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The Jook in The Denver Times

By Benjamin Whitmer
Denver Times

Jim Thompson, a writer who Gary Phillips greatly admires, once summed up crime fiction’s worldview with the line, “life is a bucket of shit with a barbed wire handle.” Nobody knows that like Zelmont Raines, the protagonist of The Jook. He’s got more problems than a dog has fleas, and most of them stem from his own heavily compromised character. Once an All-Pro NFL receiver, his career has gone directly south thanks to a bum hip and a statutory rape beef, of which he complains “all I got was a couple of blowjobs for all the goddamn trouble that handicapped chick cost me.” And then there’s the crack-cocaine, high-priced liquor, and predilection for the kind of women who inspire less than stellar life-choices. You get the picture.

If Zelmont Raines doesn’t sound entirely likeable, well, he’s not. As the novel opens with Raines trying out for a new Los Angeles football franchise, the Barons, it becomes immediately apparent that the only thing he’s interested in rehabilitating is his career. And when the Barons’ attorney, Wilma Wells, seduces him with a plan to heist a few million dollars from the Mafia-connected owner of the team, it hardly seems out of character for Raines to accept. He needs money, and if he can’t make it playing football, he’s not above exploring other options.

Raines’ first-person voice is one of the most compelling things about The Jook. It reads like something the aforementioned Jim Thompson and Donald Goines might have cooked up at the kitchen table after a night of cheap bourbon and black tar heroin. There’s no junk about redemption, just the refreshing amorality of Raines’ relentless hustle, with plenty of high violence and low sex as he barrels towards a conclusion that seems all but inevitable.

Gary Phillips is known by crime fiction aficionados as a master the form, and reading The Jook it’s easy to see why. The dialogue crackles, the tone’s pitch-perfect, and the prose rolls along with the kind of effortless cool that only comes with monstrous effort, not to mention an equal portion of talent. Phillips also has a delightful sense of play, an all-too-rare commodity in the genre. When introduced to the shady proprietor of a specialized rehab services agency named Burroughs, any fan of William S. Burroughs – junky, pederast and beat writer – are going to have trouble not swallowing their own tongue in delight. Especially when Phillips describes “his boat end of a face yellow colored from whatever narcotics he was currently popping.”

Phillips also captures the spirit of Los Angeles in a way that very few but Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy have even attempted. Which is no surprise. At a time when the majority of crime fiction authors seem to be former television writers, Phillips has learned the city from the ground up, working with gangs and pounding the streets as a community activist and union organizer. It’s a career path that has served him well as a crime writer. Even set in the glossy world of high-priced athletes, the Los Angeles that comes through is as destroyed and degenerate as Raines’ football career, making The Jook a down-and-dirty crime fiction marvel.

Buy book now | Download eBooks now | Back to Gary Phillips's Page




Dr. Michael Eades Reviews Vegetarian Myth

By Michael R. Eades, M.D.
www.proteinpower.com

Before I get into a discussion of the absolutely phenomenal book you see pictured at the right, I’ve got a few disclosures to make.  First, I’m not much of a believer in the notion of man-made global warming or climate change (as they now call it since temperatures have been constantly falling instead of rising).

Second, I’m not particularly pro-feminist.  And I certainly don’t hang around with any self-proclaimed radical feminists.  I have a wife who is smarter than I am, who is more talented than I am, and who, pound for pound, is probably a better athlete than I am, and I’m not bad. (In my defense, I can read much, much faster than she, but, she has better comprehension.) I long ago gave up the idea (if I ever really considered it seriously) that men are superior to women in any ways other than brute strength.  Having said that, however, I do believe that men are better suited to certain endeavors than woman and vice verse, but that doesn’t mean either men or women should be denied the opportunity to give whatever it is they want to do a whirl just because of their sex.  I guess I consider myself an egalitarian.  But from what I’ve seen of radical feminists, I’m not sure that I would count myself a big fan.

Given the above, you wouldn’t think I would enjoy and recommend a book written by a self-proclaimed radical feminist who is obviously a believer in global warming and the impending end of the earth as we know it.  I wouldn’t think so, either. Not my cup of tea even when it is sort of preaching to the choir.

But I can tell you that Lierre Keith’s book is beyond fantastic.  It is easily the best book I’ve read since Mistakes Were Made, maybe even better.  Everyone should read this book, vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.  If you’re a radical feminist, you should read this book; if you’re a male chauvinist, you should read this book; if you have children, especially female children, you should read this book; if you are a young woman (or man) you should read this book; if you love animals, you should read this book; if you hate vegetarians, you should read this book; if you are contemplating the vegetarian way of life, you should definitely read this book; if you have a vegetarian friend or family member, you should this book and so should your friend.  As MD said after she read it, “everyone who eats should read this book.”

Anyone who has ever read a book on writing has come across the hackneyed piece of advice to cut open a vein and bleed on the page.  Lierre Keith, the author of this book, has come closer to literally doing that than almost any writer I’ve ever read.  Not only does her passion for her subject bleed through in almost every sentence, she is a superb lyrical prose stylist.  My book is dog eared, underlined and annotated from front to back – I can’t remember anything I’ve read that has contained so many terrific lines.

In fact The Vegetarian Myth is filled with so many good quotes (most by the author but some from other authors) that I was reminded of the old joke about the redneck who went to see a performance of Hamlet.  When the show let out, someone asked him what he thought of it.  Replied he:  It wasn’t nothin’ but a whole bunch of quotes all strung together.  As you’ll see when I ‘quote’ them below, The Vegetarian Myth contains quotable lines and paragraphs at about the same rate Hamlet does.

Ms. Keith was a practicing vegetarian (vegan) for twenty years, driven by her passion for kindness and justice for all creatures.  She couldn’t bear the thought of even killing a garden slug, or, for that matter, even removing a garden slug from her garden to a place where something or someone else might kill it.  Her years of compassionate avoidance of any foods of animal origin cost her her health.  Her story of coming to grips with the realization that whatever she ate came as a consequence of some living being’s having to die form the matrix onto which her narrative hangs.

You can read the first 14 manuscript pages of the book on the author’s website.  I have quoted from these 14 pages liberally below.

The introduction to The Vegetarian Myth explores Ms. Keith’s rationale for writing such a book, a book that, given her years of walking the vegetarian walk, must have been incredibly difficult to write.  She says as much with her first sentence.

She ponders the idea of factory farming, which she loathes, and the misbegotten idea that most people hold (not most readers of this blog, but most of the people in the world) that grains are good, not only for people, but for many animals as well.  And the common misconception that agriculture, the growing of annual grains and plants, is a wonderful, kind, sustainable activity.

