Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kugel & books

I had a wonderful time off, visiting with my best friend who came from San Francisco to stay with Teresa and me for a week. We packed in a lot of fun and interesting New York stuff, from the food-oriented (Yonah Shimmel's knishery, Russ & Daughters Appetizing, Essex Street Market, Carnegie Deli, Veselka, De Mole, La Flor, an all-macaroni-and-cheese restaurant, plus home-cooked feasting) to the historic (the Tenement Museum,where I'd never before gone and now will go again as it was considerably better, by which I mean more honest and accurate, than I'd expected), to the cultural (Complexions Contemporary Ballet, an amazing company that we were thrilled to see at the Joyce Theater, and also a silly/fun backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall), to the tried and true like Central Park, the Strand bookstore, the garment district, and lots and lots of walking in Queens and Manhattan.

I read hardly at all while Rosemary was here because we had too damned much to say. Time together is precious since we generally only see each other every few years; although we talk on the phone a lot, and I mean a lot, the in-person experience is a whole other thing. So I didn't finish the book I'd been reading until after she left. And then I started a new one this morning: Mary Ann in Autumn by Armistead Maupin. Rose and I bought it together last week at the Strand. She read it while she was here, each night at bedtime, which was time enough, for as anyone who's read the Tales of the City series knows, these books are extremely fast reads. Then she left it for me, and now I'm already almost halfway through it. It was kind of perfect for her as one of the series' original followers and for its San Francisco-ness, and now it's kind of perfect for me as a sort of immediate memento of her visit. When I finish I'll pass it along to Teresa.

Rose had brought another book as a present for me, and I hope to get to it soon: Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary by Monica Nolan. How yummy does this look?!

I, a lesbian secretary, hope I like it because I'd love to move on to Nolan's other titles: Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher and The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories.

So now it's back to the grind, and I have a grinding week ahead of me. Work, including overtime; an unavoidable dental appointment; some editorial work. Which means I may not have time to get right back into a blogging groove. But I'll try to soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

28 years later

It's a busy time for me at work, which means I have less brain power than usual outside of work, and I'm in a bad sleep cycle, which means I have less brain power period in addition to being tired and cranky and whining about it as much as possible … therefore sorry, blogiverse, expect no substantive contributions from me for now. Instead, in brief:

Literacy, the brain power thief—I'm always fascinated by new findings about the brain and literacy. We did not evolve to read, which of course is why human beings have to learn this skill anew, not a single baby being born with reading an inbred function. This latest study hones in on which brain structures are used for reading—and which other more natural functions suffer as a result when the brain areas that evolved for those functions are co-opted instead for reading. Of course, it's not quite that simple, but still. I'm not too bad with faces, contrary to what these findings might suggest. I am, however, truly terrible at spatial relations—I flunked geometry in junior high, can't do puzzles for shit, and if there's ever a household task that requires anything to be eyed and moved about or fitted together in any way, I'm hopeless—so unless I'm extrapolating completely wrongly from this article, it seems that my early and ever intensifying involvement in reading might have something to do with this.

Rise like lions after slumber—Earlier this month students in London took some righteous and oh so welcome action against the reactionary British government's moves against social benefits, and to mark the occasion Rust Belt Radical reprinted a 1992 Paul Foot essay on poet Percy Byshe Shelley, commenting that it's "easy to imagine him among the throngs of young people who marched for their future. He might have written a few stanzas on the occupation of Tory headquarters had he witnessed it. Hell, he might have broken a window or two himself." Read the Foot essay.

Freedom's just another word—Check out this fantastic piece by novelist Percival Everett about sexism against women authors. If a woman had written the book Jonathan Franzen just did, it would be considered a domestic family saga and never considered anything close to, you should excuse the expression, the Great American Novel.

