Sturgeon is Neither Alive nor Well (via his vorpal sword)

Here is a good piece On Theodore Sturgeon that I stumbled across. Sturgeon is another great and sadly neglected American writer.

Sturgeon is Neither Alive nor Well Just in time for Christmas, I received Slow Sculpture, Volume XII of the complete stories of Theodore Sturgeon (hardcover, North Atlantic Press, $35,  299 p.) There are a number of interesting sidelights about it: this is the first of two volumes (Vol. XIII will be the final volume in 2010) to be edited by his daughter Noël Sturgeon (who has suffered a lifetime of umlaut displacement, generally as ö), because Paul Williams, legendary '60s journal … Read More

via his vorpal sword

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Calendar of Regrets

 

Lance Olsen’s Calendar of Regrets  is, to quote the back of the book, “a wildly inventive and visually rich collage of twelve interconnected narratives , one for each month of the year, all pertaining to notions of travel-through time, space, narrative, and death.”  Indeed it is that and more.
  The first narrative begins in September, followed by an October one, and so on, until 256 pages later when the months begin to go in reverse order. These narratives, which randomly skip centuries and years, are connected by a name, a common event, or a character who spans more than one storyline. Olsen constructs another bridge by using the sentence fragment that concludes one chapter as the starting point of the next one.
   Calendar  begins and ends with the ruminations of the medieval painter Hieronymous Bosch in the hours after he has seemingly been poisoned. The book then jumps the centuries to depict Dan Rather in the hours before he was assaulted by Kenneth Tager in 1986. The book then proceeds with narratives concerning mythological figures, radical Christian suicide bombers, a pirate radio station host broadcasting from the Salton Sea, a family hijacked by a pretty girl with a bomb,a backpacking journalist in Southeast Asia, a teacher who has lost herself amidst teen-age chatter, a time-space traveler, a man born as a notebook, a body made up of borrowed organs, and a fallen angel whose presence folds time into a loop for two small boys. Several of these narratives are augmented by the use of photographs which propel the story forward and also employ artful typograhy.
   Calendar of Regrets  is much more athan a book about travel. It is also a book about tragedy. Kidnappings, suicide bombings, poisonings and physical attacks all occur within the narratives. By using these events, the author seems to be suggesting that horror and truth often go hand-in-hand and that apprehending the truth often leads to regret.
  Calendar Of Regrets  is a truly ambitious book that should be read by a wide audience. It is, undoubtedly, one the best books to appear in the last several years.

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Agrarian Socialism in Oklahoma: The Early Twentieth Century

Oscar Ameringer. An Oklahoma Socialist leader

Agrarian Socialism in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920.  By Jim Bissett (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.)

    Most Americans are unaware of the fact that the rural state of Oklahoma supported the strongest socialist movement that any American State ever produced. This apparently anomalous development has been chronicled by a number of scholars over the past 40 years. The first modern study was Howard L. Meredith’s 1969  Ph.D. dissertation “A History of the Socialist Party in Oklahoma, ” which was soon followed  Garin Burbank’s When Farmers Voted Red  and James R. Green’s  Grassroots Socialism   in 1976 and 1978 respectively.(1)  While all three are excellent studies, a more recent book, Jim  Bissett’s  Agrarian Socialism  in America: Marx, Jefferson, and Jesus in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1904-1920 (1999), covers the same ground most successfully to date through clear arguments and an energetic and sympathetic point of view.

    Bissett organizes his study into chronological chapters which are limited in scope to the rise and demise of The Farmer’s Union from 1904-1907 and the ascent and decline of the Oklahoma Socialist Party from 1907 to 1920. As the Farmer’s Union fell apart many of its disgruntled members  found their way into the Oklahoma Socialist Party, which they would reshape into an astoundingly effective movement between 1910 and 1917. During  World War I,  wartime repression would destroy the Oklahoma Socialist Party by 1920.(2)

  The author identifies four factors which argues account for the success of the Oklahoma Socialist Party. First, the Farmer’s Union provided the Socialists with experienced protest leaders.  Second,   the campaigns the union engaged in produced a “class conscious  farmer community” with a “sophisticated” understanding  of how they had been victimized by the commercial agricultural system. Third, the internecine conflicts between the rank-and- file  and the leadership of the Farmer’s Union, had imparted to the farmers  a preference for a more decentralized and democratic organizational structure, a preference they vigorously demanded of their adopted party. And finally,  the ever-present evangelical Protestantism of rural Oklahomans buttressed their critique of market capitalism.

