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Red Pepper Book Review: Turbulent Tome

By: James O'Nions
Red Pepper Magazine
Dec/Jan 2010

Since 2007, the Turbulence Collective has produced five issues of Turbulence: Ideas for Movement. It’s a newspaper-format journal of political theory, reflections on organising and debate that comes unmistakably from the recent anti-capitalist or alterglobalisation movement. Indeed, the first issue was produced specifically for the big mobilisation around the G8 summit in Heilingendamm, Germany in July 2007. It’s that issue of Turbulence that is reproduced in this book.

So why publish in book form something that was produced for a particular moment three years ago? There are undoubtedly some valuable articles here. The collective’s politics are the kind of ‘new anarchism’ that has enlivened the alterglobalisation movement – drawing strongly on autonomist Marxism, post-structuralism and the practice of the Zapatistas. Yet the articles don’t remain on a plane of complex theory but, in the main, relate this to concrete problems of organising. They range from a conversation between two union organisers in the US about the ‘Justice for Janitors’ organising model of the Service Employees International Union to analyses of the idea of a basic citizen’s income, solidarity economics and the intriguingly titled ‘politicising sadness.'

On the down side, the authors (both of this book and other issues of Turbulence) are largely based in the academy, which sometimes produces language that’s obscure to those not steeped in theory. This book also contains only one contribution by a woman, which is partly written to address the issue that she is the only woman contributor.

It’s possible to read most of this book online (www.turbulence.org.uk), though the interview with two of the editors at the end, which wasn’t in the original publication, is a worthwhile addition.

I did wonder why they didn’t put together a collection drawn from all five issues so far – after all, the theme running through this one is fairly loose. Nevertheless, the Turbulence project is a thoughtful and valuable contribution to the radical libertarian left and the practice of movement-building, of use to open-minded leftists across the spectrum.

James O’Nions is co-editor of Red Pepper.

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Arrested Development

The incredible shrinking legacy of a 1960s culture hero

Bookforum
By Kerry Howley
Dec/Jan 2011

Almost everything written about Paul Goodman refers to him as a "man of letters," a designation interesting only in that it indicates a terrific triumph of self-branding. Goodman very much enjoyed calling himself a man of letters, or sometimes an "old-fashioned man of letters," so stated with an air of declinist resignation, and could be counted on to complain if described as anything less. He produced essays with titles like "The Present Plight of a Man of Letters," the gist of which was that the plight was rather taxing, and that they don't make 'em like Paul Goodman anymore.

Perhaps they don't. Few today would call themselves playwright, poet, novelist, urban planner, media critic, classicist, activist, and primary-education expert, though it is Goodman's insistent sexuality that places him so singularly in the 1960s. Too disruptive to be long attached to any university or institution, Goodman is principally remembered as the author of Growing Up Absurd (1960) and as a cantankerous Jewish intellectual of the New Left. There was a time when he was everywhere, often as one among many in some literary salon, occasionally playing the role of leading man. On a 1966 episode of Firing Line, a deadpan Bill Buckley introduced Goodman as an "a bisexualist, a poverty cultist, an anarchist." Shrouded in ribbons of pipe smoke, ruffled like a runaway child, he objected—mildly—to "poverty cultist" before proceeding to argue for the abolition of public schools.

I saw that Firing Line bit in a trailer for a 2010 documentary called Paul Goodman Changed My Life, produced by Jonathan Lee and populated with reverent souls who feel he has been unjustly forgotten. The man did, after all, hang around plenty of people—Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Grace Paley—better served by historical memory. Susan Sontag called Goodman "our Sartre," though he was unfailingly rude to her, civility never having been his strong point. The anarchist Dwight Macdonald reports that at parties Goodman would scout the crowd for "young fans" and "bathe in their naïve adulation," while spurning the company of everyone his own age.

Gracious guest or otherwise, Goodman was someone you invited to your party, just as you sought his presence at your protest and asked him to speechify at your sit-in. To consort with the author of Growing Up Absurd was to suggest that you, too, were your own person, beholden to no convention, tied to no tired establishment consensus. Said to be the only book regularly quoted by UC Berkeley protesters during the free-speech movement, Growing Up Absurd inspired fierce gratitude in university students of the '60s, who took the attack on the "organized system" to be an intellectual defense of their rebellion. To the charge that disaffected youth simply needed better socialization, a fifty-year-old Goodman asked, "Socialization to what?" To ten hours a day with a sloganeering team of corporate puppets? To participation in the "world-wide demented enterprise" known as the American military? Having failed to justify their ways to young men, Goodman argued, grown-ups had cultivated the very anomie they so loudly lamented.

Students eventually turned on Goodman, perhaps because they made the mistake of actually reading, rather than simply quoting, Growing Up Absurd and found its normative view of a meaningful life unduly constrained. But what they initially saw, and quite rightly admired, was a man who refused to accept life's choices as they were given. Asked to choose between a war-addicted democratic establishment and Soviet Communism, Goodman chose anarchism. Asked to choose between men and women, he elected to marry twice—while continuing to proposition attractive young men. Asked to give a talk to the National Security Industrial Association in the State Department auditorium, a forum in which even most antiwar types might begin with some pretense of courtesy, Goodman chose to address his crowd as "you people":
You people are unfitted by your commitments, your experience, your customary methods, your recruitment, and your moral disposition. You are the military industrial of the United States, the most dangerous body of men at the present in the world, for you not only implement our disastrous policies but are an overwhelming lobby for them, and you expand and rigidify the wrong use of brains, resources, and labor so that change becomes difficult. Most likely the trends you represent will be interrupted by a shambles of riots, alienation, ecological catastrophes, wars, and revolutions, so that current long-range planning, including this conference, is irrelevant.

As a libertarian in unlibertarian times, Goodman feared war, bureaucracy, and what he called "acquiescence to the social machine." Process is a verb one comes across frequently in Goodman's writing. Governments process full-bodied humans into soldiers; corporations process them into personnel. Public schools process children into obedient cogs. Individual initiative, he believed, was nearly always wasted, and technocracy threatened to waste it ever more expeditiously in the service of the state. The town meeting championed by Thomas Jefferson and the kind of mutual exchange championed by Adam Smith were, in his view, beautiful instances of human flourishing, but both the market and the government had become so complex that individuals were lost, squandered, processed. Everything, Goodman was fond of saying, had sprawled beyond "human scale."