Point of personal privilege—Tomorrow my best friend arrives from San Francisco for a weeklong visit, her first to New York in many years. Having tacked some vacation days on to next week's four-day "holiday" weekend so we can spend some good quality time together, I'll be doing just that, starting tomorrow night, for the next week or so. I don't expect to blog at all. When I get back online, I will have passed a landmark of sorts. I'll have now lived in New York for 28 years. I was 28 when I moved here, so I've now lived half my life here and am as much a New Yorker as a Michigander—more, I think, for though I was formed there I've done most of my adult living here. Here's how I moved: the evening after "Thanksgiving," with $20 in my pocket, personal items crammed into a small backpack and a few clothes stuffed into a shopping bag, I boarded and rode a bus filled with Palestinian sisters and brothers, all of us headed overnight from Detroit to Washington for a demonstration the next day; there we marched and got tear-gassed; then I boarded a different bus, this one taking demonstrators from New York back home and me with them to my new home. Maybe I'll write more about all that, but for now I'll just say from this vantage point, 28 years later, that I made the right decision with that move—and that the best decision for any of us next week is, if possible, to march with United American Indians of New England to mark the National Day of Mourning, and if we can't get to Plymouth then at least to take whatever action we can in solidarity with the ongoing struggles of Native nations whose lands were stolen and civilizations decimated by the European invasion the turkey holiday celebrates.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn in the city

A tall building. A road. A car. A tree or three, showing their colors. This is Queens. 

I am deep. And need some sleep, in case it isn't obvious. As bloggish as it gets today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

'All belongs to all!' Against Veterans' Day, with Eduardo Galeano

Last month I happened to finish reading Genesis by Eduardo Galeano just in time for Columbus Day, the celebration of the European invasion of and genocide in the Americas. Now, again by happenstance, I finished reading Faces & Masks—the second book in Galeano's Memory of Fire trilogy, a sweeping, literarily gripping history of the Western Hemisphere presented in brief vignettes based on voluminous research—just in time for yesterday's repugnant national adoration of imperialist war known as Veterans' Day. Faces & Masks, like Genesis, is a stunningly written (and beautifully translated, an acknowledgment I too often forget to make but must here for the translator, Cedric Belfrage, is a gifted artist) exegesis of the whole record of the years 1700-1900 and what befell the peoples of the Americas in those two centuries. Unending horrors against the indigenous peoples. Slavery and the slave trade, across oceans and continents. The crimes of the church. The sacking of natural riches. Wars, wars, wars, over territory, resources, trade routes, labor. Wars, above all, that is, over ownership and control of capital and commodities driven by the quest for profit. As with the first volume, much of what Galeano presents is terrible—awful, painful, almost unbearable to face. And much is inspiring—stories of courage, humanity, struggle. All is moving. And all, each brief entry, is so packed with information, ideas and emotion that the reader has to stop and think about and recover from each one before moving on, which is why it takes a full week to read this relatively short book. Or at least that was my experience, now with the first and second volumes of the trilogy.

If Genesis tells the truth of invasion and colonialism, and boy does it ever, and is therefore a great antidote to the lies of Columbus Day, Faces & Masks tells the truth about what came next, the passage into imperialism, leading up to and ending with the bloodbath birth of U.S. imperialism at the turn of the last century, and so it is a great antidote to the lies of Veterans' Day.

Here are some excerpts. This first one struck me because last April tens of thousands of people gathered in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. I have to admit I'd never heard of Cochabamba before then, but as I read about and watched videos from this event, and then heard about it directly from people who'd gone including my lover Teresa, what stood out most was the leadership of the indigenous women of that region. So when I came across this passage in Galeano's book, it sent a shiver through me; it made me feel as if the echoes of the war cries of the brave martyred women in their last stand against the Spaniard despoilers almost 200 years earlier had reverberated at the April conference.
1812: Cochabamba—Women
From Cochabamba, many men have fled. Not one woman. On the hillside, a great clamor. Cochabamba's plebeian women, at bay, fight from the center of a circle of fire.

