For several weeks now I've been seeing lots of comment about Rebecca Solnit's new book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. The thing is, by now I've learned to be skeptical, to understand that this sort of noise is generally the result of a coordinated public relations campaign. Too often some author or book hailed as vital and progressive turns out to be too flawed, or worse, for me to be able to join in the huzzahs. In this case caution has seemed appropriate also since I've had time to only skim, not carefully read any of the pieces that have been popping up. With all that, I'm now intrigued--and gosh darn it, hopeful--enough to want to read this book. Reading today's NYTBR review was one push. As was reading this exchange of letters between Solnit and the guy who reviewed her book for the Washington Post. It sounds like this book--which apparently makes the argument that people tend to come together and work together for the common good in time of crisis, that that, not every-asshole-for-him-or-herself panic and mayhem as depicted in every disaster movie, is human nature--may well be a genuine contribution to a struggle-oriented perspective on the challenges that face the workers and oppressed. A contribution as well to truth telling about what happened four years ago in New Orleans. I'm going to give this one a shot.
An event to honor the brilliant writer, actor, singer and communist Paul Robeson and mark the 60th anniversary of his historic concert that was brutally attacked by rioting KKKers, anticommunists and police was set for Friday Sept. 4 in Peekskill, NY. I haven't heard from anyone who went but I hope it was a great success.
Kudos to Jane Fonda, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, David Byrne, Wallace Shawn, Eve Ensler and Danny Glover. They and other artists signed a letter of protest against the Toronto Film Festival for its pro-Israel "spotlight on Tel Aviv." Film maker John Greyson pulled his movie "Covered" from the festival, noting writer Naomi Klein's characterization of Tel Aviv as "the smiling face of Israeli apartheid" and adding,
Isn't such an uncritical celebration of Tel Aviv right now akin to celebrating Montgomery buses in 1963, California grapes in 1969, Chilean wines in 1973, Nestle infant formula in 1984, or South African fruit in 1991?Actually, he got the Montgomery date wrong. The great bus boycott led by Rosa Parks was in 1955-56. But the point is right.
The Brooklyn Book Festival is next weekend. I'm telling myself to go, as I have each of these few years since the first (told myself, that is, not gone). Will I actually go? Doubtful.
The latest, welcome as always, salvo from authorJames Kelman.
I don't often resort to such undainty language, but jeez, fuck you Mike Judge, and I hope your movie Extract is a box-office dud (though I know it'll probably be a hit). The plot, in one sentence or less? Workers are lazy idiots, heroic business owners are the hope of humanity. Did I say fuck you?
And finally, although it's not literary or artistic news or commentary, it must be said. American Apparel? No thank you.