Goodman had a lot of ideas, dozens and dozens of books full of ideas, about how to reclaim human life from the haze of bureaucratic abstraction. Many of these verged on the crackpot—though when Goodman gave up prescribing and stuck merely to describing, he could articulate a clear-eyed vision of a life well lived. Somewhere he describes a decent community as one in which a crazy old lady can wander the neighborhood without fear of being put away, which is as good a description as I have read. He longed to replace process with emotion: more fistfights, more orgasms, more draft cards lit afire in a show of public rage. Most everyone, he thought, could benefit from more casual sex, especially adolescents, who suffered from "excessive stimulation and inadequate discharge."

In service of this point, he regularly seduced his male students and proudly admitted as much. He would, as the composer Ned Rorem tells it in the film, make "passes at literally everybody. I mean everybody—men and women and people's mothers and the president of the university." The essay "Being Queer" is, if anything, more subversive today than it was in 1969 when Goodman wrote it, declaring that the teacher-student relationship is inherently erotic in character and that anonymous sex is a healthy pursuit. "Although I wish I could have had my parties with less apprehension and more unhurriedly," he writes, "yet it has been an advantage to learn that the ends of docks, the backs of trucks, back alleys, behind the stairs, abandoned bunkers on the beach, and the washrooms of trains are all adequate samples of all the space there is. For both bad and good, homosexual life retains some of the alarm and excitement of childish sexuality. It is damaging for societies to check any spontaneous vitality. Sometimes it is necessary, but rarely; and certainly not homosexual acts which, so far as I have heard, have never done any harm to anybody."

The anarchist-friendly publisher PM Press has reissued a number of books authored by Goodman—an indiscretion that his fans have long feared. "Certainly," wrote critic Kingsley Widmer in his 1980 book on Goodman, "a complete collected works could only be an embarrassing exposure before entombing."

Either more or less kindly, Mailer compared "the literary experience of encountering Goodman's style" to "the journeys one undertook in the company of a laundry bag." Judging by New Reformation: Notes of a Neolithic Conservative (1970), Drawing the Line Once Again: Paul Goodman's Anarchist Writings, and The Paul Goodman Reader, plodding through Goodman is considerably less fun than that. When he comes across an interestingly subversive thought, he takes it prisoner, interrogates it endlessly, and tortures the joy out of its expression, leaving it so disfigured as to be unrecognizable to all but the most patient reader. Out of concern less for Goodman's reputation than for the future of American letters—bad prose is catching—I cannot recommend cracking a single spine from among these works, which include plodding, bafflingly structured essays, tin-eared poetry, and didactic plays. Better to read others on Goodman—rarely in history has such a long list of luminaries come together to apologize for a single body of work.

"Though he was not often graceful as a writer," Sontag observed in tribute, "his writing and his mind were touched with grace."

The opening essay in New Reformation takes as its subject the perversion of scientific discovery by government, for example in the Manhattan Project. By turns maddeningly vague and pointlessly specific, the piece begins with a dry description of some then-recent university protests, proceeds to the surprising observation that "for three hundred years, science and scientific technology had an unblemished and justified reputation as a wonderful adventure," identifies technology as a "branch of moral philosophy, not of science," and goes on to demand that technologists get into the business of telling people when to renounce their infatuation with technology, as with the overabundance of cars. Space exploration is encouraged ("It must be pursued"). "A complicated system," we learn, "works most efficiently if its parts readjust themselves decentrally"—though then again, "usually there is an advantage in a central clearinghouse of information about the gross total situation." All told, "the most efficient use of Big Science technology for the general health would be to have compulsory biennial check-ups"—though more tonsillitis cases, it is suggested, should be treated in the home. Also: "A question of immense importance for the immediate future is: Which functions should be automated or organized to use business machines, and which should not?" The remaining third of the essay draws a painful analogy to the Protestant Reformation, with tangential references to the "dissident young" and their inability to focus on "the underlying issues of modern times."

Goodman's most passionately held positions—his distrust of the "hidden government" composed of the CIA and FBI, his refusal to trust any party when it came to waging war or safeguarding civil liberties—have, in the abstract, held up very well. But in their execution, his arguments are strangely mimetic of his greatest anxiety—the dissolution of good will under conditions of unmanageable complexity, the ever-growing distance between good intentions and their consequences. The aforementioned essay wants to make a point about the simple romance of human discovery and the way sclerotic institutions pervert that romance. Instead of gently bringing life to the idea, Goodman lurches forward and processes the thought out of existence. He comes across a sun-burnished clementine, disappears into his office, and emerges with a lukewarm glass of SunnyD.

New Reformation
records Goodman's break with the student movement—he found college kids increasingly ignorant and ideologically brittle, and they found him excessively bourgeois. But the views he expresses in the book are little different from those he belabored a decade before in Growing Up Absurd. He was never so much supporting university students as psychologizing them, attempting to diagnose what he took to be their monstrous alienation from modern life. In various works, he describes Beat poetry as incompetent, On the Road as artless, and hipsters as the detritus of a civilization bereft of meaning. (If today's student population can learn anything from reading Goodman, it's that hipster-hating precedes them by many years.) In New Reformation, he refers to the students' music as "terribly loud."

Is this the Goodman who mattered? That he was never the genius some took him to be is obvious from a look at any one of these works. He was a guy who wore a lot of tweed, smoked a corncob pipe, and played the part of a serious man. His rumpled outline and earnest demeanor met with some notion of how a public intellectual ought to look, how he ought to behave, what dark soulful depths he ought to plumb while staring meaningfully into the distance. And for a number of people, several of them interviewed for the documentary, Goodman's thoughts converged with their own vague misgivings and validated their refusal to accept the world as it was given them. "I was living in a small Texas town," says a Goodman admirer named Jerl Surratt as he recalls his first encounter with the man's work. "And if I stayed in Texas it just wasn't going to work for me, I had to break away. Paul Goodman was someone who helped strengthen that resolve in me, that ambition." By the time Goodman died, Surratt was already in New York: "I'd read that there was going to be a memorial service. And to be sitting there with his family and people who had also known him intimately, who were men, was a very moving experience, and reinforced for me that I'd made the right decision. I was in a city where these things were possible. Where a life like this could be led."

The sentiment is not Surratt's alone. The most rewarding bit of Drawing the Line Once Again turns out to be editor Taylor Stoehr's introductory reminiscence. Stoehr relates how he found in Goodman a man who had found "another way to live," a man whose refusal to conform could shock a young mind back into its best instincts. Here was "an attitude toward life and the world" that got "into your own bones" and left you transformed. "As if in dialogue with Socrates," he writes, "you felt you were in touch with your own wisdom, like a kind of memory, for the very first time."

