In January 2017, I listened to an interview with UC Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild on National Public Radio about her New York Times bestseller. But it was not until a friend of mine recommended Strangers in Their Own Land that I actually read it. My friend commended the book less for a more informed understanding of the rise of the Tea Party and – by implication Trump – but rather for providing an empathetic, humane perspective of the supporters of the American conservative party, especially its populist right wing.
Imagine you get home and see a bunch of your friends, let’s say friends whose taste in films and shows you usually trust, watching a show. A really weird cartoon show you can’t make any sense of, because, let’s say, one of the show’s constantly burping characters turned himself into a talking pickle just to avoid a family counseling session. And suddenly the talking pickle calls itself “Pickle Rick” and slaughters giant rats in the sewer. You see your friends’ faces, their eyes fixed on the screen. Heartfelt laughter alternates with quiet curiosity. “In which world is this an actual show?!” you may ask yourself before you decide to sit down and give it a try… Read more
“I write emotive stories about Natives who have been absent in history.”
(Gerald Vizenor, personal interview)
Gerald Vizenor’s historical novel, Native Tributes, will be published in August 2018. And here is one important reason why you should read it: Native Tributes will encourage you to re-visit the aftermath of World War I – from a Native American perspective.
Erich Mühsam (1878-1934) was a German-Jewish antimilitarist anarchist essayist, poet, and playwright. I can check most of those boxes. I tried anarchy in my 20s; it didn’t fit. And while my maternal grandparents were German, I started life in New Jersey.
Since 2003, I have maintained my writing office, research library, and a small performance space in the same building in Berlin where Mühsam worked and lived with his wife Zenzl. Alt-Lietzow 12. There is a plaque dedicated to Mühsam beneath my window. His spirit is everywhere here. He sat where I sit. Climbed the steps I climb. Feared what I fear.
Newspapers always make good movies: the dare-devil reporter, the overachieving assistant, and the crusty editor up against the power of a dishonest government. There is wonderful symbolism in the heavy lead type spelling out a scandal and the broad sheets of newsprint rolling off the presses to cover the nation. The audience is assured that the truth will come out.
The publication of the Pentagon Papers is a perfect crusading newspaper story. It starts with the intellectual, once hawkish, Marine veteran stealing and photocopying secret papers and giving them to The New York Times for publication, revealing 30 years of the government misleading the populace about the Vietnam War. The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, begins in Chapter 2, with editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) frustrated and embarrassed by having been scooped, once again, by The Times. When the government gets an injunction, barring The Times from further publication, The Post, in the words of Bradlee, is “in the game.”
Nature doesn’t really care whether there are human beings or not.
I’m sorry to break this to you.
– Margaret Atwood
I’m not sure what I need to comment on first – the bloem or that wry, newsflashy quote. Let’s start off with the easy things first – the quote. Canadian environmental activist and contemporary Scheherazade, Margaret Atwood, really knows how to drive her point home and reverse perspectives. Isn’t it utterly refreshing to hear Nature’s point-of-view? Although She may not care about our existence, we should definitely be concerned about Hers – especially on Her special day – April 22 – a.k.a. Earth Day!
Now you might be wondering what a bloem is or maybe you’ve already guessed by now that it’s a portmanteau or a blend – a word formed by clipping two words and then merging them: blog + poem = bloem. If you ask me, it’s quite a simple equation and an appropriate tribute to World Book Day, which happens to be on April 23. If you’re interested in words, literature, the future of books, and their connection to the environment – for there is one – then you are cordially invited to sample my bloem, “The Future of the Library: The Future Library,” which serves as an appetizer for the main course, an interview with Margaret Atwood about this fascinating literary and environmental project.