This misunderstanding is born of ignorance, an ignorance that runs the length and breadth of the vegetarian myth, through the nature of agriculture and ending in the nature of life. We are urban industrialists, and we don’t know the origins of our food. This includes vegetarians, despite their claims to the truth. It included me, too, for twenty years. Anyone who ate meat was in denial; only I had faced the facts. Certainly, most people who consume factory-farmed meat have never asked what died and how it died. But frankly, neither have most vegetarians.

The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems. The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

I want a full accounting, an accounting that goes way beyond what’s dead on your plate. I’m asking about everything that died in the process, everything that was killed to get that food onto your plate. That’s the more radical question, and it’s the only question that will produce the truth. How many rivers were dammed and drained, how many prairies plowed and forests pulled down, how much topsoil turned to dust and blown into ghosts? I want to know about all the species—not just the individuals, but the entire species—the chinook, the bison, the grasshopper sparrows, the grey wolves. And I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back.

After she had seen the error of her ways as a vegan and had been eating meat for two years, for reasons unknown to her, the author continued to surf the same vegan websites and message boards she had for years.  Until she read one post that was so bizarre that she finally realized the large intellectual gap that had widened between her rationale thinking and the cult like thinking of, well, a cult.  It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

But one post marked a turning point. A vegan flushed out his idea to keep animals from being killed—not by humans, but by other animals. Someone should build a fence down the middle of the Serengeti, and divide the predators from the prey. Killing is wrong and no animals should ever have to die, so the big cats and wild canines would go on one side, while the wildebeests and zebras would live on the other. He knew the carnivores would be okay because they didn’t need to be carnivores. That was a lie the meat industry told. He’d seen his dog eat grass: therefore, dogs could live on grass.

No one objected. In fact, others chimed in. My cat eats grass, too, one woman added, all enthusiasm. So does mine! someone else posted. Everyone agreed that fencing was the solution to animal death.

Note well that the site for this liberatory project was Africa. No one mentioned the North American prairie, where carnivores and ruminants alike have been extirpated for the  annual grains that vegetarians embrace. But I’ll return to that in Chapter 3.

I knew enough to know that this was insane. But no one else on the message board could see anything wrong with the scheme. So, on the theory that many readers lack the knowledge to judge this plan, I’m going to walk you through this.

Carnivores cannot survive on cellulose. They may on occasion eat grass, but they use it medicinally, usually as a purgative to clear their digestive tracts of parasites. Ruminants, on the other hand, have evolved to eat grass. They have a rumen (hence, ruminant), the first in a series of multiple stomachs that acts as a fermentative vat. What’s actually happening inside a cow or a zebra is that bacteria eat the grass, and the animals eat the bacteria.

Lions and hyenas and humans don’t have a ruminant’s digestive system. Literally from our teeth to our rectums we are designed for meat. We have no mechanism to digest cellulose.

So on the carnivore side of the fence, starvation will take every animal. Some will last longer than others, and those some will end their days as cannibals. The scavengers will have a Fat Tuesday party, but when the bones are picked clean, they’ll starve as well. The graveyard won’t end there. Without grazers to eat the grass, the land will eventually turn to desert.

Why? Because without grazers to literally level the playing field, the perennial plants mature, and shade out the basal growth point at the plant’s base. In a brittle environment like the Serengeti, decay is mostly physical (weathering) and chemical (oxidative), not bacterial and biological as in a moist environment. In fact, the ruminants take over most of the biological functions of soil by digesting the cellulose and returning the nutrients, once again available, in the form of urine and feces.

But without ruminants, the plant matter will pile up, reducing growth, and begin killing the plants. The bare earth is now exposed to wind, sun, and rain, the minerals leech away, and the soil structure is destroyed. In our attempt to save animals, we’ve killed everything.

On the ruminant side of the fence, the wildebeests and friends will reproduce as effectively as ever. But without the check of predators, there will quickly be more grazers than grass. The animals will outstrip their food source, eat the plants down to the ground, and then starve to death, leaving behind a seriously degraded landscape.

The lesson here is obvious, though it is profound enough to inspire a religion: we need to be eaten as much as we need to eat. The grazers need their daily cellulose, but the grass also needs the animals. It needs the manure, with its nitrogen, minerals, and bacteria; it needs the mechanical check of grazing activity; and it needs the resources stored in animal bodies and freed up by degraders when animals die.

The grass and the grazers need each other as much as predators and prey. These are not one-way relationships, not arrangements of dominance and subordination. We aren’t exploiting each other by eating. We are only taking turns.

That was my last visit to the vegan message boards. I realized then that people so deeply ignorant of the nature of life, with its mineral cycle and carbon trade, its balance points around an ancient circle of producers, consumers, and degraders, weren’t going to be able to guide me or, indeed, make any useful decisions about sustainable human culture. By turning from adult knowledge, the knowledge that death is embedded in every creature’s sustenance, from bacteria to grizzly bears, they would never be able to feed the emotional and spiritual hunger that ached in me from accepting that knowledge. Maybe in the end this book is an attempt to soothe that ache myself.

How anyone who can read these 14 pages and not purchase and read this book is beyond me.

After the introduction which deals with why the author wrote the book, The Vegetarian Myth is divided into four sections: Moral Vegetarians, Political Vegetarians, Nutritional Vegetarians, and To Save the World.

The first three of these sections are the author’s in-depth refutations of the moral, political and nutritional arguments that vegetarians are constantly putting forth.  She does a masterful job.

In the Moral Vegetarians chapter, the author addresses the moral issue of killing animals for our own food.  She beautifully makes her case by cutting to the heart of the matter:

What separates me from vegetarians isn’t ethics or commitment.  It’s information.

And while she was in her 20-year trek in the vegetarian wilderness, she shielded herself from information as most cultists do:

I was on the side of righteousness, and like any fundamentalist, I could only stay there by avoiding information.

She finally realized the truth about agriculture; she figured out that the amber waves of grain are as death dealing as any slaughterhouse.

And agriculture isn’t quite a war because the forests and wetlands and prairies, the rain, the soil, the air, can’t fight back.  Agriculture is really more like ethnic cleansing, wiping out the indigenous dwellers so the invaders can take the land.  It’s biotic cleansing, biocide. … It is not non-violent.  It is not sustainable.  And every bite of food is laden with death.