Socrates, you will recall, never wrote anything down, while Goodman, in lieu of electing a Plato from among his admirers, spent a lifetime anxiously asserting himself as a writer first and an eccentric second.

It is no small thing to have been so consistently contrary to the social and intellectual sweep of one's time. But if it is simply as a man of letters that we must remember Goodman, we won't remember him at all.

Kerry Howley is a senior editor of the literary magazine Defunct and an MFA candidate at the University of Iowa.

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When John Brown Won

By Scott Borchert
The Indypendent

November 17, 2010

Near the end of Terry Bisson’s utopian novel Fire on the Mountain, one character, Yasmin, receives a book of alternative history. Titled "John Brown’s Body," the story is as absurd as it is unsettling. The militant abolitionist Brown fails in his raid on Harpers Ferry and is captured and executed; after a brief civil war, the U.S. capitalist class unites, conquers much of the continent, and gradually asserts its influence over the entire planet. War, exploitation and oppression follow.

Yasmin’s daughter, Harriet, shivers and says, “That’s why I don’t like science fiction. It’s always junk like that. I’ll take the real world.”

After all, she knows better: Brown and his co-commander Harriet Tubman didn’t fail at Harpers Ferry in 1859 but successfully escaped into the Blue Ridge Mountains. There they launched the Army of the North Star, and night after night, their enormous bonfires could be seen raging high on the mountaintops, calling others to join the guerrilla war against slavery. And join they did — from enslaved Africans to white abolitionists, from Italian and Mexican republicans led by Giuseppe Garibaldi to English workers led by Karl Marx. What began as an anti-slavery struggle developed into a war for independence and Black self-determination, and, eventually, the land south of the Mason-Dixon line became a new nation, Nova Africa. Not long after, Nova Africa embarked on the road to socialism. And 100 years later, in Harriet’s “real world” of 1959, Nova Africa’s neighbor to the north, the U.S.S.A., has followed.

This is the premise of Bisson’s Fire on the Mountain, released in a new edition by PM Press. Al-though originally published 22 years ago in France as Nova Africa, it is a book that continues to provoke questions about how and why our world is the way it is — and how it might be different.

Bisson relates his alternate version of history through several perspectives: the written testimonial of a teenage slave who joins Brown and Tubman’s army; the letters of a white abolitionist doctor who is radicalized by the uprising; and a third-person narrative that follows Yasmin and Harriet in 1959 as they bring the aforementioned testimonial (written by their ancestor) to Harpers Ferry on the centennial of the raid. Such a structure suggests that history itself is better understood as a multiplicity of narratives, generated by the distinct but interwoven experiences of many people as they navigate the shared, fundamental contours of their world. Bisson’s technique allows us to glimpse these fundamental contours — slavery and capitalism, war and revolution, socialism and national liberation.

In his introduction, Mumia Abu-Jamal praises the vision of this novel as “one born in a revolutionary, and profoundly humanistic, consciousness.” Indeed, there is something revolutionary about re-imagining the past, turning history inside out and extracting visions of a different world. Fire on the Mountain does all of this in a way that is engaging and often inspiring — but this is no mere exercise in radical fantasizing. Rather, by considering what has been, and creating a narrative of what could have been, Bisson reminds us that what is yet to come remains unwritten.

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Hindsight and Tunnel Vision

By William Meyers
December 4, 2010

Teun Voeten: Tunnel People

Umbrage Gallery 

111 Front St., Ste. 208,
Brooklyn, NY

(212) 796-2707

Through Dec. 30

"Tunnel People" is a social documentary project, in the tradition of Jacob Riis's "How the Other Half Live" and Dorothea Lange's "American Exodus": It exposes us to people in straitened circumstances and advocates for their relief. Teun Voeten's tunnel runs under the esplanade in Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. Mr. Voeten, who studied anthropology and philosophy in the Netherlands, lived, worked and slept in the tunnel for five months in 1994. These 25 pictures were shot during that period and after the tunnel dwellers' eviction in 1996.

The primary function of a documentary photograph is to convey information. Mr. Voeten shows us the shadowy underground world his people live in, their proximity to the Amtrak trains that speed through the tunnel, their makeshift quarters, and the rubble that is everywhere. He also follows them as they collect the empty cans and bottles to redeem. There are pictures of them at the community agencies trying to integrate them back into society. Beauty is beside the point, but the shot of a distant subterranean figure caught in the light of a ventilation grating is quite striking, and the faces of many of these men are rendered memorably.

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Acquitted “Stoke Newingon Eight” anarchist life story to be told in film

By Emma Bartholomew
Hackney Gazette
21 November, 2010

Acquitted Stoke Newington Eight member, anarchist Stuart Christie, who tried to blow up Spanish dictator General Franco aged 17, talks to Emma Bartholomew about how he found last week’s political protests “reassuring” and a forthcoming autobiographical film.

Acquitted Stoke Newington Eight member, anarchist Stuart Christie, who tried to blow up Spanish dictator General Franco aged 17, talks to Emma Bartholomew about how he found last week’s political protests “reassuring” and a forthcoming autobiographical film.

The education riots at Tory HQ Millbank last Wednesday, for which 57 people have been arrested, has brought “direct action” politics to the forefront.

Christie himself was arrested in 1972, along with the “Stoke Newington Eight,” for having taken part in Britain’s first urban guerilla group The Angry Brigade - blamed for 25 bombings against the British Establishment.

Christie, who was acquitted of any involvement in the conspiracy, says he finds it “reassuring that people can still get angry about politics.”

“It shows that plus ça change - times change, but the focus points of protest and anger are still there, and when you push people hard enough and they are angry enough, they become frustrated and take direct action.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how that growing anger develops – and manifests itself,” said the 64-year old who now lives in Hastings on the south coast.
“Every generation finds its own way.”

In 1971-1972, The Angry Brigade targeted what the radical left regarded as symbols of capitalist repression - banks, embassies, the 1970 Miss World event, homes of Conservative MPs, corporations and government offices.

No one was killed, although one person was slightly injured - but the security breaches were a serious embarrassment to Edward Heath’s government.

After a lengthy investigation, on August 20 1971 a police squad raided the upstairs flat of 359 Amhurst Road, inhabited by four university “dropouts” - John Barker, Jim Greenfield, Hilary Creek and Anna Mendleson – and couldn’t believe their luck.

