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"27 Books Every Woman In America Should Read" INFERNO in Buzzfeed

January 18, 2017
'This semi-autobiographical poetic novel, published in September, tells the story of a young lesbian writer named Eileen Myles coming of age in New York, as well as the challenges of being a working writer. Myles shows that good art is always political — and how making good art has only become harder in America. As Myles writes: “The cultural wars in the United States started with poetry. I just think people should know.”' Get the full story here.

"What if Uber drivers set up their own platform, or if a city’s residents controlled their own version of Airbnb?" OURS TO HACK AND TO OWN in The American Conservative

January 17, 2017
What if Uber drivers set up their own platform, or if a city’s residents controlled their own version of Airbnb? How about if enough Twitter users got together to buy the company in order to share its ownership? The latter idea comes from Nathan Schneider, co-editor of one of the best guides to this emerging area Ours to Hack and To Own. It’s a fascinating collection of not-all-that-techy articles on cooperative initiatives to resist the cooptation of the Internet. Platform cooperativism is simply communal ownership (with roughly 170 years of cooperative movement history) brought together with today’s notions of democratic governance. The term platform, as the editors explain, “refers to places where we hang out, work, tinker and generate value after we switch on our phones or computers.” Principles of cooperativism are well developed and plenty of impressive examples exist worldwide, from the Mondragon Corporation in Spain (actually a network of coop enterprises employing over 74,000 people) to the dozens of consumer, agricultural and healthcare coops in Italy’s economically resilient Emiglia-Romagna region. In this country, some 30,000 coops contribute an estimated $154 billion to our national income. Get the full story here.

"Why would the CIA use socialists to fight communism?" JOEL WHITNEY on Russia Today

January 17, 2017
Journalist and Author Joel Whitney enters the Hawk’s Nest to bring the scoop on his new book “Finks: How The CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers” which describes how the CIA blurred the line between propaganda and literature in its fight against the Soviet Union. Get the full story here.

"Istanbul Istanbul is a novel set in a prison, and in prison, the means of survival are as creative and distinct as the prisoners themselves." ISTANBUL ISTANBUL in The Wire

January 12, 2017
"Somewhere in Burhan Sonmez’s recently translated novel Istanbul Istanbul, one of the prisoners declares to his fellow inmate that “hope is better than what we have”. This hope comes not from the city of the title, but from the stories and lives that make up this city. Istanbul Istanbul is a novel set in a prison, and in prison, the means of survival are as creative and distinct as the prisoners themselves. In order to continue existing, the protagonist has to build an alternative reality, for a prison is built precisely to wipe out his or her existence. The prisoner, therefore, dons the garb of a storyteller." Get the full story here.

"Is this really how history will remember him?" MEDEA BENJAMIN in Sputnik News

January 12, 2017
"Barack Obama gave his farewell address last night and talked up the supposedly strong economy and his administration’s military action against terrorism. Is this really how history will remember him? What was left unsaid?" Get the full story here.

"In 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs." MEDEA BENJAMIN in The Guardian

January 12, 2017
"Looking back at President Obama’s legacy, the Council on Foreign Relation’s Micah Zenko added up the defense department’s data on airstrikes and made a startling revelation: in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day." Get the full story here.

"Sue’s advocacy for animals is unmatched in its forcefulness and impact." THE ANIMALS' VEGAN MANIFESTO in Our Hen House

January 11, 2017
"In her extraordinary images, Sue’s advocacy for animals is unmatched in its forcefulness and impact. She requires everyone to view the hidden horrors of animal agriculture and criticizes society’s role in perpetuating the violence inherent in the production of food. At the same time, by valuing compassion over greed and community over self, she calls upon all of us to do and be better. What a great way to start the year!" Get the full story here.

Remembering BOWIE on the anniversary of his death

January 10, 2017

Saying No but Meaning Yes


Philosopher and lifelong fan Simon Critchley remembers Bowie in the aftermath of his sudden passing.

Illustration by Eric Hanson

 

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From Bowie:

ON THE TITLE TRACK OF BLACKSTAR, RELEASED just a couple of days before his death, Bowie sings "I'm not a pop star." For me, and for his millions of fans, he was much more than that. He was someone who simply made us feel alive. This is what makes his death so hard to take.