Surrounded by five thousand Spaniards, they resist with battered tin guns and a few arquebuses; and they fight to the last yell, whose echoes will resound throughout the long war for independence. Whenever his army weakens, General Manuel Belgrano will shout those words which never fail to restore courage and spark anger. The general will ask his vacillating soldiers: Are the women of Cochabamba present?
One of the recurring themes in Faces & Masks is how European and North American capital impoverished the rich lands of the Americas—not only directly, by expropriating the lands and resources and enslaving millions and super-exploiting the nominally free labor force, but by imposing unfair trade measures that made the market economy anything but free and equal. Today's equivalent is NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which since its imposition in 1994 has devastated the Mexican economy and fueled massive migration of Mexicans to the U.S. forced by the collapse of agriculture and related industries; because of NAFTA, corn imported from the U.S. has driven Mexican-grown corn out of the market and deprived untold numbers of campesinos of their livelihoods. I learned from this book that NAFTA is only the latest expression of a two-century-long pattern of trade wars. Here's an example, and there are many others throughout the book.
1826: Buenos Aires—Rivadavia
On the crest of the River Plata ravines, above the muddy bank of the river, lies the port that usurps the wealth of the whole country. …

From the Thames flows the torrent of merchandise manufactured, to Argentine specifications, in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In Birmingham they imitate to the last detail the traditional copper boiler that heats water for maté, and they produce exact replicas of the wooden stirrups, bolas, and lassos used in this country. Workshops and textile mills in the provinces have scarcely a chance of resisting the assault. A single ship brings twenty thousand pairs of boots at bargain prices and a Liverpool poncho costs five times less than one from Catamarca.

Argentine banknotes are printed in London and the National Bank, with a majority of British shareholders, monopolizes their emission. …
Then there's this. I've written before about the wonderful essay "The Right to Be Lazy" by Paul Lafargue. I knew Lafargue was Karl Marx's son-in-law. I did not know he was Cuban, of African and Native heritage. Check it out:
1869: London—Lafargue
When Paul Lafargue began laying siege to Laura Marx, the founder of scientific socialism was finishing the correction of the first volume of Capital. Karl Marx took a dim view of the Cuban's ardent assaults, and told him to court his green-eyed daughter with quieter English manners. He also asked him for economic guarantees. Ousted from Germany, France, and Belgium, Marx has gone through hard times in London, devoured by debt, sometimes without a penny to buy a newspaper. The miseries of exile have killed three of his children.

But he cannot scare off Lafargue. He always knew he couldn't. Lafargue was very young when he and Marx began to fight and to love each other. And now Marx's first grandson is born of the Cuban mestizo, great-grandson of a Haitian mulatta and an Indian from Jamaica.
Finally, as the book closes at the start of the 20th century, Galeano brings onto the page the brothers Flores Magón—Jesús, Ricardo and Enrique. Actually, we were briefly introduced to them earlier, as children, when their father Teodoro Flores, a Native man whose every breath rebelled against all that the colonial invasion and occupation had done to his land, inculcated them with an egalitarian ethos, making them repeat day and night the principle "all belongs to all." Now they are grown, and actively rebelling, and will soon become leading lights of the Mexican revolution.
1900: Mexico City—The Flores Magón Brothers
…This is the day of Our Lady of the Angels, which in Mexico lasts for a week of balls; and on the margin of the violent joy of people, as if wishing to merit it, a new newspaper is born. It is called Regeneration. It inherits the enthusiasm and debts of The Democrat, closed down by the dictatorship [of Porfirio Diaz]. Jesús, Ricardo, and Enrique Flores Magón write it, publish it, and sell it.

The Flores Magón brothers grow with punishment. Since their father died, they have taken turns between jail, law studies, occasional small jobs, combative journalism, and stones-against-bullets street demonstrations.