They allegedly found a small arsenal of weapons and explosives and a John Bull children’s printing set, which had been used to authenticate Angry Brigade press releases.

Police hid out in the house and arrested two more suspects the next day, activist Chris Bott and anarchist Stuart Christie.

In the following months, dozens of arrests were made, but only two people were linked to the six already arrested, art student Kate McLean, and telephonist Angela Weir, better known as Angela Mason OBE, director of the gay equality group Stonewall.

The group became known as the Stoke Newington Eight, and the longest trial in British history ensued, lasting over six months.

Barker, Mendleson and Creek, all younger than 24, chose to conduct their own defences, and the group succeeded in casting serious doubt on most police evidence against them - including the Amhurst Road arsenal, which they claimed was planted.

During their trial, protests were held asking for the release of the Stoke Newington Eight thousands of badges were sold saying, ‘I’m in the Angry Brigade.’

None of the defendants were ever convicted of planting explosives - but the four Amhurst Road’s residents received 10 year sentences for ‘conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property’.

In a review of a book about the Angry Brigade, John Barker since wrote, “In my case, the police framed a guilty man.”

A collective vow of silence was taken by those involved in the trial, still upheld this week by Christie, who would only describe the period as “interesting.”

The Glaswegian has certainly had a colorful life, and his life story is set to be told in a film next year.

In 1964 aged 17, he was arrested in Spain carrying explosives, on his way to assassinate General Franco.

“That’s what 17-year olds do, it’s when people tend to do radical things and become immersed in radical politics, when they have fire in their bellies and in their hearts - and at that time there seemed a different possibility,” he explained.

“The political scene was shaking, and it seemed as though it needed a final push, and it almost succeeded – but you win some and you lose some.

“It was an educational experience, and it stood me in enormous good stead in terms of learning about people and things, like that life wasn’t black and white,” he added.

In his autobiographical book, My Granny Made Me An Anarchist, Christie talks about his earliest influence, who inspired him with her “ideas of injustice and doing the right thing.”

The follow-up, General Franco Made Me A Terrorist, tells of the three and a half years he spent inside Spanish gaol, where he was trained in printing.

“It was a stupid thing for them to do because anarchists were always involved in printing, ever since the 19th century,” he said.

He continues his anarchist struggle through the written word nowadays, and he has his own publishing house, ChristieBooks.

“My main focus is on writing and publishing and educating, raising consciousness and awareness of a different perspective,” he said.

He was instrumental in getting Gordon Carr’s comprehensive account, The Angry Brigade - first published in 1975 - republished this year by PM Press.

Christie is sceptical society has seen any improvement since the Angry Brigade’s time: “Things are just the same as they ever were, there’s no change and basically there’s no final solution, there’s will always be something to struggle against.”

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Outspoken Authors Speakout Videos 2-5

Check out the panel discussion between Terry Bisson (Left Left Behind, Fire on the Mountain), Kim Stanley Robinson (The Lucky Strike) and Gary Phillips (The Underbelly, The Jook).

Below are parts 2-5 of the panel discussion held at CounterPULSE, October 13, 2010. 

 

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:




In and Out of Crisis in Alternate Routes

By Carlo Fanelli
Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research

In and Out of Crisis is a thought provoking, accessible and politically engaging contribution to debates on the origin, severity and historical significance of the so-called “Great Recession.” Furthermore, as the subtitle The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives suggests, Albo and authors provide an unapologetically socialist analysis of what to do about it. Albo, Gindin and Panitch remind the reader that the classical meaning of crisis is turning point, to which they ask: Has the crisis marked a turning point in the balance of class power and the organization of the state? Or can the political alliances and power structures that have dominated the last four decades be reconstituted in what so clearly has been a monumental crisis?

For the authors, the short answer to the first question is no and, for the second, yes. This book departs from the tendency of writers (both from the Left and Right) to view the current responses to crisis as somehow marking a return to Keynesianism, or in terms of states versus markets, finance versus industry. Instead, rather than lay emphasis on the economic determinations of the crisis, the authors seek to politicize and get at the social roots of the problem by moving beyond limited technical or policy solutions to capitalist crises by instead placing democratic and social rights at the centre of their analysis. As they state : “The interpretation in this book is quite distinct” (p.122).

Fortunately, the authors have preemptively summarized the outline of the book:

Chapter one explores whether or not we are currently witnessing the end of neoliberalism; chapter two engages in current debates regarding the nature of capitalist crises, and the relationship between the state, finance and production in a neoliberal era; chapter three traces the historical process through which, over a century punctuated by previous cries, the American State and finance developed in tandem, and came to play a new kind of imperial role at the centre of global capitalism; chapter four traces the development of the crisis that began in 2007 and explains the active role of the American state, both under Bush and Obama, in containing the crisis in ways that reproduced the structures of class inequality and power domestically and internationally; chapter five analyses how the relationship between industry and finance played itself out in the auto sector, bringing to the fore the full class dimensions of the crisis; chapter six reflects on the impasse of the North American labour movement and the implications for the North American Left; and Chapter seven tries to think creatively about alternatives, not least in terms of how advancing the case for democratic economic planning, including the nationalization of the banks and auto industry, must become integrated with demands for immediate reforms. (p.25)

If the reader does not have the time for chapters one through seven, chapter eight’s Ten Theses on the Crisis succinctly summarizes the gist of their arguments. For the purpose of this review, however, I would like to provide a glimpse of what makes In and Out of Crisis’ analysis distinct. Or, in other words, what are likely to be the major points of contention stemming from their investigation.

First, contrary to authors that claim that the New Deal was an attempt to impose greater ‘regulation’ or ‘controls’ upon capital, Albo et al argue that following the Great Depression of the 1930s, private banking institutions had been nurtured back to health in the post-war decades and then unleashed in the explosion of global innovations that have defined the neoliberal era. And that, despite the meltdown,  “[t]he conditions that kept neoliberal policies in play for so long have not been exhausted or undone by the crisis” (p.17).

Second, taking aim at a broad spectrum of liberal, Keynesian, Minskian and orthodox Marxist views that posit the end of the American Imperium, a return to greater 'regulation' or the stagnation tendencies of 'mature' capitalist economies (such as Robert Brenner and the Monthly Review School for instance), Albo and authors argue that, if anything, the crisis has reconfirmed the world’s dependence on the American state and financial system as capital everywhere ran to the safe haven of the US Treasury bond. As opposed to the end of American hegemony or the birth of a multi-polar world, the resolution of this international crisis has rested fundamentally on the actions of the US state in leading a more or less coordinated response, and in the process integrating the G20 members into the US’s informal empire in what has been an extraordinarily dynamic period of capitalism.

