Monday, June 1, 2009

Adding to my impossibly long to-read list

The Lambda Literary Awards took place here in NYC last week. You can check out the winners in all 22 categories here. I'm so pleased to see that Judy Grahn's book love belongs to those who do the feeling won for poetry, and I'm going to get it as soon as I can. Judy Grahn's work meant a lot to me in my dykeling days, the early coming-out years, 18, 19, 20, when I was searching, hungry, for words by and about my kind. Her wonderful The Common Woman Poems affected me deeply, as did She Who, and also, though it's not poetry, Another Mother Tongue. She has an orientation toward womanist spirituality that for a minute or two back 35 years ago appealed to me but I was already turning decisively toward Marxism; nevertheless, her writing resonated for me and I suspect this latest poetry still will.

Back on the materialist side, the side of getting at the truth and using it to serve the class struggle, I'm dying to dig into Blood Relations: Menstruation and the Origins of Culture by Chris Knight, thanks to an email from Richard Crary, who pointed me to a 2007 posting he wrote about this book on his blog The Existence Machine. It sounds fascinating, as does Knight's whole body of work, about which he was interviewed at ReadySteadyBlog in 2006. A taste:

RSB: Your political commitment is obvious from your work and from this interview. Has your work had any direct influence on your political activity?

CK: I would say my political activity has been entirely dependent on my work. To begin with, during my early twenties at Sussex University, I was quite slow to commit to the cause of revolutionary Marxism. In fact, I made the decision only once I knew in my own mind what the revolution was. It was bigger than the French revolution, bigger than the Russian revolution. The cause I eventually committed to was the human revolution. I reasoned that this wasn't just a hope or dream situated somewhere in the future. The very fact that we have language and consciousness tells us that, deep down, we have won the revolution already: it is part of what we are. The task is to work out how we won the revolution so as to be able to do it again.

So this in turn influenced the way I thought about political activism. My theory specifies that language, ritual and culture can be traced back to the world's first picket line.
That's just a sort of random sound bite. There's much here to chew on. Earlier in the interview, Knight muses about Noam Chomsky and his refusal to recognize that science is political.
Chomsky is the most virulent imaginable opponent of social science in general and of Marxism in particular. Since the late 1950s, bourgeois hostility toward Marxism in western intellectual life has found its most extreme and articulate champion in Noam Chomsky.
There is a whole huge swath of the left that regards itself as anarchist-socialist or left-libertarian or some such oxymoron. Chomsky, Knight notes, is a towering figure to them. His exceedingly unscientific view of science and society as two unrelated fields does a disservice to the class struggle.

Surprisingly, I somehow do have a little left -- two books' worth, if I'm lucky -- on the bookstore gift certificate a faculty committee here on the job gave me last holiday season. So I'm hoping I can pick these two up that way. Otherwise I'll have to take them out of the library, and they both seem like books I'd like to own.