All belongs to all, they had been told by their father, the Indian Teodoro Flores, that bony face now up among the stars. A thousand times he had told them: Repeat that!
All belongs to all!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shelve under: crime

There's a move afoot to encourage people to re-shelve George W. Bush's memoir when it hits bookstores tomorrow, November 9. The guy is, above all, a war criminal. He is directly responsible for the murders of over 100,000 people in Iraq and Afghanistan. He can also be fairly held accountable for thousands of deaths in New Orleans after the levees broke, based on his failure to order immediate effective emergency action to save lives. Go down the line--social service cutbacks, school and hospital closings, the destruction of affirmative action, bank bailouts, the foreclosure crisis, union busting, the war on women's reproductive choice and on LGBT rights--and you can tote up how every part of his record led to death and devastation. Of course, to varying extents you can say the same of every U.S. president, Democrat or Republican. But the special animus that so many hold against GWB is well earned, I'd say.

So tomorrow, go ahead and do it. If you can stomach even touching the thing, pick up his book. Saunter about the bookstore. Find yourself in the Crime section. Leave it there.

There's even a Facebook group promoting this mild bit of subversive rebranding. From its statement: "Be part of a literary movement. Literally. They did this to Tony Blair's book and I think we should do the same here. ... Make bookshops think twice about where they categorize our generation's greatest war criminals."

I must add that Bush had already established himself as a serial killer well before he moved into the White House. As governor of Texas he presided over 152 executions. That's more than any other governor in U.S. history. Texas is well known as the headquarters of the racist death penalty in this country, and for its outrageously unjust courts and abysmally inhuman prisons. Bush personifies the worst of this.

Go ahead, put him where he belongs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

93rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Sunday, November 7, is the 93rd anniversary of one of the greatest events in all of human history, the coming to power of the Russian Revolution led by V.I. Lenin. (Also known as the Glorious October Revolution, the actual date falls in November on the modern calendar.)  Read Red has been getting more and more visits from people in the countries of the former USSR and the former Soviet bloc--hello Romania! hi there Bulgaria! howdy Kazakhstan! and of course welcome welcome welcome my dear comrades in Russia, ever devoted as you are to overturning the counterrevolution that has led to such devastation in your country, devastation that includes increased infant mortality, lowered life expectancy, high unemployment, and above all a calamitous plunge in the conditions for the female including the horrific rise of the traffic in women and girls. I can't let this occasion pass without noting it and paying tribute to all that the peoples of Eastern Europe and Central Asia accomplished in the 73 years between the triumph of the Revolution and the U.S.-funded, CIA-engineered counterrevolution--all the strides made toward building democratic, equitable societies with decent living standards, and all the heroic sacrifices made in the battle to defeat fascism.

There is a fashion in the U.S. and Europe among those who style themselves as some sort of progressive and/or appropriate the label "socialist." This fashion, which definitely plays out in the literary arts, is to pretend to be for socialism but to reject and denounce anyone anywhere who actually fights for socialism in the living struggle, to tar any socialist movement that actually manages to take state power as faulty and not worthy of support or solidarity. Those who take this stance, and they are legion, the critics of Revolutionary Cuba, for example, the ridiculers of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the opponents of the FARC of Colombia or the PFLP of Palestine, are in my opinion piss-poor sorry shadows of what a revolutionary socialist should be, and they are objectively siding with imperialism. The comrades with whom I feel the closest political affinity take the opposite approach. We support any and every revolutionary socialist movement. We hail and stand in solidarity with any and every communist party in power. This is not because we have stars in our eyes. No movement or government appears to me to be perfect. But we don't place ourselves above the masses of workers and oppressed of any country as if we somehow have the right to be the arbiter of their worthiness or the correctness or incorrectness of their theory or revolutionary practice. We apply no litmus test. If you are fighting the capitalists and imperialists, we are with you, no matter the details of any disagreement we might have. It's as simple as that old coal strikers' song: which side are you on? Me, I'm with the working class and oppressed peoples.

And so it is with the Russian Revolution. Was it perfect? We all know it wasn't. Was it a huge step, a 73-year-long series of huge steps, toward building the kind of society we all want, the kind of society that the whole planet needs if it and we are to survive? It most certainly was.