As the years passed, Bowie's survival became more and more important to me. He continued. He endured. He kept going. He kept making his art. Bowie exerted a massive aesthetic discipline, created and survived. Indeed, survival became a theme of his art. Bowie's death just feels wrong. How can we go on without him?

Bowie incarnated a world of unknown pleasures and sparkling intelligence. He offered an escape route from the suburban hellholes that we inhabited. Bowie spoke most eloquently to the disaffected, to those who didn't feel right in their skin, the socially awkward, the alienated. He spoke tot he weirdos, the freaks, the outsiders and drew us in to an extraordinary intimacy, reaching each of us individually, although we knew this was a total fantasy. But to make no mistake, this was a love story. A love story that, in my case, has lasted about forty-four years.

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"So sexual, so knowing, so sly and so strange": SIMON CRITCHLEY recalls his first exposure to BOWIE

January 9, 2017

This week, which marks the anniversaries of both David Bowie's birth and his death, we revisit moments from a life and career unlike any other


In Bowie, philosopher Simon Critchley, whose writings have garnered widespread praise, melds personal narratives of how Bowie lit up his dull life in southern England’s suburbs with philosophical forays into the way concepts of authenticity and identity are turned inside out in Bowie’s work.

Illustration by Eric Hanson

 

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From Bowie:

LET ME BEGIN WITH A RATHER EMBARRASSING confession: no person has given me greater pleasure throughout my life than David Bowie. Of course, maybe this says a lot about the quality of my life. Don't get me wrong. There have been nice moments, some even involving other people. But in terms of constant, sustained joy over the decades, nothing comes close to the pleasure Bowie has given me.

It all began, as it did for many other ordinary English boys and girls, with Bowie's performance of "Starman" on BBC's iconic Top of the Pops on July 6, 1972, which was viewed by more than a quarter of the British population. My jaw dropped as I watched this orange-haired creature in a catsuit limp-wristedly put his arm around Mick Ronson's shoulder. It wasn't so much the quality of the song that struck me; it was the shock of Bowie's look. It was overwhelming. He seemed so sexual, so knowing, so sly and so strange. At once cocky and vulnerable. His face seemed full of sly understanding—a door to a world of unknown pleasures.

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Further Reading

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Remembering the legendary NAT HENTOFF

January 9, 2017

Nat Hentoff died this weekend at the age of 91


Here, we revisit David L. Lewis' 2013 book The Pleasures of Being Out of Step: Nat Hentoff on Journalism, Jazz and the First Amendment, an oral history to accompany the film of the same name. What follows is a brief excerpt from the end of the book.

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NAT HENTOFF: You never know what impact you have, if any. I fantasized once that years from now, some kid in Des Moines will be going through a library, he'd pick up a book that was miraculously still there, and it meant something to him.

Izzy Stone gave me a lesson when I was a very young reporter. He said, 'If you want to go into this business to change the world, get another day job.' Because if you change anything, it'll only be very cumulatively, in a limited way, and you probably won't even know about it. So I write to write and hope that some of it has some effect. I'm under no illusion at all—this is not false modesty—that I have much influence, and somewhat more in jazz I think than in trying to keep the Constitution alive.

But the most I feel alive is when I'm writing about what means something to me. My younger son, Tom, the lawyer, who is an expert on intellectual property and libel, he took me to one of these big conferences. And we were sitting there and three lawyers came over. They seemed to be in their thirties, and they said to me, 'You're the reason we're here. We used to read you in the Voice and you made the law seem so exciting.' So I figured, 'My goodness.'

I wrote this novel for young readers called Jazz Country. It was the first one I had done for them. And there's a man who has a jazz band in Hawaii. It's a very good one—I've done the notes for one of his sides. He told me the only reason he came into jazz was reading that book as a kid. And his twelve-year-old at the time had a pocketbook copy of it it his back pocket. Then, just two weeks ago, I hear from a professor in a university in Canada who has a jazz course. And he said, 'I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Jazz Country.'

So maybe I had some impact on some people.