There is no place left for the buffalo to roam.  There’s only corn, wheat, and soy.  About the only animals that escaped the biotic cleansing of the agriculturalists are small animals like mice and rabbits, and billions of them are killed by the harvesting equipment every year.  Unless you’re out there with a scythe, don’t forget to add them to the death toll of your vegetarian meal.  They count, and they died for your dinner…

Soil, species, rivers.  That’s the death in your food.  Agriculture is carnivorous: what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole.

In Political Vegetarians she refutes the politics (predominantly liberal) of the vegetarian movement and describes the dark side of political meddling in our ecosystem approved of in the main by PETA and other vegetarian groups.  She follows the money.

Rice, wheat, corn – the annual grains that vegetarians want the world to eat – are thirsty enough to drink whole rivers.

The result has been an unending river of corn, drowning our arteries and our insulin receptors, our rural communities, and poor subsistence economies the world over.  The corn comes at a huge environmental toll: there’s a half gallon of oil in every bushel.  And it’s essentially a massive transfer of money from the US taxpayer to the giant grain cartels, who are able to command the price of grain to be lower than the cost of production, with all of us making up the difference – five billion dollars in subsidies for corn alone, straight into the pockets of Cargill and Monsanto.

Nutritional Vegetarians is about the nutritional inadequacies of a vegetarian and especially a vegan diet.  And she does an absolute bang up job of laying out the rationale for following a no-grain, low-carb diet.

I have a disclosure to make here.  Much of the information in this chapter is based on Protein Power and The Protein Power LifePlan.  MD and I are listed in the acknowledgments, but I swear I didn’t know this until I bought the book.  We aren’t the only ones, but there are plenty of quotes from us in this chapter.  Gary Taubes, Malcolm Kendrick and (dare I say it) Anthony Colpo are quoted liberally as well.  I would have loved this book just as much if we had never been quoted.

Ms Keith has made a few minor innocuous errors in this chapter, but, all in all, she has done a tremendous job of synthesizing the scientific information into an easy to read, informative format.

The Nutritional Vegetarians section isn’t just about the science of why vegetarianism is bad and meat eating is good, it gets into the nutritional politics (as opposed to the vegetarian politics in the previous section) as well.  Ms Keith shows how we got to where we are by the nutritional strong arming by the McGovern committee back in the late 1970s.  George McGovern (a senator from a grain-producing state) and his cronies basically set the nutritional standards under which we are still oppressed.  They have been a disaster, as some scientists at the time predicted they would be.

And some scientists knew ahead of time that they would be.  Phil Handler, the president of hte National Academy of Scientists asked Congress, “What right has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence that it will do them any good?”  Dr. Pete Ahrens, an expert on cholesterol metabolism, told the McGovern committee that the effects of a low-fat diet weren’t a scientific matter but “a betting matter.”

It’s twenty-five years later and we aren’t winning this bet.  Each US American now eats sixty pounds more grain per annum and thirty pounds more cheap sugars, mostly from corn.  [Is it any wonder we're all fat?]

The result, Dietary Goals for Americans, set in motion a cast sea change in the public’s beliefs and behaviors. … Dietary Goals was a predictable victory in a war that started ten thousand years ago.  What really won were those annual grasses that had long since turned humans into mercenaries against the rest of the planet.  We would now enshrine them like demi-gods, those whole grains and their sweet, opiate seductions, believing in their power to bestow health and long life, even while they slowly ate us alive.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book review that was positive from beginning to end, and this one is no exception.  Based on the many comments I’ve gotten on this blog and my response to them, I’m sure many of you will find my main objection surprising.  There is too much politics in the book.  Not nutritional politics, but feminist politics.

I know, I know, I let my libertarian leanings come through in all kinds of blog posts and comment answers, but there is a difference.  My blog is just that – a weblog of things I find interesting or informative.  And it’s free.  I don’t particularly like to pay for a book (and I paid full price for this one plus shipping) on a given subject then be beaten over the head with a political viewpoint.  I guarantee you that our new book has zero politics in it.  And if people bought our book expecting to learn about getting rid of their middle-aged middles and were fed a generous dose of my politics mixed in with the information, I would expect them to be flamed.

To give the author her due in this matter, the vegetarian ideology that had her in its grasp for 20 years was intertwined with her feminist politics, so a bit of said politics are necessary to describe how she was so taken in for so long.  But I think she went a little overboard with it.

And, I think the last section of the book – To Save the World – is the weakest part of the book.  The author makes several recommendations, all of which (save one) are, in my opinion totally unrealistic.  But I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions after you’ve read the book.

I’ve read that when people are asked to recall what they remember of something they read, they tend to remember the first thing in the piece and the last thing.  Most of the middle melds into a vague memory of what the article was about.  I certainly don’t want people to remember this last negative part I wrote and let it dissuade them from reading this book.  The good parts of the book so far outweigh the not-so-good parts that there is really no contest.

At a time when PETA and other vegetarian groups are mobilizing and ramping up their activity levels, a book such as this one bringing sanity to the debate is more important than ever.  And don’t think these groups aren’t becoming more active.  In the past, PETA and PETAphiles pretty much devoted their educational efforts toward the idea that eating animals was cruel.  Now they are starting to make the case that a vegetarian diet will solve the obesity epidemic.  Take a look at this billboard in Jacksonville, Florida.

If you find this sign annoying, buy The Vegetarian Myth and do your part to fight back. And if you have or know anyone with a daughter who is contemplating going vegetarian (young females are the most common victims), please make this book available.  It could be the most important thing you ever do for the long-term mental and physical health of a young woman.

If you’ve made it this far in this long review, take a couple of minutes and watch this YouTube of Lierre Keith at a book event; she’s as fascinating to listen to as she is to read.

Buy book now | Download PDF now




Vegetarian Myth in Feminist Review

By Olupero R. Aiyenimelo
Feminist Review

When I initially saw the title of this book, my inner scale wanted to weigh its contents against my fifteen year decision to exclude eating anything that had parents. I also presumed the author was one of those pork slinging individuals who just couldn’t cut it as a vegetarian. The good thing about getting older, though, is the wisdom I have acquired in remaining open. Lierre Keith discusses three reasons—moral, political, and nutritional—why most vegetarians choose to adopt a meatless diet, and the misconceived notions that often accompany those reasons.