That's why I'll be there with you in spirit, my sisters and brothers in Moscow who do not give up the fight, on Sunday, the 93rd anniversary of the Revolution, when you gather on Tver Street between Pushkin Square and B. Gnezdnikovsky Lane at 11:30 and march to a rally and concert at Theater Square. (Thanks to Fuck Yeah Marxism-Leninism for this info.) If I find any photos of the demonstration, I'll post them next week. Update: lots of photos, from both now and then, at my comrade Greg's site Fuck Yeah Marxism Leninism.

My solidarity with everyone trying to build socialism is also why I like this video. It's obviously sort of a promotional piece, propaganda on behalf of the DPRK. And that's great! I use the word propaganda here in its best non-pejorative sense, and I use it as someone who has written my fair share of propaganda over the years. It is the use of words and images to convey the message of our side and win over adherents and allies. In the case of North Korea, such pro-DPRK propaganda is badly needed, for in this country we're subjected to an endless barrage of anti-DPRK propaganda. Much of it is it amazingly crude and vapid, like the constant ridicule of Kim Jong-Il's haircut, of all inane things. Much of it is out and out lies, about famine and police state repression and so on--but since the United States maintains an illegal, murderous blockade against the DPRK that makes it almost impossible for U.S. residents to travel there and see the reality for themselves and also blocks any pro-DPRK material from reaching people here, this campaign of smears steamrolls ever forward. (See last week's New Yorker for an unbelievably long article filled with same.) So. Don't dismiss this (especially not the singing, for everyone I know who's been to the DPRK raves about how central singing is to the culture, how everyone sings together all the time and it is the most joyous communal expression of the human spirit)--don't dismiss this as a puff piece. Sure, its purpose is to counter the relentless wave of slander. Good! What's wrong with that? Keep this in mind: It is also a message from the descendants of the great revolutionary generation that, led by Kim Il Sung, rose up against poverty and oppression and nearly took back their country, against which revolution the U.S. invaded and slaughtered millions of Koreans. At the end of that war, the revolution had held on to the north but imperialism occupied the south--and does to this day, to the tune of some 30,000 occupying U.S. troops. Let's welcome, then, this message from the young generation of socialist Korea.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The art of colluding with reaction: Lost City Radio

That book I just read? You know, the one whose author is one of the 20 Under 40 recently celebrated by the New Yorker and whose recognition and success are offered up as proof of how U.S. publishing is becoming less narrow, more inclusive? That book set in Latin America, which is also a credit to the industry, in this case one of the big houses, Harper Collins, that they are finally taking a look at the rest of the world? The one with the beautiful writing and the subtle, complex consideration of the human stories behind the blood-and-conflict-filled news headlines?

I started that book, Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón, last week, and finished it earlier this week. My feelings about it changed from appreciation of fine writing and an openhearted hope about where this read would take me, to disappointment and feelings of betrayal as it took me deeper and deeper into the same muddy old bog. The empty heart of the anti-struggle liberal intelligentsia's favorite dogma: that the left and right are equally bad, their actions equally evil, that they equally harm average individual human beings haplessly caught in the crossfire. Fascism is equated with people's revolution. When the two sides clash, and especially when fascism wins as it does in the unnamed country where this novel is set—this fable whose moral after all is that fascism will always win, that there is no point to the struggle, and that revolutionary leaders are soul-less lovers of violence who care nothing about the masses and their misery—the inevitable result is shattered lives, lost love, loneliness hopelessness ruin wreckage.

