For obvious reasons you will probably not read Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America (Verso) edited by y Keith Gessen, Astra Taylor, Eli Schmitt, Nikil Saval, Sarah Resnick, Sarah Leonard, Mark Greif, and Carla Blumenkranz. In fact I would be shocked to see any Verso Books reviewed in the likes of the Boston Globe or the New York Times.
Occupy! is a heart warming anthology of the voices involved in this surprising grass roots movement—some known Slavov Zizekl Rebecca Sonit, Keith Geisen most unknown.
Here’s the conclusion Zizek’s speech Don’t Fall in Love with Yourselves:
Communism failed absolutely, but the problems of the commons are here. They are telling you we are not American here. But the conservative fundamentalists who claim they really are Americans have to be reminded of something: What is Christianity? It is the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit? It’s an egalitarian community of believers who are linked by love for each other, and who only have their own freedom and responsibility to do it. In this sense the Holy Spirit is here now. And down on Wall Street, there are pagans who are worshipping blasphemous idols.So all we need is patience. The only thing I am afraid of is that we some day will just go home and then meet once a year, drinking beer and nostalgically remembering “what a nice time we had here.” Promise yourselves that this will not be the case. We know that people often desire something but do not really want it. Don’t be afraid to want what you desire.
Another name you may recognize— Thomas Paine concludes this volume, from an address (which ended up being published as the American Crisis) that George Washiungton had read to his men at Valley Forge , 235 years ago:
I once felt all kind of anger , which a man ought to feel against the mean principles that are held by the Tories: A noted one , who kept a tavern at Amboy, was standing at his door, with a pretty child in his hand. about noon rod ten years old, as most I ever saw, and after finished speaking his mind as much as he felt prudent, finished with this unfatherly expression, “Well! give me peace in my day.”Not a man lives on the Continent but fully believes that a separation must som time or other finally take place and a generous parent would have said,” If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace” and this single reflection, well applied, is sufficient to awaken every man to duty.”
Currently reading Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot (Black Cat)
Rebecca Solnit is no one-trick pony. Even a cursory look at her bibliography makes clear her wide range of interests and from which you may correctly surmise her originality—I mean, A History Of Walking? A Field Guide to Getting Lost? ( since she her web site doesn’t list them all— I will):
Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era (City Lights Books)
Savage Dreams: A Journey Into the Landscape Wars of the American West (Sierra Club Books)
A Book of Migrations: Some Passages in Ireland (Verso)
Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Viking)
Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism co-authored and photographed by Susan Schwartzenberg (Verso)
As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art (University of Georgia Press)
River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (Viking)
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Nation Books,)
A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Penguin)
Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers, with Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, (Trinity University Press)
After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire co-authored by Philip L. Fradkin, Mark Klett, and Michael Lundgren (University of California Press)
Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (University of California Press)
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disasterr (Viking)
Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press)
Her latest effort is a collaboration with illustrator Mona Caron, A California Bestiary (Heyday Books, 2010) spurred by a partnership project between Heyday and the Oakland Zoo which was developing an educational exhibit called “California!” (exclamation point theirs) “celebrating native California flora and fauna by focusing on conservation and cultural importance.”
Solnit and Caron reportedly spent countless hours at the Zoo involved in all manner of interactions and activities, even ( we are told) witnessing a hedge hog dental extraction. And, as to the contents of this handsome well-printed tome:
The animals in this book were chosen to reflect the enormous diversity of California’s many ecological zones, the broad range of survival status, from severely threatened to thriving:and the pure glorious presence of so many kinds of extraordinary other Californians—though picking twelve meant leaving out pipevine swallowtails, Steller’s jays, kangaroo rats, coyotes, red tailed hawks snowy plovers and other creatures dear to the author’s hearts. The medieval bestiaries were books about animals seen through a window of wonder, and A California Bestiary is a twenty-first century endeavor to work in that vein.
Watching the State of the Union did not put me in a good frame of mind —but at least watching on (unnarrated) C SPAN was palatable, without the mediating and smarmy gibberish of a network anchor like Diane Sawyer (am I the only person in America who finds her inept?). I actually found it interesting watching the millionaires club AKA as the US Senate walk from their chamber to the House’s house where the President gladhands a gaggle of apparatchiks and then delivers his oration. Can I say that I would be hard put to find a a more unappealing and unlikable cohort? Watching John McCain and John Kerry walking together was an unsettling reminder that these two poppinjays were actually presidential candidates—oh my.
Speaking of matters of governance and politics, Josh MacPhee’s wonderful anthology Celebrate People’s History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (Feminist Press) was (and is) a splendid antidote to the annual pantomime of democracy I viewed last night. Macphee has been commissioning and collecting posters that salute social justice in all its manifold modes since 1998. This anthology of about 100 of such by over 80 engaged artists like Cristy Road, Swoon, Nicole Schulman, Christopher Cardinale, Sabrina Jones, Eric Drooker, Klutch, Carrie Moyer, Laura Whitehorn, Dan Berger, Ricardo Levins Morales and Chris Stain is a stirring visual reminder of some vital moments in American history. Rebecca Solnit comments in the book’s foreword:
Josh MacPhee’s long campaign of putting his series of radical history posters up around the country matter. They are a small gesture perhaps, but small gestures accrue, and democracies and revolutions are made up of the myriad gestures of the small. I have long thought of pedestrians, of people who walk their cities and know them, as keeping alive a confidence and familiarity that has great potential in crisis and revolution. These posters do for the walls what the walkers do for the streets:keep alive some power and some hope in the public sphere. Just as the individuals accrue into civil society,so these individual commemorations of bygone heroines and moments cohere into the radical past on which a radical future can be built.
Also, note that tomorrow is the anniversary of People’s Historian Howard Zinn’s passing and in the spirit of activism (“Don’t mourn. Organize”) of which he was a champion , friends and comrades of Zinn are encouraging various community activities around his last major project, The People Speak http://www.thepeoplespeak.com/dont-mourn-organize which is a brilliant complement to his magnum opus, The People’s History of the United States.
In some correspondence or other with Paul Slovak, Rebecca Sonit’s editor at Viking, he referred to her as a “national treasure”. Lacking(at the moment) a more apt designation for Solnit ( Utne Reader magazine named Solnit as one of the “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.”) let me just refer to her recent contribution at Tomdispatch, “A Shadow Government of Kindness“:
…The world could be much better if more of us were more active on behalf of what we believe in and love; it would be much worse if countless activists weren’t already at work from Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and the climate activists in Tuvalu to the homeless activists around the corner from me. When I studied disasters past, what amazed me was not just that people behaved so beautifully, but that, in doing so, they found such joy. It seems that something in their natures, starved in ordinary times, was fed by the opportunity, under the worst of conditions, to be generous, brave, idealistic, and connected; and when this appetite was fulfilled, the joy shone out, even amid the ruins.
This is a sentiment convincingly demonstrated in her recent opus A Paradise Built in Hell (Viking)which examines six disasters and the surprising community response to them. Also worth looking at is Solnit’s very original Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press).