What stood out to me is Keith’s discussion of agriculture and its effects on land, society, animals, and the relationship between all three. The land that is used to cultivate all those vegetables that vegetarians feel so ethically euphoric about consuming must be cleaned and cleared of every single piece of lint in order to be successful in producing a single plant. Consequently, the animals and microfauna (bacteria, fungi, and yeasts) that symbiotically thrived off that land are forced into their demise, with the bison serving as an example. Keith states that the sixty to 100 million bison that existed in the U.S. in 1491 have been reduced to 350,000 in number today. Also, only 10,000 wolves now remain where there were once between 425,000 and a million. Once this relationship is forced to call it quits, the land that would normally nourish and replenish itself is now barren until another piece of land is taken over, or until fertilizer is used.

With political vegetarianism, Keith uses the symbiotic relationship of the many companies that are seen as profit-fueled while also holding a financial interest in those meat-free, so-called environmentally-friendly products we so proudly consume. Basically, that soymilk we may drink out of protest against Coca-Cola is owned by the same company that holds shares in that red can.

In the section on nutritional vegetarianism, of which I took particular interest, Keith explains the physiology involved in consuming a low-saturated fat, high carbohydrate, and high grain diet. She also gives a personal account of how this diet affected her own body resulting in fourteen years of sickness, nausea, and bloating. Not only in vegetarianism, but also in the diet many Americans have been scared into adopting, the above-mentioned way of eating is being attributed to cardiovascular disease. Some of the diseases Keith states are attributed to the “diseases of civilization” are arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

What I thought would be a book filled with disgruntled accounts of a has-been vegetarian justifying the excuse to pig out on double cheeseburgers again, was actually a well-researched, statistically sound book that deals with truths from both a personal aspect and a social one. Keith, although opinionated in some places, still allows the reader to consider both sides of the vegetarian argument from three perspectives. For those who insist on one way versus another, The Vegetarian Myth presents us with enough information to wisely weigh whatever we choose to put on our plates.

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Back to the Kitchen:

The founder of Bitch magazine brings her feminist sensibility to a new cookbook
By Rachel Swan
East Bay Express

In 1996 Lisa Jervis became an It Girl in the publishing world, after she and Andi Zeisler co-founded the hip quarterly magazine Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Jervis, who graduated from Oberlin College in 1994 with degrees in English and creative writing, had a fresh, imaginative style that outstripped her more doctrinaire peers. She and Zeisler were omnivorous consumers of media: They could provide knowledgeable critiques of reality TV, pop music, and fashion trends because they loved most of the stuff they talked about. Moreover, they were feminine feminists who liked to knit, bake, and read Jane Austen novels in their spare time. They made it seem okay to champion women's empowerment without going to Andrea Dworkin-ish extremes. (No surprise that Bitch received a steady stream of fan mail from straight guys who'd picked up their girlfriends' magazines — I know because I interned at the magazine in 2003.) Even after resigning from her post in 2006, Jervis remained somewhat iconic, known for writing incisively (and wittily) about sex, politics, single girlhood and media representations of women. (She used to publish a blog called "Delightfully Cranky.") But for her first single-author book — recently released on PM Press — Jervis took a surprising turn: She published a cooking manual.

Or, to put it more accurately, Jervis published a "manualfesto." Her new book, Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating, helps direct the journeyman cook toward what she calls "light footprint eating" (i.e., food that wastes as few resources as possible). Inspired, in part, by journalists of the Michael Pollan and Raj Patel strain, Jervis opens with a chatty essay about the industrialized food system and what it means to eat "healthy" (in a nutshell: eliminate processed food from your grocery list). All of her recipes are vegan (but for a couple of cheese suggestions). Jervis includes two meticulous chapters on proper kitchen assembly, with lists of appliances to purchase and spices to stock. A self-confessed kitchenware fetishist, she divides her equipment up by importance: Knives are worth making the trip to a specialty store, she says; a rice cooker is expensive "but seriously worth it"; microwave ovens are cumbersome and ultimately pretty useless.

Cook Food is a lean book, containing twenty recipes and a lot of asides. Jervis writes about cooking the same way she writes about sex: Her tone is conversational and disarming; she pals around with her reader and uses an evocative, second-person form of address. ("If any of these items are unfamiliar or confusing to you, a Google image search should clarify things better than any description I could give," she wrote in a chapter called "What You Need in Your Cabinets and on Your Pot Rack.") Petite, freckled, and tattooed, she's a born advice columnist, capable of licking any hack chef into shape. She dispenses instructions on organizing your cabinets and spice rack, sautéing onions, stemming greens, and the importance of salting early. She's the officious friend who walks into your kitchen, takes stock of your seasonings, and shakes her head when she peeps in your refrigerator, then takes it upon herself to overhaul your whole setup. Occasionally, she'll apologize for micromanaging and tell you to go ahead and do it your way — that is, if you want to.

Definitely a foodie, if not a chef de haute cuisine, Jervis represents the next wave of self-made chef personalities. (Michael Pollan called them "the children of Julia" in a recent Fresh Air interview). She's coming out at an interesting juncture for cooking in pop culture. Currently, the Food Network is dominated by fast-paced, bossy, good-looking women who teach you how to cut corners and entertain on-the-cheap — people like Rachel Ray, Giada de Laurentiis, and Sandra Lee. Then there are the throwbacks — drawly Southerners such as Paula Deen and the Neelys — who try to resurrect the spirit of "down-home cooking" in their slick TV kitchens. (The network-TV polish in these shows makes all that soulfulness seem a little, well, contrived.) There's also a whole genre of testosterone-driven cooking shows, starting with Iron Chef and continuing with a whole line of spin-offs that treat cooking as a test of will, contact sport, or adventure-survival story (e.g., Dinner: Impossible; Glutton for Punishment; Ace of Cakes; Have Fork, Will Travel; Extreme Cuisine). The aggression of these programs caused a seismic change in the culture of cooking and made some chefs nostalgic for the old days when Julia Child would putter around her set, concocting recipes and sometimes making a mess. (Hence the popularity of Julie Powell's blog, "Julie and Julia," which Jervis loves.)

Finally — especially in the Bay Area — there's a whole movement to politicize cooking, either by de-industrializing the ingredients or by turning it into a form of identity politics. Slow-food cookbooks, raw-food cookbooks, and vegan cookbooks are all the rage. Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen — which reimagines African-American cuisine using all vegan ingredients — was an extremely well-timed success. Into this realm steps Jervis, whose book is both a feminist tract and a return to femininity in the kitchen — that old-school image of the commanding nurturer who knew how to combine flavors but could also tell you how to organize things. The "manualfesto" subtitle seems apropos.