As I read on, getting toward the end of the book where this slant became clearer and clearer, I started marking the passages that ticked me off. There are too many to include in this post. Here are two to give a flavor of the whole. This passage is about the young villagers recruited into the guerrilla force:
We'll take the capital, the commanders said, and the boys repeated it to Rey, and he could tell they believed it. Meanwhile, they practiced making bombs in the jungle. None had even the cloudiest sense of what the war was about, and none had ever asked. They were happy to be out of their homes. Once a month, they marched into some town to kill a priest or burn a flag fluttering above a police outpost.
Then there's this, in an internal monologue by one of the main characters, a sympathizer and sometime collaborator with the rebels who was once captured and horribly tortured by the fascist government yet who ultimately is presented as proof of the wrongheadedness and futility of the class struggle:
Consider the improbability of it: that the multiple complaints of a people could somehow coalesce and find expression in an act—in any act—of violence. What does a car bomb say about poverty, or the execution of a rural mayor explain about disenfranchisement? Yet Rey had been a party to this for nine years. The war had become, if it wasn't from the very beginning, an indecipherable text. The country had slipped, fallen into a nightmare, now horrifying, now comic, and in the city, there was only a sense of dismay at the inexplicability of it. Had it begun with a voided election? Or the murder of a popular senator? Who could remember now? They had all been student protesters, had felt the startling power of a mob, shouting as one chorus of voices—but that was years ago, and times had changed. No one still believed all that, did they?
OK, we get it already. Violence is bad. Any and all violence is equally bad and its perpetrators equally evil, or maybe, probably, those fighting the status quo are worse, more to blame, because if they'd just lay down their weapons the fascist state could stop slaughtering people and things might achieve at least a semblance of normalcy. Whooey—that's some slippery slope the author is skidding down. That's liberalism. Ostensibly opposing political reaction while objectively enabling its continuance by siding with the status quo as opposed to actual action in struggle against it. Liberal, too, is the depiction of revolutionary warfare as aimless random terrorism, of its soldiers as clueless ignorant delusional saps, of its activists and partisans as a misled misguided hypnotized mob. There is no place in this model for an honest depiction of guerrilla warfare as something other than crazed meaningless violence, or of the armies that successfully took power after strategically waged revolutionary wars based on profound popular support like those led by Fidel and Che, or Mao, or Ho Chi Minh, or Leon Trotsky; or those like the FMLN in El Salvador, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, the New People's Army of the Philippines, the fighters in Guatemala, in Puerto Rico, everywhere people have taken up arms against neocolonial repression. There is certainly and absolutely no acknowledgment of the U.S. role in the mass misery—deep poverty, lack of potable water, decent housing, education, health care—that is engendered by imperialism and upheld by the comprador bourgeoisie in these countries.

Have I said oy yet?

When I started reading Lost City Radio, I thought I was entering a thoughtful fictional treatment of recent history in Argentina and the Dirty War in which tens of thousands were disappeared by the fascists, or perhaps Chile where the Pinochet coup assassinated an elected president and also killed and disappeared tens of thousands, or Peru where the Fujimori government waged war against the Shining Path people's army, or Colombia where the FARC is up against government by death squad—in each case, again, the ever-increasing poverty and ever-worsening overall conditions of life caused by capitalism, by U.S. imperialism in particular—but no. I was entering instead that territory most beloved by literary commentators in this country, in thrall as they all are to bourgeois consciousness. It is called by various names. "Subtle." "Complex." "Humane." "Chaotic." It is a landscape devoid of political consciousness or artistic responsibility to the reality of the raging class struggle, substituting instead a cynical rejection of the possibility of revolutionary change. This default to support for the status quo is couched, swathed, smothered in beautiful writing, in lovely language conveying the pain and suffering of various characters. We are meant to feel these characters' individual pain and suffering as at once more important than the pain and suffering of the vast masses from whose numbers are drawn the ranks of revolutionary warriors, and at the same time as symptomatic, emblematic, of the rank wrongness of the revolutionary project. There is not one sentence's acknowledgment that all this pain and suffering is caused by a particular system and that it takes a struggle for revolutionary change to overturn that system and replace it with one that is just and equitable and might end the pain.