Third, Albo, Gindin and Panitch provide a unique examination of the relationship between states and markets, industry and finance and, therein, the class relations that underpin them. Rater than viewing ‘financialization’ as narrowly superstructural, parasitic or speculative, or as a result of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, they situate finance-led neoliberalism in historical terms in the sense that financial volatility actually becomes a developmental feature of neoliberalism that reinforces, rather than undermines the central position of financial interests in capitalist power structures. In their view, neoliberalism is understood as a  “particular form of class rule and state power that intensifies competitive imperatives for both firms and workers, increases dependence on the market in daily life and reinforces the dominant hierarchies of the world market, with the US at its apex” (p.28).

Fourth, the authors claim that a new historical project must be placed on the agenda. In order to do this, the Left must come to the bitter realization that the forms of protest, means of organizing and daily practices of activism, most visible in the anti-globalization movements and world social forums, just aren’t working anymore. This means soberly reflecting on the impasse of the North American labour movement, in addition to the successful “disorganization” (on the part of capital) of old working class institutions (labour parties, cooperatives, benefit societies) that has been central to neoliberalism and which threatens to become a historic class defeat.

Throughout the book, Albo et al raise the question as to whether or not the Left can develop the confidence to think as big and radical as 'they'—the ruling class—are doing in terms of both how workers see the future and what needs to be done to build the capacities to get there. “The way forward”, they argue, however, “is not to take one step first and another more radical step later, but to find ways of integrating both the immediate demands and the goal of systemic change into the building of new political capacities.” (p.114) As they remind us, "democracy is not just a form of government but a kind of society," which unavoidably remains fractional and incomplete within capitalism (p.128).

A few questions, however, may beg further unpacking. In light of the shifting composition of the working class and the role of women’s reproductive labour, how would the expansion of collective social services such as in health care and education, for instance, impact women’s paid and unpaid life experiences given their position in the labour market as a whole and concentration in specific sectors?

Given the legacy of defeats and setbacks over the period of neoliberalism, how may unions—many trapped in erstwhile social-democratic parties and the constraints of formal union structures—find some basis of unity that could help shape collective struggles in working-class communities and connect the linkages between the employed and unemployed, and those denied a chance to work? What kinds of fresh organizational structures and emergent forms of activism throughout North America and abroad carry potential?

On the whole, In and Out of Crisis is all but certain to have a broad appeal to researchers and academics, as well as students and lay persons alike. The era of neoliberalism—that is, capitalist militancy, is by no means over. In fact, it seems to be gaining new momentum the world over. Albo, Gindin and Panitch, in their short but no less provocative book, do much to not only shed light on what led to the enduring socio-economic and political uncertainty, but provide a much needed analysis on what may need to be done in order to avoid such relapses in the future.

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Pike's Peak an Interview with Benjamin Whitmer

By Jed Ayres
Hardboiled Wonderland

October 29, 2010


Benjamin Whitmer’s novel Pike is the most exciting, kick ass debut of the year. There, I said it, the book backs me up. Set in the harsh wilds of rural Kentucky, Ohio and on the streets of Cincinatti, Pike bristles with danger, menace, and mortal volatility. The bleak, rugged physical terrain mirrors the psychic and emotional interiors of each character who have been put through hells as diverse as the intentions that paved the way.

At the book’s opening, Douglas Pike is a hard bitten old-timer who grudgingly takes custody of the twelve year old granddaughter he’s never met on occasion of her mother’s death. The girl is as hesitant to go with him as he is to take her, but neither has many options in life. A bent cop named Derrick Kreiger murders a kid in broad daylight and incites a riot on the streets of Cincinatti. When he's suspended from the force, he goes on an end fastening mission that leaves more than a couple bodies in its wake.

The characters Whitmer assumes you'll love as much as he does do awful things. They have terrible lives and bloody comeuppance, but his skill and compassion as a writer wont let you dismiss them as irredeemable. The ferocity of this book is something special and signifies the arrival of a major new talent and voice in fiction. Put Whitmer's next one, whatever it may be, squarely at the top of my anticipation list.

With little fanfare, PM Press's Switchblade line has carved out a niche for finely crafted, hardcore crime fiction with a social awareness, and Pike ought to win them a lot of attention. Benjamin Whitmer, graciously gave his time to answer a few questions:

First off, I know it's a line in the book, but it's also the title of your blog and the name on your Twitter account - Can you explain the significance of the phrase 'Kick him, Honey'?

It's just a stupid joke with myself. It was the first of many laugh-out-loud lines I hit in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, and I think at one point I had some cockamamie plan to include it in every book I ever wrote. Y'know, to ensure thematic unity through my work.

Now I've just decided to kill a dog in every book instead. I hate dogs.

Reading your author bio, it sounds like you grew up looking at the world like it was wide open - still wild - and I'd say the characters in your book do as well. They treat societal laws as either ignorable irritants or hostile encroachments on their existence, how much of the author's worldview do they represent?

That’s a great question. Growing up, my mother definitely placed a premium on freedom. I had a lot of elbow room, and there was no censorship when it came to books or ideas. She also had very little interest in arbitrary societal norms – she’s probably the least judgmental person I’ve ever met. She’s an amazing woman, and those are the greatest gifts she gave me. But, of course, that freedom came with a cost. We were very poor, and there were chunks of my childhood where we didn’t have electricity or running water, let alone health insurance or any kind of financial safety net.

For all the talk that goes on in this country about freedom, there ain’t much to be had. There’s no aspect of our lives where we’re not subject to regulation and control, and, as everybody knows, we’ve got more people in prison than any country in the world, and most of them for victimless crimes. No matter how you look at it, when it comes to tangible freedom, the kind that allows us to live how we want to live, we’re one of the least free people around. That’s something my characters grate against, and I absolutely share that with them.

But then I think of before Colorado became a state, when it was pretty much a free-for-all for white settlers. And I think of when white Denverites were worked into a frenzy against the local Indians, and the First Regiment of Colorado Volunteers massacred hundreds of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapahoe camped along Sand Creek. And I remember how when they returned to Denver with scalped women’s genitalia stretched across their saddle pommels and Indian fetuses paraded on sticks, the whole town turned out to cheer them on. That’s a kind of freedom, too. And that tension about freedom is something that's been on my mind a lot. I tried to keep it in play throughout Pike.

