Review of Being and Neonness by Professor Jeffrey Meikle

in CHOICE MAGAZINE, Copyright American Library Association.

This slim volume of philosophical musings masquerading as a cultural history of neon lighting is reminiscent of Jean Baudrillard’s America (1988). Like Baudrillard, Miranda draws metaphoric significance from contemporary technology and delivers scintillating but quirky pronouncements. Regarding the incandescent light bulb, for example, he remarks that “by domesticating light, the twentieth century would seek to waylay the sublime and objectify the intimate” (p. 45). Many readers forgave Baudrillard’s verbal excesses because he defined and critiqued a superficial culture they disdained. For Miranda, the bar is higher because he hopes to inspire as well as criticize. After questioning the passive conformity of a clean, well-lighted society–represented by the garish emptiness of the neon sign–he goes further by proposing an ecstatic, visionary alternative to the negativism of postmodern critics. Valorizing uncertainty over certitude, sound’s warm suggestiveness over light’s harsh perspectives, and flow over substance, Miranda urges readers to embrace a provisional, ever-creating reality he refers to as “Creal,” in whose ever-ongoing construction one may participate after freeing oneself from the prison of signs, from the neonness of consumer culture and hierarchical society. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. —Jeffrey L Meikle, University of Texas at Austin

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