   Even though not all of the Union’s membership crossed over to the Socialist Party, Bissett maintains that much of  the rank-and -file did due to specific failings of the Farmer’s Union.  The Union boomed during the years between 1904 and 1907 as long as it represented “working farmers” and advocated fundamental structural reforms to commercial agriculture. Under the leadership of old Alliancemen and Populists,  the union at first rejected landlord control and pushed for cooperative projects such as “crop withholding” and “clearinghouses” for buying and selling modelled on the Farmer’s Alliance Exchanges of the 1880s. By 1906, this “radical” agenda came under attack from within the organization and without. Inside the Union the large landholders and landlords sought to seize the leadership from the reformers and turn the organization into something more resembling a professional  association more amenable to their interests. They succeeded, but at an enormous cost. Certain that the Union no longer represented their interests, the ‘working farmers” (small landholders and tenants),  “voted with their feet.”  By 1907 , The number of members in the Farmer’s Union’s  plummeted from 70,000 to 3,000.  From the outside, commercial interests  from furnishing merchants to banks and coal mines boycotted the Union’s cooperative marketing efforts.  In short, as Bissett points out, The Farmer’s Union failed due to the coercion of the capitalists and the co-option of its leadership.

   These class conscious farmers, the author’s second factor,  received no relief from the Democratic party, whose leaders were the same landlords who had destroyed the Union.  The detailed understanding of commercial farming that such veterans of had acquired in from 1904-1907 further alienated  them the Democratic Party  and its leadership. Therefore, many turned to the nascent Socialist Party just entering the state via organizers from the Midwest. Augmented by some prominent ex-Populists, the Sooner Socialist Party began attracting tenants and other “working farmers” with its opposition to the then current system.

   Bissett’s third major factor in explaining the growth of the Socialist party in Oklahoma centers on the doggedly democratic tendencies of the farmer’s union veterans that comprised the rank-and-file. The Sooner radicals rejected the authoritarian party structure that was presented to them by Victor Berger’s Milwaukee-trained organizers.Their wariness, he posits, sprang from their all-too-recent betrayal by the erstwhile leaders of the Farmer’s Union. Before Oklahoma farmers voted Socialist, they would remake the Party from the bottom up in their own democratic and decentralized image. With this restructuring in place they were ready to  effect another change that would win The Socialist Party its brief second party status.  This substantive change centered  on the clash between Marxist orthodoxy on the one hand versus the cultural expectations and practical experiences of  the farmers on the other. The early Socialist Party called for the total collectivisation of landownership as per Marxist theory interpreted by Midwestern laborites. Bissett asserts that the plain folk rejected this formula immediately; and that party candidates got nowhere with Sooner voters until after The 1910 Land compromise.  Oklahomans demanded a reconsideration of the land issue, explaining that farmers wanted less concentration of land ownership, not more. Since the state Party leadership was more pragmatic and less dogmatic, they freely revised Karl  Marx by identifying the exploitation of labor, not land ownership, was the “sin” of property. By so doing the Sooner socialist Party would lead the Socialist Party Of America to embrace the property rights of family farmers who worked their own land. Moreover, the Party even promised toa more widespread distribution of landownership among current tenants as an alternative to public ownership of all agricultural acreage. Here is where, according to the author, the Jeffersonian connection lies, for in advocating  widespread ownership of the land among the plain folk, The Oklahoma socialist were harkening  back to their republican political heritage.