I've written before on this blog about a genre of U.S. fiction I think of as "the madness of the 60s" novels, books that portray the great struggles of that time as crazy and misguided and powered mostly by white middle-class youthful drugged self-centered idiots. I've also complained about that vastly populated category, the counter-revolutionary emigrant's tale, which most often takes the form of a screed against the Chinese or Cuban Revolution. This novel I just read falls in yet another category: the fictionalized polemic against revolutionary struggles in progress. All three types (and they're not the only three in the bourgeoisie's endless artistic arsenal) so starkly give the lie to the "literature shouldn't be political" cant chanted ceaselessly by the literary powers that be in this country that you'd think it'd be put to rest for once and for all. Or at least that they'd admit what they really mean is "literature must not be allied with the workers and oppressed."

I am sorry to say all this. I wanted to like this novel. But because it takes sides against the revolutionary struggles that are currently on the rise in Latin America, I couldn't. Once again, then, we who long for fiction that stands with the workers and oppressed and tells their true stories are left in the lurch. And here's the thing: those stories are out there. I never doubt this. Is there a great novelist in the Colombian jungles camping with the FARC? I know there is. Are there wondrous political poets locked in the stinking jails of Peru? No doubt. But theirs is not the work we get. What we get is this, and, as I write this, a month after the Nobel ascension of Mario Vargas Llosa, I know I shouldn't be surprised. The search continues, for the words of our side.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cop-out though it is ...

... and date me though using "cop-out" does, I'm going to go with what I've got. And what I've got is a hodge-podge. To whit:

I haven't read any of the books, but this piece about three Young Adult novels with trans teenaged characters is important. Although I haven't been blogging about it consistently, by no means have I dropped my interest in learning more about YA literature in general and in particular YA literature that features characters of color and/or LGBT characters. I've got several on my pile, and I've lately read several. When and if I've got something new or worthwhile to say about them I'll do so. In the meantime, these titles are added to my to-read list.

For 10 years or so I've been on an occasional drive to read "classics" that I'd never read. By classics I mean, yes, books considered central to "the canon" by the literary establishment, mostly Dead White Men stuff. I went to a hippie college in the early 1970s and was able to study what I wanted with few requirements, which is why I never read many of these volumes, and on through the years what I've read for my own pleasure has, as will be obvious to anyone who follows this blog or even looks at its name, not been the roster of DWMs. But for some time, a decade or more, I have been reading, or trying to read, some of them because it became frustrating reading book reviews or other literary commentary when so many of these make reference in one way or another to the "standards" and I couldn't fully get the reference. So. I've read a fair number of Shakespeare's plays. I tried reading Henry James until that proved almost fatal as the boredom damned near killed me. I finally read The Great Gatsby. And so on. All of which is my long-winded way of noting this news about another volume that, sorry all you book clubbers, I found impossible to read since I'm unable to read when I'm asleep.

This news is over a month old, but I'm still pissed off about it. I don't know why anyone should be surprised that there's a move to privatize the public libraries since the public education system is under the same attack. Good to see that there's some effort at fighting back.

A couple weeks ago I said I wanted to read a new book about the brain-cancer threat from cell phones. I'm happy to say that good science indicates there is no such threat. So that's one less book I've got to read.

I've got more. There's always more. Maybe later. For now, check out what looks like a great site, Poets for Living Waters, which describes itself as "a poetry action in response to the BP Gulf oil disaster of April 20, 2010." I'm not sure how I feel about that formulation "a poetry action." On the one hand, poetry is not the same as action, and action, mass militant united action on so many fronts, is desperately needed at this time of unemployment, murderous imperialist wars and invasions, and the ever-emboldened march of reaction (to which I simply must add a big Fuck You to Jon Stewart who's getting mighty rich off of fronting for the capitalist system's status quo as in his insipid speech at his anti-struggle Washington rally equating working-class organizing with neo-fascist mobs). On the other hand, I certainly do believe in, spend most of my words on this blog arguing for, partisan political poetry and fiction, which I think can aid the struggle in several ways. So it's always good to see these sorts of efforts to collect and promote it. I hope to spend some time reading the poems here. One I already have, and I commend you to it: "The Day We Added Ecocide to Our Vocabulary" by Andrew Rihn.