So was Douglas Pike based on anyone in particular? Or Derrick for that matter?

Well, Pike was based on a few people, none of whom I should I probably name for pissing 'em off. But I did actually have a kind of model for both Pike and Derrick – somebody I could imagine when I came to a mental block.

In Pike's case it was Steve Earle, circa Transcendental Blues. Earle was just out of jail, and was looking big and burly and full of menace to prove himself. For Derrick it was Waylon Jennings back in his cocaine and speed days, around the time of Honky Tonk Heroes. Honky Tonk Heroes is one of the greatest country albums ever released, but you can tell it almost killed Jennings to make it. You look at pictures of him from that time and he’s drawn thin, strung out, at the absolute stretched-out end of reason.

Those were only a kind of body double for the characters, though, if you know what I mean. I didn't try to base the characters on them or anything. It was just a way of getting myself back on track when I needed to. I probably listened to those two albums, Transcendental Blues and Honky Tonk Heroes, three or four thousand times when I was writing Pike.

What importance did the geographical setting have?

All the importance in the world. I had the characters of Pike and Wendy in my head for years but I had no idea what to do with them until my wife and I moved to Cincinnati chasing a job. My daughter was born within a couple weeks of the move, and she had colic pretty bad. We were living in a tiny two-room apartment, and my daughter would cry for four or five hours at a clip, so when I was home from work I'd take her for walks – it was about the only thing that would calm her down – and let my poor exhausted wife get a little rest. We ended up walking all over the city at all times of day and night. Where we lived wasn't a real bad area, but we were bordering a lot of neighborhoods that were, so I'd throw a handgun in my diaper bag and we'd just roam for hours on end. It was then, walking around and looking at the city, that the story started to fall into place.

I always tell my daughter that she can't read Pike quite yet – she's only six – but that she's already been to all the locations. I don't think it's done her too much damage, anyway. She asks me for Cincinnati stories almost every night after storytime.

The beginning of the book places us secure in our sympathies with Pike and set firmly against Derrick, but by the end of the book, Pike's character and history challenge our loyalties to him while Derrick's revealed motives endear him a little bit. In your mind was one character clearly the sympathetic one?

No, not at all. I feel like I probably shouldn’t say this in polite company, but I love them both for exactly who they are. As I see it, that’s one of the differences between crime fiction and police procedurals, forensic whodunits, lone hero serials and all the other stuff (some of which I very much enjoy, for the record): with crime fiction, there don’t have to be good guys and bad guys. Instead, you can put motivation at the forefront and make crime a part of character, creating – at least in my mind – much richer, if maybe more disturbing, stories.

I know there are certainly times in my life when I haven’t been at my best. And I know plenty of people who managed to fuck themselves up real good and/or destroy the lives of those around them. But I’ve never met a single person who set out to do so. Every major fuck up I ever met was the product of poor circumstances, bad choices, and whatever flaws and damage they carried with them. I’m not sure you can pinpoint those bad choices or that damage, and in the case of fiction I don’t have much interest in trying – I’m not real interested in writing psychological whydunits, either – but it’s always there.

Those are the kind of people who interest me: heavily flawed, complicated, violent people, doing what they can with what little they have. Straight good guys and bad guys may exist, but I’ve never seen them outside of comic books. (And, come to think, most comic books are more complicated than that these days.)

Is Crime Writer, a tag you're happy to wear?

Yessir, no doubt about it. My next book actually won’t be a crime book; I’m co-writing Charlie Louvin’s autobiography for Igniter Books – which is about as exciting as it gets for me, being a hardcore country music fan. But after that I’ve got a second novel just about done, a third half done, and I’m researching for the fourth, and they’re all crime novels. They may be a little off center – at least I hope so – but they’re definitely crime novels.

Besides which, one thing I’ve learned over the past month is just how generous the crime fiction community is. I’d probably go broke if I tried to buy Keith Rawson and Brian Lindenmuth all the drinks I owe ‘em. Not to mention Switchblade editor Gary Phillips, who I just got to meet in person, and the rest of the folks at PM Press. And, of course, all the people who've been kind enough to contact me and give me their reaction to the book. I've been blown away, and there’s no way I’d want to jump ship.

And, not to be snide, and I hope it doesn’t come across that way, but if you set copies of the latest releases from, say, Jonathon Franzen and James Ellroy in front of me, I’m reading the Ellroy first. I may very well like the Franzen, I may even think it lives up to the reviews, but I’m reading the Ellroy first. I know that crime fiction’s one of the few places left in literature where we can still talk unironically about things like class, race, corruption, the meaning of violence, the consequences of history, and all the other stuff that moves me, so I’m reading the Ellroy first.

So, yeah, the crime writer tag is something I’m more than happy to wear. I’m very proud of it, and I just hope I live up to it.

How did you get hooked up with Louvin? And not to sound grim, but is there a rush to finish the book or a contingency plan in place if he doesn't see it to completion?

It was actually out of nowhere. Igniter Books is an imprint of HarperCollins run by Neil Strauss and Anthony Bozza, and they wanted to do a Charlie Louvin book, so Strauss contacted my agent and asked if he had any writers who’d be interested in the project. I, of course, jumped at the chance, and we sent Strauss and Bozza some excerpts from Pike. Long story short, they said lots of really nice things about the book, and the job was mine.

As to contingency plans, I don’t think there’ll be any need. Charlie and I have been working really hard and talking a lot, true, but he has more fight in him than I ever thought possible. I mean, it’s pancreatic cancer, so it’s a rough deal, but with the grace and strength he shows every day I have trouble believing he’s going anywhere soon. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but he’s pretty amazing.

Two of the characters in the book are a little pre-occupied with pedophilia - Wendy as a threat and Derrick as a flashpoint for violence - yet the closest thing to a healthy relationship described in Pike involves a grown man and an underaged girl. Care to unpack that a little?

I'm not sure I can, it's just kind of the way the story played out. One thing I would say is that I'm not sure that relationship is very healthy. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t read the book, but that grown man has his own past he’s trying to redeem. Redemption, at least as it gets presented in a lot of fiction, looks like a tremendously violent process. It’s almost like an act of consumption. I mean if you’re redeeming your own fuck ups through the figure of someone else, you’re basically devouring them into your own life story, right?