Jervis grew up in New York City with a mother who cooked and a father who cleaned the kitchen. She started cooking by her mother's side and kept it up as a hobby for 25 years, she says, despite having a high-pressure job in the magazine business. Jervis got on the health-food kick after meeting Debbie Rasmussen, who succeeded her as publisher of Bitch. Rasmussen is a strict vegan who preaches about the importance of whole foods. "I never really thought that much about how much my food was processed," said Jervis. "I mean, I'd already started to cut out hydrogenated oils — that was obviously really artificial and bad. But I had never really thought about white flour being less nutritionally robust than wheat flour." Jervis latched onto the idea of sourcing animal products and avoiding packaged foods. She now buys most raw ingredients at farmers' markets or Berkeley Bowl. She's a self-professed food-science geek.

Like many of her mainstream counterparts, Jervis is a cook for the high-powered working adult with a tight budget and short time window. "I don't want to spend all day in the kitchen very often," said the author, explaining why she purposely avoided dumplings, empanadas, and other rococo dishes that take more than 45 minutes to prepare (in Cook Food she sticks to salads, sauces, tofu dishes, a few baked goods, and recipes with beans). In some ways, she's not actually that far from the Rachel Ray type — someone who favors pragmatism over a refined palate. What distinguishes Jervis from the pack is the female-empowerment slant to her book, if you define "empowerment" as taking charge of your food choices and thinking about "how your body functions, rather than how it looks."

She said that one interviewer asked how she could reconcile being a feminist and having a book that encourages women to get back in the kitchen. To Jervis, the question seemed facile. "I think that gender role has been pretty roundly destroyed, thank God," she said. Not to mention that if some guy picked up her book and tried out the recipes, "that's a totally feminist thing."

Buy book now | Buy the eBook now | Back to Lisa Jervis's Page




PM Press at the Baltimore Book Festival

For the second year in a row, the 2009 Radical Bookfair Pavilion will be taking place at the Baltimore Book Festival, which runs from Friday September 25th through Sunday the 27th in Mt. Vernon Place. The Radical Bookfair Pavilion is a project of Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, and they have an amazing lineup of great authors, so don't miss it! We'll be updating the speaking times as soon as we have them, so check back.

Friday, September 25th


Robert King
Book: From the Bottom of the Heap:The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King
DVD: The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation
6:00 PM

In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.


Saturday, September 26th


Victoria Law
Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women
Time TBA

Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and has facilitated having incarcerated women’s writings published in Clamor magazine, the website “Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance” and the upcoming anthology Interrupted Lives.

 

Andrej Grubacic
Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History
Time TBA

Andrej Grubacic is a dissident from the Balkans. A radical historian and sociologist, he is the author of Globalization and Refusal and the forthcoming titles: Hidden History of American Democracy and The Staughton Lynd Reader. A fellow traveler of Zapatista-inspired direct action movements, in particular Peoples' Global Action, and a co-founder of Global Balkans Network and Balkan Z Magazine, he is a visiting professor of sociology at the University of San Francisco.

Sunday, September 27th


Peter Kuper
Diario de Oaxaca: A sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico
Time TBA

Peter Kuper is a co-founder and editorial board member of political graphics magazine World War 3 Illustrated and a teacher who has taught at New York's School of Visual Arts and Parsons The New School for Design. Best known for drawing Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy comic since 1997, he has also illustrated covers for Newsweek and Time magazine. He is the author of the graphic novel Sticks and Stones, which won the New York Society of Illustrators gold medal, and his autobiography, Stop Forgetting to Remember. He lives in New York City. 

 




PM Press Falls for the Fall for the Book Festival

September 21-26, 2009
George Mason University
Fairfax, Virgina
www.fallforthebook.org
(photo credit: Shaun Roberts)

"What began as a two-day literary event in 1999, organized by George Mason University and the City of Fairfax, has expanded into a week-long, multiple-venue, regional festival that brings together people of all ages and interests, thanks to growing community interest and generous supporting partners."

That's the general info, but a great deal of the creative and political spice will be brought to you by some of PM's finest authors...just scroll down for the exciting list, and order your books now!

Monday, September 21st


E. Ethelbert Miller
The 5th Inning
2:00 PM

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). He is also a board member of The Writer's Center and editor of Poet Lore magazine. The author of several collections of poems, his last book How We Sleep On The Nights We Don't Make Love (Curbstone Press, 2004) was an Independent Publisher Award Finalist. Miller received the 1995 O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize. He was awarded in 1996 an honorary doctorate of literature from Emory & Henry College. In 2003 his memoir Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (St. Martin's Press, 2000) was selected by the DC WE READ for its one book, one city program sponsored by the D.C. Public Libraries. In 2004 Miller was awarded a Fulbright to visit Israel. Poets & Writers presented him with the 2007 Barnes & Noble/Writers for Writers Award. Mr. Miller is often heard on National Public Radio (NPR).

Wednesday, September 23rd


Peter Kuper
Diario de Oaxaca: A sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico
4:30 PM

Peter Kuper is a co-founder and editorial board member of political graphics magazine World War 3 Illustrated and a teacher who has taught at New York's School of Visual Arts and Parsons The New School for Design. Best known for drawing Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy comic since 1997, he has also illustrated covers for Newsweek and Time magazine. He is the author of the graphic novel Sticks and Stones, which won the New York Society of Illustrators gold medal, and his autobiography, Stop Forgetting to Remember. He lives in New York City. 

 

Robert King
Book: From the Bottom of the Heap:The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King
DVD: The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation
4:30 PM

In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.


Thursday, September 24th


Robert King
Book: From the Bottom of the Heap:The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King
DVD: The Angola 3: Black Panthers and the Last Slave Plantation
6:30 PM

In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for 29 years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.


Friday, September 25th


Victoria Law
Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women
4:30 PM

Victoria Law is a writer, photographer and mother. After a brief stint as a teenage armed robber, she became involved in prisoner support. In 1996, she helped start Books Through Bars-New York City, a group that sends free books to prisoners nationwide. In 2000, she began concentrating on the needs and actions of women in prison, drawing attention to their issues by writing articles and giving public presentations. Since 2002, she has worked with women incarcerated nationwide to produce the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings from Women in Prison and has facilitated having incarcerated women’s writings published in Clamor magazine, the website “Women and Prison: A Site for Resistance” and the upcoming anthology Interrupted Lives.

 

Andrej Grubacic
Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History
6:30 PM

Andrej Grubacic is a dissident from the Balkans. A radical historian and sociologist, he is the author of Globalization and Refusal and the forthcoming titles: Hidden History of American Democracy and The Staughton Lynd Reader. A fellow traveler of Zapatista-inspired direct action movements, in particular Peoples' Global Action, and a co-founder of Global Balkans Network and Balkan Z Magazine, he is a visiting professor of sociology at the University of San Francisco.




