Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers, A Flag for Sunrise, and many other novels, has died. Of course, he’s most famous because I once rented an apartment that he had lived in not long before.
I recently rewatched The Grapes of Wrath and then reread the book. They are both great pieces of art. Back in my social realist days of art in the late 90s and early 00s, I found the slightly more optmistic end of the movie irritating, but really the scene with Rose-a-Sharon suckling the old man was over the top and there really wasn’t much reason for the book to go on after Tom Joad leaves. And the mild sense of hope at the end of the film really is a more palatable ending. The flood offers nothing but more despair. The adaptation really is perfect as well. I know Steinbeck loved it. The superfluous characters are eliminated, even though it’s obvious in the film that there’s no way Ma Joad would have gone that long between children.
Anyway, what do you think happens to Tom Joad? Let’s assume he doesn’t killed like Casey. And let’s assume he survives the war. If Tom Joad is alive after 1945, what is his future? Am I the only who sees him becoming a conservative like most of his fellow ex-sharecropper migrants and voting for Goldwater in 64? Steinbeck makes a compelling case for Joad the populist man of the left. But of course Steinbeck’s landscape of the California fields is incredibly whitened, eliminating the Filipinos and Mexicans who had long history of work in the fields. That wasn’t entirely inaccurate given the deportations of Mexicans from California in the depression once white people needed low-paid work. But can Joad’s populism bypass the racist attitudes he grew up in and the racist attitudes of California? I guess I am skeptical given what we know about post-war California and the rise of conservatism. Maybe Joad returns from the war, gets a job in the defense factories like so many of his family members and comrades from Oklahoma, and those racial attitudes take over. Now Tom Joad didn’t buy into the religion at the heart of this, but then he’s a young man in the late 30s when the story takes place. Steady work and prosperity will do a lot to make someone forget the hard bad times that make them do crazy things.
I mean, sure, it’d be nice to think about Tom Joad as the vanguard of a left-populist movement. But that didn’t happen, nor did it come close to happening. So if we are playing the odds, I think we have to say that Joad votes Goldwater.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Elizabeth Kolbert’s review of Naomi Klein’s new climate change book. Kolbert had her problems with it, primarily that Klein doesn’t offer a concrete path before. I was interested in this precisely because I think struggling for solutions to our problems, however tenuous or even unrealistic they might be, is really important. So in the nature of fairness, it’s worth noting that Klein is pushing back hard against that review, discussing the many concrete ideas she posits:
Kolbert’s review makes the quite extraordinary claim that my book “avoids looking at all closely at what [emission reduction] would entail.” In fact the book contains an in-depth discussion of emission reduction strategies employed by large economies like Germany and Ontario. It dissects the policies that work and those that do not and explores how international trade policy needs to change to make such policies more effective. It delves into which agricultural practices carry the most climate benefits, goes into detail about how to pay for green transitions (from luxury taxes to public control over energy grids). It calls for a revolution in public transit and high-speed rail, for shorter workweeks and serious climate financing so that developing nations can leapfrog over fossil fuels. It also calls for moratoriums on particularly high-risk forms of extractions—and much, much more.
Some of this would be very difficult to implement from a political perspective, but obviously these are the kinds of steps we need. So it’s slightly unclear why Kolbert focused so heavily on this issue in her review.
Klein goes farther on her website and wonders out loud whether what Kolbert is really doing is guarding her territory since she has criticized other climate change books for doing what she wants Klein to do.
Or maybe there is something else going on here. Kolbert’s review contained a couple of digs at my lack of earlier engagement with climate change. Including this painfully revealing line: “Back in 1998, which is to say more than a decade before Klein became interested in climate change…” (This was the set up for her invocation of the Swiss study.) So… yes, Kolbert has been writing about climate change longer than I have. And it’s quite true that, back in 1998, I was writing a book about consumption and corporate power, not climate change specifically. But does this kind of petty turf-protection really have a place in the face of a collective crisis of such magnitude? Personally, I much prefer the spirit of the slogan of New York City’s People’s Climate March: “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.”
Writing this response has not been fun. I have long admired Elizabeth Kolbert’s vivid reporting from the front lines of ecological collapse and the climate movement unquestionably owes her a debt of gratitude. Which is why I find it particularly troubling that someone so intimately aware of the stakes in this struggle would devote so much intellectual energy to describing why change of the scale we need is a “fable.” Why should hope—even deeply qualified hope like mine—be maddening?
One would hope turf-guarding is not what is happening here. But of course sometimes this very much happens. I doubt Kolbert would agree. But people get real cranky when they think (and often are) experts on a topic. However, we need as many calls to action climate change as possible, especially by people who are already famous. One would certainly think there would be room for a range of books on the topic and what to do. If my book inspires other people to write about the problems of capital mobility but posited completely different solutions and emphasized different issues, great!
And the critique of how long one has been interested in an issue is just petty.