  The author’s fourth and final factor focuses on the relationship between agrarian radicalism and evangelical Christianity. The rhetorical change that defined Sooner Socialism, Bissett argues convincingly, was the adoption of the language of the rural evangelical Protestant church as the chief method propagation. Other scholars,  including James R. Green in Grassroots Socialism, have commented on this without delineating it as thoroughly or as accurately as Bissett.  While Green sees the Socialist’s evangelical rhetoric as, at best a propaganda tool, and at worst, an embarrassing betrayal of true materialism,  Bissett makes the connection between the rural radicals’ faith and their critique of the marketplace. Indeed, the the local leadership of the rural church was often also the leadership of the Socialist Party. Southern Baptist, Methodist,  church of christ and Pentecostal pastors and ministers played a disproportionately large roles as socialist candidates, organizers, and lecturers. From their perspective , the Socialist goal for society had more in common with the Gospels  than did the early 20th Century marketplace.

Agrarian Socialism In America is a well-written and clearly presented study of Agrarian Radicalism in a Southwestern state. It also sheds light on a forgotten aspect of early Twentieth Century American Radical History. For both those reasons it should be highly recommended.

———–

  1) Howard L Meredith, “A  History of the Socialist Party in Oklahoma. (PhD. diss.., University of Oklahoma, 1969);  Garin  Burbank, When Farmers Voted Red: The Gospel of Socialism in the in the Oklahoma Countryside, 1910-1924 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1976); James R. Green, Grassroots Socialism: Radical Movements in the Southwest, 1895-1943 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978).

  2) On wartime repression see Robert K. Murray, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920  (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Pres, 1955); William Preston, Jr., Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963); Richard Polenberg, Fighting Faiths; The Abrams Case, The supreme Court, and Free Speech (New York: Penguin Books, 1987).

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ALEXEI KRUCHENYKH (via The Matt Gonzalez Reader)

This is a good piece about a poet who should be better known.

ALEXEI KRUCHENYKH first published in the San Francisco Call, May 24, 2002 LET'S BELLYACHE! A book review by Matt Gonzalez [Suicide Circus: Selected Poems by Alexei Kruchenykh (Copenhagen & Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2001). Translated from the Russian by Jack Hirschman, Alexander Kohav, and Venyamin Tseytlin, with an Introduction by Jack Hirschman and a Preface and Notes by Guy Bennett.] POET AND TRANSLATOR JACK HIRSCHMAN brings us the first single-volume poet … Read More

via The Matt Gonzalez Reader

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THE SPIRIT OF SARTRE (via As It Ought To Be)

This was excellent so I want to reblog it.

THE SPIRIT OF SARTRE THE SPIRIT OF SARTRE by Peter Gabel Taken as a whole, the work of Jean Paul Sartre is that of a sensitive man with a good heart gradually coming to understand the distinctly social aspect of human reality—that while we appear to ourselves as alone and struggling to make sense of things from within our own isolation, we are actually always powerfully connected in our very being to each other and, through the networks of reciprocity that enable our … Read More

via As It Ought To Be

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SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CHARLES BUKOWSKI (via As It Ought To Be)

I really like this Bukowski poem so I decided to repost it.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CHARLES BUKOWSKI DINOSAURIA, WE by Charles Bukowski Born like this Into this As the chalk faces smile As Mrs. Death laughs As the elevators break As political landscapes dissolve As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree As the oily fish spit out their oily prey As the sun is masked We are Born like this Into this Into these carefully mad wars Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness Into bars where people no longer speak to each other Into f … Read More

via As It Ought To Be

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Felipe Alfau 1902-1999 (via As It Ought To Be)

Felipe Alfau 1902-1999     Felipe Alfau was Spanish-American writer who spent most of his long life in New York City. While not a prolific writer, he was one who was far ahead of his time, employing authorial techniques that would later be "discovered" by Postmodernists such as John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Thomas Pynchon, and Robert Coover.    Alfau was born in 1902 to a prominent political and literary family.  His father was a lawyer and colonial official in the Phi … Read More

via As It Ought To Be

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