Lower East Side Story:

After ten years of living in Berkeley, Eric Drooker still dreams of New York
By Rachel Swan
East Bay Express

Although Eric Drooker has lived and painted in Berkeley for the last ten years, nine times out of ten his dreams still take place in New York City. Drooker grew up in a seventh-floor apartment building near Manhattan's Lower East Side. He's famous for drawing cityscapes that press against the edge of the page and crush out the organic forms: bruising, two-dimensional illustrations of steel-framed skyscrapers, subways, soft drink billboards, electric nightclub signs, tenement fire escapes, the East River, and the Williamsburg Bridge. These drawings have a very specific time and place (Brooklyn or Manhattan, usually in the 1970s, almost always the same view), but they employ metaphors that anyone could pick up and understand. His mass-produced poster art, some of which is collected in the new postcard book, Slingshot, operates in much the same way. The images might have a specific origin and intention, but what they depict — a dove flying over the subway train, or a barefoot woman kicking a policeman — is universal and eternal.

Drooker's images have more currency than his name. Born to a family of artists, Drooker was always looking at things from a slightly different angle than everyone else. He also was a troublemaker who liked to throw shit out of the window of his high-rise: firecrackers, cherry bombs, water balloon condoms, bottles of ketchup, pee-pee, a balloon filled with pornography one New Year's Eve, and once, a container of hot water on a cluster of policemen below. Drooker wasn't into superhero comics, but did gravitate "to all the really perverted shit," like Zap and R. Crumb, who taught him all about human sexuality. He sketched his first cityscape at age eleven, and it was just a slightly cruder version of the ones he does now. He could get inspired by anything: a ketchup bottle splattering on the sidewalk, the city skyline, two bums warming their hands over a garbage can fire, a red umbrella that flew in his field of vision while he was sitting outside a squat in Amsterdam, smoking a joint.

In the '80s, Drooker parlayed his rebellious personality into activism, and became a tenant organizer in the Lower East Side. He made posters and pasted them all over New York City, eventually catching the eye of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who would peel the images off lampposts and the sides of buildings and collect them. The two first hung out at length in August of 1988, during the Tompkins Square Park Police Riot. (Their friendship eventually led Drooker to illustrate Ginsberg's poetry collection Illuminated Poems.) Drooker's protest images — of a small tank going up against an army of musicians with trumpets and drums, of a woman using a mallet to bust through a brick wall, of Mumia Abu-Jamal pecking at his typewriter through the bars of a jail cell — have become iconic. He gives them away to activists whose causes he believes in. Many people have Drooker images adorning their punk show fliers or even tattooed on their bodies, and might never know it.

He lived for roughly twenty years in the same tenement building on East 10th Street, first in a storefront downstairs that flooded when a pipe burst (and became the inspiration for his noir-ish 2002 graphic novel, Flood), then upstairs in an apartment that opened up when the previous tenant died of AIDS. During that time, Drooker had been designing covers for The New Yorker magazine, which he does to this day, to help eke out a living. In the old days, he would finish a painting and walk over to the office on 42nd Street, flirt a little with the art director, and see if it sold (it usually did). Later, after moving to the Bay Area in 2000, he'd mail the original over. He didn't get his first computer until 2004.

His current studio sits in a downtown Berkeley office building where he's surrounded by insurance salesmen, attorneys, and even a condom distributor. There's a large rock garden in the atrium with pebbles and tropical-looking plants. His studio walls are adorned with pictures — the oil paintings and pastel drawings of human figures, the self-portrait in a New York subway station, an image of one of his recent New Yorker covers with monkeys and a toucan gazing out over a bridge in New York City. Drooker always has his current sketches on the wall — last year around this time he was working on a classical image of a man with a bull head and a bayonet that became the painting "Moloch." Free jazz plays from an Internet radio station, and a gymnast's rings hang from the ceiling. Stacks of his new postcard book, just released under the wing of Oakland's new independent publisher, PM Press, lie in a box. The images included are among the most provocative in Drooker's oeuvre: a screaming infant; a hand drowning in a polluted harbor; and of course, the cover graphic of a wild-haired woman in a ballet dress, brandishing a slingshot.

Drooker likes for his work to be mass-produced, whether in the form of New Yorker covers, posters that are printed up and distributed throughout the neighborhood, tattoos that are inscripted on body parts, graphic novels (besides Illuminated Poems, he's published Flood! A Novel in Pictures and Blood Song: A Silent Ballad), CD covers, or guerrilla-style public art. When Drooker visited the Gaza Strip in 2004, he helped several teenagers from the village of Beit Hanoun paint a giant orange tree on a wall of their youth center. (The Israeli army had already bulldozed every last citrus tree in the area, Drooker wrote in an article for Counterpunch, submitted from an Internet cafe in the West Bank.) He says that while most gallery painters focus on form, his work tries to emphasize substantive content. "I like the image to be very clear, and very concrete," he explained. "So that it's about something."

Drooker's work is highly accessible, but also can inspire many different narratives — most of them beginning or ending in New York City. In Flood, the principle character — a lonely, alienated, artistic bachelor-type — wanders through a world of tenements, seedy bars, and subway tunnels that turn into a kind of Inferno but also become an extension of the character's emotional life. The woman in Blood Song rafts all the way from a remote island to New York harbor, after her village is raided by the military. The perils of the city are sublimated in the landscape: giant, oppressive high-rises, cranes, smokestacks, policemen with truncheons. She falls for a saxophone player who offers her canned sardines and cheap wine, and makes love to him on the roof.

That's a little detail dredged up from Drooker's past. As a teenager in New York City, he was obliged to share a room with a younger brother who was constantly trying to kick his ass. Rooftops were the only place he could find solitude — and a good view of the skyline.

Buy this book now | Back to Eric Drooker's Author Page


Eric Drooker Takes Aim With Slingshot

By Ben Terrall
San Francisco Bay Guardian

I met Eric Drooker when we were both callow teens experiencing the joys of a coed Quaker socialist hippie camp in Vermont. We skinny-dipped, which was part of the camp's official policy, and smoked pot, which wasn't. Drooker has lived in the Bay Area since the mid-1990s, but his art is closely associated with New York City. A lanky, laconic man in his late 40s, he was born and raised in Manhattan, and the city still dominates his imagery. This is true of his wordless graphic novel Flood: A Novel in Pictures (Dark Horse), which won an American Book Award in 1993. It also applies to the haunting silent ballad Blood Song (Harvest Books), published in 2002.

