lines of the preface: “This book will not set out the work of Jacques Derrida as if one could approach it thematically. One cannot read Derrida thematically. I cannot pretend to write such a  book. It’s impossible.”  One might be tempted to fold the book back up, place it on the shelf, and look for something a little less perplexing. After all, when one picks up a book that claims to be a guide for the perplexed, one expects to have a guide that renders Derrida’ s work a little more clear; this is not Wolfreys’ claim.  Instead, Wolfreys famil iarizes the reader with Derrida’s work through glancing at some of the major themes: deconstruction, différance and writing, art, and literature and being. While working with and through these themes, Wolfreys touches on many of the other lines running thr  oughout Derrida’s work, such as the arché , the khora , and logocentrism . In fact, Wolfreys’  book can be seen as an attempt to take Derrida’s claims about logocentrism seriously.  To reduce Derrida’s thought to a logocentric “  Deconstruction  is . . . X” or “  Différance  is . . . Y” would be to betray Derrida’s insight that there is more to be read.  If one were able to say “the trace  is . . . Z”, then there would be nothing left to say; the trace  would be understood and thought would cease thinking. For Derrida, there is an endless commitment to reading at the heart of his work. As a result of this, we can begin to see the difficultly in preparing a book for the perplexed on Derrida; how does one deperplexify that which specifically asks to remain perplexing? The only course of action, it seems, is to prepare a work that familiarizes the reader with the concepts but neither seeks to reduce the reader to the concepts nor the concepts to the reader. In the end,  Wolfreys’ book does just that.  He maintains his fidelity to Derrida and gives us a work that helps us along our path of Derrida’s thinking.   Wolfreys’ book is a guide for the perplexed that isn’t intended to demystify Derrida, but to allow the reader to feel at home in the perplexity. Aaron Massecar, King ’ s University College at Western University, Canada
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