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"A fine historical book" FINKS in The Los Angeles Review of Books

January 9, 2017
In Finks: How the CIA Tricked The World’s Best Writers, Joel Whitney, co-founder and editor-at-large of Guernica: A Magazine of Arts and Politics, has written an essential book on a small but key part of the prehistory of this hijacking of culture: the story of how The Paris Review and other magazines from the 1950s on were funded and backed by the CIA and became a central force in pushing leading writers of the day to produce propaganda for a hungry yet unsuspecting audience. The CIA even developed a large art collection in its curious approach to cultural hegemony. Read the full piece here.

"How the CIA Infiltrated the World's Literature" FINKS in VICE

January 6, 2017
When the CIA's connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines were revealed in 1966, the backlash was swift but uneven. Some publications crumbled, taking their editors down with them, while other publishers and writers emerged relatively unscathed, chalking it up to youthful indiscretion or else defending the CIA as a "nonviolent and honorable" force for good. But in an illuminating new book Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers, writer Joel Whitney debunks the myth of a once-moral intelligence agency, revealing an extensive list of writers involved in transforming America's image in countries we destabilized with coups, assassinations, and other all-American interventions. Read the full piece here.

The seconds that changed Labour history – ALEX NUNNS in Red Pepper

January 5, 2017
In an extract from The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015. Read the full extract here.

"Once language was liberated, and ideas along with it, along came the "liberation" of almost everything else we now take for granted.": ROSSET in Buffalo News

January 4, 2017
No "serious student of American culture from the post-World War II era right up into the 1970s" ever doubted "that were it not for the indefatigable Rosset, our lives would be very different. That one person fundamentally reshaped the way we think, perhaps more than any other, in the modern era: he unleashed upon us "Lady Chatterly's Lover,' the intellectual puzzles of Beckett, Genet, Pinter, Oe, Robbe-Grillet, Ionesco and Stoppard; The 'Tropics' of Miller, the outrages of Burroughs and Rechy and so much more ... that is the last century, the idea of 'normal' sexuality has changed owes not a little to Rosset's exploration of such concepts." And that's not all. Once language was liberated, and ideas along with it, along came the "liberation" of almost everything else we now take for granted. For Rosset, says Oakes, "every book was a battle and he was the pirate exhorting his crew to slaughter. In fact, the list of censorship obstacles overcome by Grove Press under his tenure is so extensive it might be argued that the company was more likely to publish a book because it was 'forbidden.' "

Read the full piece here.

"8 Books you Need to Read in January": FINKS in Vulture

January 4, 2017
"The story of the agency’s infiltration of America’s cultural institutions (especially The Paris Review) has been told before, but not this thoroughly or colorfully — thanks to Whitney’s reporting as well as the wit of his subjects, who knew how to write a letter. He shreds the idea that spooks like Peter Matthiessen worked only for the “good CIA,” but doesn’t limit himself to Plimpton’s dashing crew. The government’s entanglement with the Latin American masters (ranging from negative propaganda to subtle exploitation) gets a full airing that enlarges the story of the (first?) Cold War."

Read the full piece here.

"He had no idea he'd be helping the CIA": FINKS in Guernica

January 4, 2017
"In early 1959, George Plimpton was preparing to watch an execution in Cuba. The Cuban revolutionaries, led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, had just marched on Havana and ousted the US-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista. The young Paris Review editor and other New York literary figures arrived during a period marked by hope for a democratic Cuba. They were there, too, as witnesses. Wary of US media distorting events, the revolutionaries had called in writers and intellectuals to witness the changing of the guard. The changeover involved infamous trials—and even more infamous executions—that had become increasingly controversial. Guevara had witnessed an earlier coup in the region, in Guatemala, and calculated that it had been possible only because the country’s new leader allowed military officers loyal to the imperialists to remain in their posts after the election. Fearing a similar US-supported rollback, Guevara insisted the war criminals who had done the dictator’s bidding must be tried, read an accounting of their crimes, and summarily executed."

Read the full piece here.