Yet Drooker is perhaps best known for oil paintings that grace covers of The New Yorker — in early September last year, his 15th cover for the magazine appeared on newsstands. Some of these paintings are also included in 2006's Illuminated Poems (Running Press), which pairs his art with writing by the late Allen Ginsberg. Most recently Drooker published a book of postcards titled Slingshot (PM Press, 68 pages, $14.05). It consists of 32 images created with razor blade on scratchboard.

Drooker's work is widely disseminated in leftist circles, at times in ways that make the idea of a body politic quite literal — the PM Press Web site notes that his art is "plastered on brick walls from New York to Berlin, tattooed on bodies from Kansas to Mexico City." He's largely bypassed the more lucrative realm of art galleries, while allowing activists to access and use (via www.drooker.com) his images free. "I enjoy working on diverse projects that will be seen by a cross-section of the public — not just the gallery-goers," he says.

The grandson of lower East Side socialists, Drooker was born at the tail end of the post-World War II baby boom. As a teenager, he began participating in progressive politics on a neighborhood level. Early influences on his artistic style included the woodcut novels of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward and the underground comics of Robert Crumb. During his time in Manhattan, Drooker was active in the late-1980s struggles against gentrification, and in countless antiwar campaigns. Many of the images on display at www.drooker.com stem from those political battles. Today, he believes his hometown has "become inhospitable" to anyone other than the wealthy. "It's not even a city for the middle class anymore," he says. "Unless you have big money, the message is: don't show up."

Nonetheless, Drooker still dreams about New York: "It wasn't until I moved away from Manhattan that I became more obsessed with it, and started to really appreciate its significance." He calls Manhattan "the archetypal city," and admits that its infrastructure continues to fascinate him. This quality is apparent in the meticulously detailed attention that his work pays to water towers on rooftops, subway tunnel walls, and myriad types of urban pedestrians.

As a youth, Drooker spent many hours watching vintage cartoons. His sense of humor sometimes betrays a still-evident love for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. He also haunted New York's repertory movie houses in the 1970s, where he watched films made by the era's anti-Hollywood rebels, and giants of international cinema such as Akira Kurosawa, Luis Buñuel, and Federico Fellini. Given that much of this impressively prolific artist's longer form work has the narrative feel of both classic animation and the silent films of Charlie Chaplin, it isn't surprising to learn that he's been collaborating with an SF animation studio on an animation project for the last year.

Given Drooker's decades of political engagement, it's no surprise that he's opinionated about the political challenges artists face today, from economic instability and increasing gaps between rich and poor to global war and global warming. He cites Sue Coe ("amazing, hard-hitting") and Seth Tobocman as two favorite peers. Drooker is a long-time contributor to World War 3 Illustrated, the comics collection Tobocman cofounded in 1980. He has a new piece in the next issue, due soon.

Drooker maintains that the most common contemporary political art is "right wing": namely, advertising imagery, a form he considers "as much propaganda as any mural Diego Rivera did." He says he sympathizes with people who produce commercial art to keep their families fed, but that the work is "selling you this myth of consumer culture: 'Buy this and maybe you won't feel so bad.'"

"We're surrounded by political art wherever we turn," he added during a follow-up e-mail discussion. "Advertising art is ubiquitous, it grabs us by our emotions — as all art does — and tries to sell us things. Its aesthetics are powerful, and its politics are clear. The mural-sized billboards in our public spaces were all created by artists who went to art school. What is the political message? Faith in consumerism. Until the Renaissance, artists were employed by the church. What was the message of medieval religious art? Fear god. Worship a Jewish guy being tortured to death on a cross. Obey the Vatican — or else." 

Buy this book now




Announcing the Release of Peter Kuper's Diario de Oaxaca

PM Press is very proud to announce the release of Diario De Oaxaca: a Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico, an incredible view into the politics and culture of Oxaca during the uprising of 2006.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Kuper is a cofounder and editorial board member of political graphics magazine World War 3 Illustrated and a teacher who has taught at New York's School of Visual Arts and Parsons The New School for Design. Best known for drawing Mad magazine's Spy vs. Spy comic since 1997, he has also illustrated covers for Newsweek and Time magazine. He is the author of the graphic novel Sticks and Stones, which won the New York Society of Illustrators gold medal, and his autobiography, Stop Forgetting to Remember. He lives in New York City. 

More about the book
Meet Peter Kuper
Advance reviews

Diario de Oaxaca

Diario de Mexico: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Oaxaca
By Peter Kuper
Publisher: PM Press and Sexto Piso Editorial
ISBN: 978-1-60486-071-9
Published Sept. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 208 Pages
Size: 9.25 by 6.5
Language(s): English and Spanish
Subjects: Art, Politics

$29.95

Painting a vivid, personal portrait of social and political upheaval in Oaxaca, Mexico, this unique memoir employs comics, bilingual essays, photos, and sketches to chronicle the events that unfolded around a teachers’ strike and led to a seven-month siege.

When award-winning cartoonist Peter Kuper and his wife and daughter moved to the beautiful 16th-century colonial town of Oaxaca in 2006, they planned to spend a quiet year or two enjoying a different culture and taking a break from the U.S. political climate under the Bush administration. What they hadn’t counted on was landing in the epicenter of Mexico’s biggest political struggle in recent years. Timely and compelling, this extraordinary firsthand account presents a distinct artistic vision of Oaxacan life, from explorations of the beauty of the environment to graphic portrayals of the fight between strikers and government troops that left more than 20 people dead, including American journalist Brad Will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Buzz

“Kuper is a colossus; I have been in awe of him for over 20 years. Teachers and students everywhere take heart: Kuper has in these pages borne witness to our seemingly endless struggle to educate and to be educated in the face of institutions that really don’t give a damn. In this ruined age we need Kuper’s unsparing compassionate visionary artistry like we need hope.”
—Junot Díaz, Pulitzer Prize winning author of
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

“An artist at the top of his form.” —
Publishers Weekly

Order book now 

Events

October 29, 2009 7PM

University of Michigan
Lecture /presentation

October 30, 2009
Toledo, OH
Toledo Ohio Museum: LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel( Keynote address)
http://www.toledomuseum.org/Art_Exhibitions_LitGraphic.htm

November 28-29, 2009
Guadalajara Book fair
http://www.fil.com.mx/ingles/i_index.asp

 

