Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Chicago to Houston to blogville to Bravo

Some of this and some of that on the first of July ...

Melville House Books has just brought out Revolt on Goose Island: The Chicago Factory Takeover and What It Says About the Economic Crisis. MHB calls the work by Kari Lyderson a "live book," because it's based on a day-by-day series she wrote for the MobyLives blog covering the brilliant actions, including a factory sit-in and takeover, taken by workers facing layoff and plant closing at Republic Windows and Doors about six months ago. Trade unionists, activists, progressives, and all workers who heard about it were thrilled by the Republic Windows battle--which the workers won! If Lyderson's book breaks it down, how it happened, how it worked day by day, it is a contribution to the working-class struggle. We need to learn these sorts of lessons for the battles to come.

Speaking of books and battles, yesterday I started Attica Locke's superbly written and politically fascinating novel Black Water Rising. I could barely put it down to go to bed last night, barely remembered to close it and get off the train at my stop for work this morning. It's a page turner, and more. So far -- about halfway through -- I'm quite taken with how she weaves together so many themes in this tale set in early 1980s Houston: Black radicalism, racism, politics, the evil oil industry, labor union struggles, police brutality, the FBI's COINTELPRO war against Black militants. I guess technically it qualifies as a murder mystery or a thriller, but Locke takes things much further than those genre labels imply. Here she is recently speaking at a Houston library:

OK, I can't get worked up over any of this
, but it is good for a laugh, all these accomplished, successful writers making fools of themselves over negative (and not even that negative, just sort of lukewarm) reviews. As everyone knows by now, earlier this week novelist Alice Hoffman lost it in a series of crazy-ass tweets attacking, and calling for mass phone harassment of, a critic who gave her latest novel a less than stellar review. Then, after she was roundly ridiculed all over the blogosphere, she issued a sort-of apology. Now philosopher Alain de Botton has gotten into the act, posting a nutty rant on Caleb Crain's blog in response to Crain's review of de Botton's book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work (a book that, as far as I can tell, is of no interest or relevance to any of us actual workers). De Botton promises Crain, "I will hate you till the day I die." Wow, there's a scary threat. What to make of any of this? Novelist and blogger Tayari Jones to the rescue, in a thoughtful post about how writers feel about and react to poor reviews. I just love it that she compares Hoffman's twitter freak-out to last week's table flipping finale on Bravo TV's "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." Which, yes, what can I say, I watched and thoroughly enjoyed.