Certainly the relationship would still be a stumbling point from any reader's point of view, but in the context of the world of the book, of where the characters come from and what they've dealt with, it holds the unique position of not already having destroyed those involved. It seemed to me one more instance of these characters' disdain for the law - of society of the heart - whatever. And how about the law - Jack, the sheriff? What kind of sympathy or esteem do you as the author have for him?

Ah, I got you. Yeah, I think that’s right. Pike certainly thinks that if the relationship is helpful to the grown man and the girl than society has no place getting involved. And that makes sense. As a society we’re real good at shoveling people into prison, but we have no interest in taking care of kids who are abandoned, abused, or starvation-level poor. It just doesn’t come up in the national discourse, except in the breathless horseshit that runs out of 20/20, Oprah (there goes the book club), or whatever. When you’re down to that level, you survive any way you can, and I think Pike would find passing judgment to be hypocritical at best. Of course, Derrick, he’s not real good at nuance in this case – like most people, I suppose – but sometimes things are more complicated than they look from the outside.

As to Jack, the Sheriff, he’s made his own poor choices, I think. Like the rest of them, he kind of blundered into who he is, and now he’s paying for it. I found him sympathetic, for sure. He’s done the best he could with what he had, it's just that what he had turned out to be inadequate. Which, I guess, it usually is.

How did you become involved with PM Press and the Switchblade line?

It was just good timing, really. My agent had been sending Pike around for awhile, and we couldn’t get anyone to bite. We got lots of really nice rejection notes, but they all ended with “way too dark for us.” I have a friend, however, who knows Ramsey Kanaan, the founder of PM Press, and he knew they were looking for books in the vein of Pike. I passed the information on to my agent, he sent it the manuscript off to the folks over there, and they took it. I was really, really excited, of course, and more than a little relieved. I was starting to think it was going to end up collecting dust in the bottom drawer of my desk for the rest of my life.

How long was it between finishing the book and seeing it published?

It was a while. I think three and a half years, maybe a little more.

And in the meantime what kept you occupied?

Well, I’ve got two small children, so that means I’m pretty much always occupied. But I also just kept plugging away. I wrote a second novel, and accidentally got about halfway through a third, and then for the last couple of months it’s been all Charlie Louvin all the time. My career plan as a writer is to make up for my deficiencies of natural talent with pure tenacity. I just figured if I kept grinding away, sooner or later somebody’d want what I was writing. Or, if not, than no harm done, because it gave me something to do that was reasonably harmless – depending on who you ask, anyway – and which I love doing. Some people live for racing cars, some people for building guitars, some people for cooking, this is what keeps me together.

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Calling All Heroes on BiblioBuffet

By Nicki Leone
BiblioBuffet.com
October 31, 2010

It’s All About Who Has the Guns

"These were the mightiest men ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by them."
–Nestor, to the Achaeans, The Iliad, Book I
 
1968. Mention it and the words that come to mind are violent: Protest. Riot. Militants. War. Assassination. Revolution. In the United States it was the year of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King.  University campuses were disrupted by student rallies. The Civil Rights Movement was never civil. The Peace Movement, rarely peaceful.

Americans may be forgiven for thinking only of the troubles within their borders, but the unrest of 1968, the agitation, was worldwide. There were student protests against oppressive governments in Rome and Poland in the spring. In Berlin in April. Leeds University in England was brought to a standstill in May. May of ‘68 became the byword of student rebellion and wildcat strikes in Paris—what they called the Situationist International—a revolution of truly Parisian style, lead by avant-garde militants and using the arts to set up “experimental situations” (mostly of socialist design).

And, on October 2, 1968, just ten days before the Summer Olympics was to open in Mexico City, police forces shot into a crowd of students in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of the city, killings hundreds of people and effectively ending the rising revolts that had been orchestrated across more than seventy universities and preparatory schools in Mexico by an ad hoc organization of university students called The National Strike Council (Consejo Nacional de Huelga, or CNH). They were demonstrating against government interference in university autonomy—in effect, they were demonstrating for the right of freedom of expression, a right that had been ruthlessly curtailed as the government tried to prepare for the coming Olympics and tried to put on a good face for the rest of the world.

Student protests—like youth—have a way of flashing brightly and burning away to ash, but the CNH rebellion was better organized and more effective than the spontaneous rallies and riots that flared up in Rome, Berlin, or the campus of Columbia University, in New York City. The Beatles may have been singing about revolution, but the students at Vocational School #5 in Mexico City, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, or the Polytechnic Institute campus in Zacatenco were actually reaching for it.

The difference between a riot and a revolution, it turns out, is all in who has the guns. On the night of what is now called the Tlatelolco Massacre, over ten thousand people had gathered for a rally, hoping to bring their cause to the international community. (¡No queremos olimpiadas, queremos revolución! “We don’t want Olympic games, we want revolution!”). The protestors were surrounded by military forces—including armored cars and tanks. Snipers from the Presidential Guard shot into the crowd to give the military the excuse to fire, and panic ensued. Estimates of the number killed range from forty to over a thousand, with “several hundred” being the most commonly cited number. Most of the leaders of the CNH were arrested, the massacre itself was erased from official records,  and the student movement fell apart.

In the way that the Martin Luther King assassination or Kent State has marked most Americans, the Tlatelolco Massacre remains a pivotal moment in Mexican politics—a point of anguish for those left to contemplate the ruins of their “revolution.” Paco Ignatio Taibo II was one of these. “At the beginning of 1969,” he writes “Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, vulture on a throne of skulls, reigned in Mexico. The student movement, massacred in the Casco de Santo Tomas, in the Plaza de la Cuidadela, in Tlatelelco, at Military Camp Number one—overthrown politically because it was unable to ally itself with the worker movement in the major cities—was in disarray. Thus began the long ebb after a struggle of 123 days in which thousands of Mexicans had come to life as human beings.”

Taibo II, who had been in the ’68 movement, did what a leftist intellectual, political insurgent literary critic and poet would do. He tried to put it all into a novel. The revolution, the defeat, the despair: “In defeat, we could only take refuge inside ourselves and in a bleak militancy for the hope of future fulfillment of the dreams of those 123 days. Under these deplorable conditions, this shortest of novels was created.” Taibo II then writes that he put the manuscript away in a drawer, pulling it out three more times over the next dozen years to rewrite it completely.

The result, Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power, may still be the “shortest of novels” but it lives up to each of the implications in its title.  Although one can’t help but wonder if the embittered author who penned the first draft in 1969 would recognize the final product, published in Spanish in 1982, or the English translation I just read, which came out this year.