"A powerful warning": FINKS in New Republic

January 4, 2017
"Whitney sounds a powerful warning about the dangerous interaction between the national security state and the work of writers and journalists. But the precise experience of the cultural Cold War is unlikely to be repeated. A global ideological conflict, cast in civilizational terms, made the work of intellectuals worth subsidizing. Today’s intellectuals are no longer needed as chits in a great power conflict, and our nostalgia for the Cold War generation’s prestige seems increasingly misplaced: An era of heroic thinkers now looks instead like a grubby assortment of operatives, writers who appeared to challenge the establishment without actually being dangerous to it. Jason Epstein was right. The CIA created conditions that subverted the essential task of an intellectual: to cast a critical eye on orthodoxy and received wisdom."

Read the full piece here.

This day in 1929, Lady Chatterley's Lover was declared legally obscene and banned in the United States. Read about BARNEY ROSSET's fight to publish the unexpurgated text 30 years later.

December 20, 2016

“I was ready if necessary to face being called a profiteer from smut.”


Barney Rosset’s fight for the unexpurgated publication of Lady Chatterley’s Lover pushed back against 30 years of censorship and set the contemporary standard for free literary expression in the United States.

 

 

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On this day in 1929, the United States officially declared D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscene and banned its publication and distribution domestically. It would be 30 years before Barney Rosset and the fledgling Grove Press would take on the Post Office and distribute an unexpurgated edition, arguing for Lawrence’s book on the strength of its artistic merit and paving the way for the publication of Henry Miller and scores of other literary voices that would have been otherwise suppressed:

In 1954, when Grove Press was still in its infancy, Mark Schorer, the distinguished literary scholar and professor of English at Berkeley, wrote to me suggesting that we publish an unexpurgated edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. D. H. Lawrence’s last major work had long been banned in England and put on the “proscribed” list by the United States Post Office Department. Now, Professor Schorer, whom I had never met in person, had placed the Lady on our doorstep. Here she was, waiting for her liberator. If we could prove to the satisfaction of the US courts our claims for the artistry of Lawrence as a writer and the specific merits of Lady Chatterley’s Lover as literature, the victory for freedom of speech would be tremendous. It would be a savage kick in the face to Death and a lovely kiss to Life. What was more, it could afford me the opportunity to publish the novel I really had wanted to put out into the public sphere since my college days at Swarthmore: Tropic of Cancer. This was clearly a Trojan horse for Grove. If I could get Lawrence through, then Henry Miller might surely follow.

Lawrence, with Italian publisher Giuseppe Orioli in Florence, had privately issued a 1,000-copy signed limited edition of the third and final manuscript version of Lady Chatterley in 1928, despite the disapproval of his British agent, Curtis Brown, and his publisher in English, Martin Secker. Orioli’s efforts were largely in vain. Though a number of copies of this edition of the book, in mulberry-colored paper boards, got out, others were seized and banned in both England and the United States.

After Lawrence’s death in 1930 at the age of forty-four, the truly obscene result for Lady Chatterley’s Lover came in the form of the 1932 publication of an “expurgated” version by Secker in England and Alfred A. Knopf in the United States.

What was it that these publishers hoped to accomplish with this cleansing process? Were clean living and clean reading synonymous and equally meritorious? And who on earth did Knopf and his British equivalent choose to do the dirty work of purging our Lady of her dirty thoughts? How did these unnamed designated hitters choose which words, phrases, and paragraphs to swat out of the book? Any competent, “decent” publisher would have had a hand in choosing his home-team purifier. After all, it was his (in this case, read Knopf’s) team. And what possibly did “expurgating” mean if not cutting out something already made illegal by our government, something supposedly dangerous, like absinthe. So, the Knopf “expurgated” Chatterley was deconstructed from the original to something along the lines of the de-sexed versions of Ovid given out to prep school Latin students, a kind of methadone before its time. It angers me to this day.

—from Rosset: My Life in Publishing and How I Fought Censorship

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Further Reading

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How Corbyn Survived the Coup – ALEX NUNNS in Open Democracy

December 20, 2016
In an extract from The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn’s Improbable Path to Power, Alex Nunns explains how Corbyn was able to survive the attempt of Labour MPs to overthrow him. Read the full extract here.

"How new is native advertising?": MARA EINSTEIN on Majority Report

December 14, 2016
"How new is native advertising? How the press has devalued its credibility by lending it to advertisers, such as the infamous scientology ad in The Atlantic. Why the onus can’t just be on individuals as consumers. The daunting challenge of regaining press credibility." Read the full piece here.