R.A. Montgomery, author of the Choose Your Own Adventure children’s book series, has died. It is impossible to overstate how awesome these books were when I was 10 or 11 years old. Hopefully, Montgomery’s path to Heaven or Hell doesn’t include such similarly precarious choices as the many where the Maya would kill you, which seemed to happen a lot to me when I read the books.
I dislike science fiction as a genre. While there are a couple of science fiction films I do like, they are not of the norm of the genre (Solaris, La Jetée) and I simply don’t have time for reading science fiction because I find the entire genre uninteresting.
That said, I am very interested in Cuban culture and so this article on science fiction in Cuba is quite interesting and given the interests of many commenters here, I figured it would be a good subject to share on a Saturday night.
Not that it’s surprising that any writer or reader with even reasonable taste would reject Ayn Rand as horrible writing, but still, Flannery O’Connor in 1960:
I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.
On the other hand, Rand actually liked Spillane so, well, whatever.
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Jr.’s publishing career earned him considerably less than the president’s totals. “Promises to Keep,” released in 2007, earned less than $201 in royalties last year, according to Mr. Biden’s financial disclosure form, also released on Thursday.
Mr. Vice-President, have you thought about taking a position in academia?
I don’t need to read any of these children’s books to know Rush Limbaugh deserves the Children’s Choice Book Award for his no doubt outstanding magnum opus, “Rush Revere and The Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans.” I think you know you need to force your children to “choose” this book for America and white pride.
Columbia University named the 2014 winners for the Bancroft Prize today, which is the most prestigious prize in the field of U.S. history. This year’s winners are both close to LGM’s heart. One winner was Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself, which Scott reviewed here. The other winner is Ari Kelman’s A Misplaced Massacre. We can all agree that Ari’s podcast he did with me for the book pushed him over the top.
I confess to not reading Fear Itself yet as I am insanely busy. But certainly Scott’s recommendation speaks highly of it. I have of course read A Misplaced Massacre and obviously you need to buy it if you have not.
Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is a choice with which no one with decent taste in books could disagree. She’s deserved it for years. It’s also nice to see the Nobel committee pick someone who has so focused on the inner lives of her characters trying to succeed in the reality of messy divorces, early pregnancy, homesickness, etc. Great writer, so well-deserved.
Who needs some reading material? Horny Ghost of Osama Bin Laden: Rise of the Ghost has been published.
When an American diver goes in the search of the body of Osama bin Laden, he’s surprised to find not only the body,but also Bin Laden’s terrifying and horny ghost. Raped by the ghost and forced to sail to America, the duo arrive in Miami where Bin Laden is overwhelmed by the sexy American women. Discovering that his power increases by having sex with young women, Bin Laden sets out to get as many women as possible in effort to become the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. With the American government unable to stop him because weapons have no effect on his ghostly body, all hope seems lost. As politicians leave the White House to operate from top secret locations, Janet a young psychic, convinces the leaders to employ help from the ghosts of dead Americans to combat the most unimaginable terror ever unleashed on American soil. But as Bin Laden’s powers begin to grow, he sets out to take all that he sees. With the fate of the world in the hands of a sex-crazed terrorist. it’s up to an influential figure from our past to save America from this bleak, sexual future. An entertaining mix of horror and comedy, this thrilling novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Filled with twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the final page, this exhilarating book takes terrorism to a whole new level.
I’m hoping the influential figure from the past is 1884 Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine.
Time to make an announcement that’s been in the works for awhile.
Today, I signed a contract with The New Press. The book is tentatively titled “Out of Sight: A Century of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe” and is a history of American corporate mobility that builds connections between current labor conditions in the developing world and corporations avoiding labor and environmental regulations by moving their sites of production around the planet. Bridging the 102 years between the Triangle Fire of 1911 and the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, the book examines how corporations responded to effective regulations that made American workplaces safer and American air and water cleaner not by becoming good corporate citizens, but instead by moving production to recreate the dangerous work and unregulated pollution of the Gilded Age.
Hiding industrial production from American consumers has proven an incredibly effective corporate strategy. Citizens are no longer galvanized by the Triangle Fire to create reforms and corporations work with government officials to suppress the unions in overseas plants that could publicize the conditions of work. Clothes appear on hangers and meat in nicely wrapped packages without most Americans giving a second thought to how those products arrived at their fingertips. Chapters examine the history of exploiting female labor in the textile industry, strategies to hide meat production from consumers, the outsourcing of pollution to the world’s poor, and the effects of outsourcing on the long-term stability of the American working class. Finally it suggests ways American consumers and activists can work to ensure products are produced in environmentally sustainable and dignified conditions, using examples ranging from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to the LaFollette Seaman’s Act, which set minimum standards for working conditions aboard ships bringing goods to the United States, effectively creating a race to the top in that industry, to suggest workable paths to a better future for the planet and the global working class. Ultimately, we need internationally enforceable labor and environmental standards that allow workers to sue corporations in the corporate nation or origin or in international courts. Without making labor and environmental regulations as mobile as capital investment, we cannot stop the scourge of capital mobility’s exploitation of labor and nature.
I always said my hatred of capitalism should make me some money. And amazingly, it now has.