The book is about one of those failed revolutionaries, two years after all the hopes for the movement have been swept away with ruthless efficiency by that vulture on the throne of skulls. Néstor, the disillusioned revolutionary, has walked away from his political compatriots and taken up a career in what he calls “yellow journalism”—reporting on the trivially sensational rather than the truth. In that capacity, he runs afoul of a serial killer who, predictably, guts him and gets away. Néstor is left to recuperate in hospital with nothing to think about but past failures.

In a haze of depression and drugs, Néstor decides that the revolution failed because it had no heroes. When friends—equally failed revolutionaries—come to visit him and sneak him cigarettes, their talk is full of movies they’ve seen and the endless low-level corruption of the state. “I’m going to get everyone together and we’re going to kick their ass.” Néstor announces. Who? wonder his friends. The heroes, he says.

And once this is decided, the novel slides effortlessly into the kind of fantastic reality that seems so plausible in Latin American literature and so contrived almost anywhere else.  Néstor starts writing letters, (well, dictating them—he’s still too weak to write but not too weak to talk to a beautiful ex-girlfriend who brings him things) calling to action the great heroes of the age. And no, we are not talking about Lenin. His letters are to people at once more familiar and more strange. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. Dick Turpin, also known as “The Highwayman.” Sandokan, Prince of Borneo, and his Tigers of Malaysia. The Mau Mau cheiftans of Kenya. The entire Light Brigade. D’Artagnan along with Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Sherlock Holmes (but not Doctor Watson. No, for this occasion Holmes is requested to bring not the Doctor, but the Hound).

They all come, of course. For their own reasons, but they come. They are all heroes, after all. Men of action and steadfast heart. And Néstor from his hospital bed prepares to unleash all the fury of literature down upon the corrupt and unsuspecting forces of the government. (Holmes and the Hound get the job of assassinating the President).

Néstor does not call on his former comrades to come into the plan. They have had their chance, after all, and they failed. He also does not make detailed plans for a revolutionary government—that is part of what failed in the first place; everyone argued about the new regime before the revolution had even been fought, much less won. No, Néstor’s plans are more direct this time. Cause chaos. Make the vultures pay.

Remove the yoke, and let the people rise. “You had to trust in the spontaneity of the people," he thinks, (because if you didn’t believe in that, then what the hell could a veteran of ’68 believe in), and add to it the precision of clockwork, a few touches of humor, a dose of the absurd, and a lot of vengeance.”

It is a description that accurately describes the novel, which is told in short chapters that alternate between flashes of rising suspense and epistolary accounts after the fact. It may be a description that accurately describes how to take power. There is quite a lot of humor (the Mau Maus get lost), and quite a lot of vengeance. I confess I’ve never seen Sherlock Holmes in quite such a ruthless light. Néstor has given his side the guns, and put them in the hands of men not afraid to fire.

Whether or not the revolution is successful is for the reader to decide. It is certainly entertaining to read, and not without its many moments of absurdity, humor, and pathos. It was begun by men who tend to succeed in what they do (the vulture on the throne of skulls doesn’t have a chance). But its success is not measured in buildings stormed or police brigades slaughtered, however satisfying that feels. Success is in whether or not revolution is the fire in which people “come to life as human beings” -- and that is something each individual human being can only do for himself.

But I can’t argue with the author’s idea that literature is the best way to kindle that fire.

Books mentioned in this column:
Calling All Heroes: A Manual for Taking Power (a novel) by Paco Ignatio Taibo II, translated by Gregory Nipper (PM Press, 2010)

Nicki works for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, developing marketing and outreach programs for independent bookstores. She has been a book reviewer for several magazines, her local public radio station, and local television stations. She was one of the founders of The Cape Fear Crime Festival, and currently serves as President of the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network, and as Managing Editor of BiblioBuffet. Plus, she blogs at Will Read for Food.

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Pike: Best Book of the Year

By Charlie Stella
Temporary Knucksline

November 1, 2010

TK Special Review: The best book of the year … Pike, Benjamin Whitmer (PM Press)

 

It is rare, but there are times when a writer comes along who is so good one has to take special notice of him and his work. Recently I came across a few mentions about a book titled Pike by Benjamin Whitmer. Then I saw his Dancing with Myself interview over at Nigel’s joint, Sea Minor and thought he was interesting. I Googled for reviews of his book, Pike, and found this one in Spinetingler magazine.

Intrigued enough to make a purchase, I was fortunate to find the book on Kindle (although the formatting here wasn’t great—some run-in words, missing words, etc.). I had been reading Lermontov’s A Hero For Our Time (one of the kindle cheapies), but wasn’t enjoying it the way I had hoped. First chance I had, I gave Pike a look-see and found myself so engrossed with the story AND THE WRITING I hadn’t moved from where I was sitting (on the bench at the gym) and my legs went numb.

When I could focus on Pike again, I did so straight through to the end. Most of yous know how I feel about writing awards (across the board). While I’m glad for friends when they’re nominated and/or win, I don’t believe in any writing award (mostly because the sheer volume of books published in any given year precludes genuine vetting, but add the politics of the business to the scenario and what you're left with is ... well, it isn't legit). I’m afraid Pike will prove my point (since I seriously doubt the powers that be behind the politics of writing awards will give this wonderful book a fair shake). While Temporary Knucksline is no literary review or committee or anything other than a dopey blog (like all the other dopey blogs out there), it is going to award this novel the following: The best book of 2010 … hands fucking down.

Pike is more than a dark story about dark characters; it is the most impressive writing to come along in quite a while. Work like this belongs in English literature classes (certainly as required reading in any MFA coursework). For anyone into the darker slices of life, Pike will serve as a future template for crime writers exploring the real world.

Certain writers should be required reading in schools the way certain movies should be required viewing in schools (American History X, etc.). Pike is one of those books … the way Cormac McCarthy's works have etched their way into our literary Americana, so does Whitmer’s Pike belong there. This is superb writing, start to finish. Absolutely mesmerizing. This morning I reread Pike during my commute because it is really that good.

I’ll probably reread it again before the end of the week.

I never heard of PM Press or Benjamin Whitmer or Pike before bouncing around these dopey blogs we all write. If there was ever a good reason for them (these dopey blogs) books like Pike are it. This is more than highly recommended reading, amci. Reading this book is a Temporary Knucksline demand.

Hands down the best book I’ve read this year … I shit yous not.

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