Praise for Diario de Oaxaca

 
Diario de Oaxaca
By Bruce Jensen
Library Journal

In 2006, illustrator Kuper moved from New York to the impoverished but ethnically and historically rich southern Mexican city of Oaxaca, bringing his wife and pre-teen daughter. The region was wracked by a massive teachers’ strike that made headlines worldwide, by the corruption of the state’s notorious governor, and by conflicts in the streets involving tens of thousands of protesters and troops—an interesting place for a politically minded artist to be. Kuper has done covers and other illustrations for a host of major topical publications including TIME, Newsweek, the Progressive, and the New York Times, and has for more than a decade drawn the “Spy vs. Spy” comic series for MAD Magazine. This is the appealing product of his two years in Mexico. Kuper’s diary entries, paired with a side-by-side translation into Spanish, help set the context for the 150-odd pages of paintings, sketches, cartoons, and collages that are the highlight of this book. Kuper’s offbeat eye and his MAD sensibility make for some striking images—comical ones, too, such as his Day of the Dead tribute to the Peanuts gang, which shows the skeletal dog Znupé digging through a boneyard while his Charlie Brown ruminates about death. Fans of comics and art lovers will appreciate Kuper’s unusual take on a remarkable place. Recommended for libraries, particularly those with graphic art and design collections, as well as general bookstores.—Bruce Jensen, Rohrbach Lib., Kutztown, PA

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Diario de Oaxaca
By Michael C Lorah

A warning: this book missed Diamond's cutoff numbers, so you may have a hard time finding it in your local comics shop.  But it's worth the extra effort to track down a copy.  Peter Kuper, co-founder and co-editor of "World War 3 Illustrated" and current author of "Mad"'s "Spy vs. Spy", spent two years living in the southern Mexican state Oaxaca, arriving just in time for an annual teachers' strike in the cause of increased wages to turn violent, leaving dozens of people dead.
 
Diario De Oaxaca: a Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico
Fiction Book Review

Kuper has long been among the most politically engaged and stylistically distinctive artists working in comics, and both qualities take center stage here. This dazzling annotated sketchbook recounts two years Kuper and his family spent living in Oaxaca, Mexico. Anticipating a sojourn from American politics, Kuper instead found himself in a city roiled by a teachers' strike that was violently suppressed by the regional government. He recorded his observations in his sketchbook and in illustrated letters home, crisply reproduced in this bilingual (English and Spanish) book. Kuper's facility with diverse art media shines in early pages covering political action, as colorfully penciled protestors stand against rigidly inked military barricades set against the lush backdrops of Oaxaca. As the populist forces are rapidly suppressed, Kuper records a panoply of further visual impressions: beaches, stores, dogs, vendors, ancient ruins, street art and many, many insects. Throughout, Kuper's letters, rooted in personal observation but clearly intended as eyewitness reports for public consumption, provide helpful context. And if his increasingly profuse style mixing suggests a departure from earlier visual in the book, the final observations about a beautiful, merciless natural order obliquely ratify the political convictions that open the book. (Sept.)

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Diario De Oaxaca: a Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico
ForeWord Magazine

Kuper’s hardcover opus Diario de Oaxaca, excerpted briefly in Wordless Worlds, is not as distant as it might appear at first glance. Peter Kuper is probably stuck with his best known credit, “Spy vs Spy” in Mad magazine, at least until this publication (in its second half-century and now reduced to quarterly appearance) goes out of business. Kuper inherited the spy piece from another era of Mad, and it has been noticeably wordless all these decades (Kuper took over it over in 1997). The author of arguably the only pantomime strip in widely-distributed comic art, Kuper explored the wordless form throughout his career in graphic novels like The System and Sticks and Stones. With Diario, his sketchbook journal from two years of living in Mexico, he is the observer removed not by silence so much as a keen awareness of his personal status: as visitor.

Read more | Buy book now | Download PDF now 

 




A Poet's Confession

By Jonetta Rose Barras
Examiner Columnist | 3/31/09 9:23 AM
 

I know this man, I assert, picking up E. Ethelbert Miller’s new memoir, The 5th Inning (PM Press/Busboys and Poets), released earlier this month. I have known him since I first arrived in the District wearing a wild Afro hairstyle and an attitude to match.

But after reading the book, I realize the fallacy about the breadth of my knowledge. Everyone has secrets, deep and personal, aggressively protected from others’ discovery. And then, there is the soul, a shy, intensely private creature.

“Traditionally, it’s viewed as a female occupation, to strip away the layers and examine the experience of relationships with a partner, with children, within one’s own interior emotional life,” author Joyce Maynard said about The 5th Inning.

“Here comes a strong, real male voice, exploring the terrifying territory of growing older,” Maynard added. “... Ethelbert Miller writes with naked honesty and courage about what it is to be a man no longer young. Youth may have left him. Passion has not.”

“It’s a blues book,” Miller explained, a day after a signing party at Busboys and Poets, owned by Andy Shallal and located on 14th Street Northwest.

It’s clear that baseball is Miller’s religion and the organizing metaphor for his life: “Balls and strikes can also stand for BS. How much is thrown at a person by the time they reach 50?”

This column isn’t a book review — although there is much to appreciate in Miller’s second memoir. It’s experimental: part jazz riff, part poetic meditation reminiscent of Pablo Neruda and filled with multiple voices. It’s haunting. Rather, this is a salute to a South Bronx transplant who has enriched the cultural and political life of the District for more than three decades.

Miller is “literary man”; he’s been that since the 1970s.

“Ethelbert’s name always comes up as the person to see and to get to help promote your career,” said Misty Brown, the literary editor for the Washington Informer newspaper who has known him for more than two decades. “He’s a poet’s poet.”

In the beginning, Miller’s outpost was principally Howard University. He’s the director of the school’s African American Resource Center — a trove of all things related to blacks in America and the Diaspora. From 1974 through 2000, he ran the off-campus Ascension Poetry Reading Series, showcasing emerging and established poets and fiction writers. For a time, he also published, with now-deceased author Ahmos Zu-Bolton, groundbreaking anthologies. He was the force behind the District establishing a poet laureate.

In the past decade, Miller has gone global. He has helped build an international community of political and literary activists. Maybe I should say politically active literary artists.

He is the chairman of the powerful Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank involved in anti-war efforts and immigration reform. This month, he was a guest at Abu Dhabi’s International Book Fair. A collection of his poetry was translated this year into Arabic.

“He put D.C. back on the map as a literary capital,” Brown said. “Citizens, artists, the entire city have benefited. We’re happy he’s here.“

Jonetta Rose Barras, an author and political analyst, can be reached at rosebook1@aol.com

Buy book now | Download eBook now | Back to E. Ethelbert Miller's page



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