Sex, Art & Revolution

27 Oct

This would be a good time to look to the past for inspiration from oppositional leadership and I am happy to report Vivian Gornick has a new biographical sketch about just such a one—Emma Goldman (Yale University Press). I am not devaluing Gornick’s effort by labeling it a sketch—in fact I prefer these 200 page essays over the heavily footnoted doorstop bios.

Gornick, of course, gets to the heart of the matter:

The conviction that revolution and the life of the senses dare not be mutually exclusive made Goldman eloquent in defense of causes—sexual freedom, birth control, marriage reform—that a majority of her fellow anarchists derided as trivializing the cause.

And she concludes:

Forty years on, she is more than emblematic, she is iconic. Probably the most influential chant of the 1960s and 1970s—the one that most recalls the eloquent demands of the Lyrical Left—is “The personal is political.” This is the phrase that for decades has conjured the noble enterprise of struggling against permanent odds to achieve a world in which a healthy respect for the inner life occupies center stage. It is also the phrase that most deserves to be associated—in fear, hope, and excitement—with the legacy of Emma Goldman.

Currently reading Men in the Making by Bruce Machart (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

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