4.26.2017 Daily Links

              A Thought for the Day                

The predatory hypocrisy of ‘prohibition’ and proscriptive attitudes toward ‘controlled substances,’ with their attendant faux drug wars that turn into forced prescriptive protocols, bring fortune and power to the few and misery and mayhem to the many so regularly that outcomes along these lines must in fact appear intentional, which in turn indicates that whether they emanate from Nixon or Reagan or Clinton or Obama or otherwise, all so-called ‘wars-on-drugs’ and schemes of outlawing spirits and other agents as contraband represent nothing other than fraudulent, self-dealing, murderous, and venal crimes against humanity, matters in other words that merit revolutionary resistance and, if necessary, violent opposition to overthrow completely.

                    This Day in History                  

Today in Belarus marks a Day of Remembrance of the Chernobyl Tragedy, while in a passing of hours of critical import to scribes, this date also inscribes World Intellectual Property Day, as, on a lighter and yet also important note, April 26th is Hug a Friend Day; in the South of bustling England four hundred fifty-three years ago, a baptism took place for a boy who would become the bard of the ages, William Shakespeare, even as his birthday eludes the snares of memory; two hundred thirteen years hence, in 1777, a young woman, Sybyl Ludington, rode over forty miles throughout the night along the New York and Connecticut border to warn of advancing British forces; MORE HERE

                  Quote of the Day                       
  • What a piece of work is a man!
    How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!
    In form and moving how express and admirable!
    In action how like an angel,
    in apprehension how like a god!

                   Doc of the Day                      
1. David Hume, 1742.
2. Bernard Malamud, 1975.
3. Jim Hickey, 2014
Numero Uno“The material facts in Hume’s life are to be found in the autobiography which he prefixed to his History of EnglandMy Own Life, as he calls it, is but a brief exposition, but it is sufficient for its purpose, and the longer biographies of him do little more than amplify the information which he gives us himself.  The Humes, it appears, were a remote branch of the family of Lord Hume of Douglas.  Hume’s father was Joseph Hume, of Ninewells, a minor Scotch laird, who died when his son was an infant.  David Hume was born at Edinburgh on April 26th, 1711, during a visit of his parents to the Scotch capital.  Hume tells us that his father passed for a man of parts, and that his mother, who herself came of good Scottish family, ‘was a woman of singular merit; though young and handsome, she devoted herself entirely to the rearing and educating of her children.’  At school Hume won no special distinction.  He matriculated in the class of Greek at the Edinburgh University when he was twelve years old, and, he says ‘passed through the ordinary course of education with success;’ but ‘our college education in Scotland,’ he remarks in one of his works, ‘extending little further than the languages, ends commonly when we are about fourteen or fifteen years of age.’  During his youth, Mrs. Hume does not appear to have maintained any too flattering opinion of her son’s abilities; she considered him a good-natured but ‘uncommon weak-minded’ creature.  Possibly her judgment underwent a change in course of time, since she lived to see the beginnings of his literary fame; but his worldly success was long in the making, and he was a middle-aged man before his meagre fortune was converted into anything like a decent maintenance.  MORE HERE

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                     Nearly Naked Links                  

From Tuesday’s Files

armenia, truck, military, war,

Bullshit ‘Progressives’ Who Foment War –

Discovering America From Cuba –

Anthony Trollope Autobiography –



student writing arm



These competitive grants, not to exceed $750, support professional and artistic development and presentation opportunities for artists. Ongoing. Upcoming deadline: July 1, 2017 for activities occurring between August 15, 2017 and November 15, 2017.


Modern Loss looks to publish candid pieces about all aspects of loss and grief, and seeks personal essays, reported pieces, listicles, comics, and more.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


Six Red Marbles is looking for Fashion Design Writers and Editors – remote

We are seeking subject matter experts to serve as writers, editors, and reviewers for an online high school fashion design course. The writing and editing team will be developing instructional text, assessment items, and some student projects. This is an introductory course that provides students a broad foundation…

Company: Six Red Marbles
Payment: TBD
Skills: Writing and/or Editing
Source: LinkedIn


Contemplating Subcontinental Caste Norms

An Aeon essay by a thoughtful correspondent who analyses the persistence of toxic caste systems: “It is unsurprising that the Patel siblings are unaware that they are, in effect, making a film about caste. Many Indians watching this movie would experience the same blindness. As caste has been globally castigated as a social evil, upper-caste Indian society has found numerous ways to refer to caste without explicitly mentioning it. In everyday language, media and advertising, proxies include ‘community’ and ‘family background’. Endogamous pressure is condoned as vital to Indian society because it preserves the community (few modern Indians would admit to wanting to preserve the caste group). Another linguistic proxy for lower-caste groups is ‘different’. These proxies carry the full range of meanings that caste categorisations do, and are used in a variety of situations, from school and job interviews to a landlord meeting prospective tenants.”


Copyright’s Undermining Human Rights

A Falkvinge post that properly contextualize the harmful effects of copyright laws for creativity, progress, and further human development: “This is consistent with my previous column where I describe how and why enforcement of the copyright monopoly online is utterly incompatible with privacy as we know it – for infringements take place in private communications that may both be used for super-protected communications like leaking evidence of abuse of governmental power to the press under protection-of-source laws, and for sharing music and movies, and if you’re going to make the latter discoverable, you’re also negating the legal protection of the former.”


Manifesting Manufactured Consent

A TNI look at the manufactured nature of our media environment: “Corporations don’t just shape our politics or economics, they also seek to change public opinion to serve their interests. Which corporations play the biggest role in shaping knowledge and news? What do they fund? Who do they represent? What role have they played in the rise of authoritarian populists? This infographic for State of Power 2017 exposes those ‘manufacturing consent’.”


Russia, Ukraine, International Justice

A Duran look at current legal Ukrainian shenanigans: “Ukraine has suffered another blow in the web of legal cases in which it is now involved with Russia.

Following the decision of the High Court in London to grant Russia summary Judgment in the case Russia is bringing against Ukraine for repayment of the $3 billion loan Ukraine owes Russia, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has today declined to grant even on a provisional basis the main part of the relief Ukraine was seeking in the case it has brought against Russia.”

GENISSLegalizing Pot, Dismantling Drug-War Bureaucracy

A Truth Out post that analyses current drug war contradictions, and looks at the future of drug legalization and better management:  “Trump should look at the polls. Marijuana legalization is increasingly popular, including among the young people at the base of Trump’s own party. Voters are wary of mass incarceration and favor medical treatment over jail time. Even establishment politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with the former presidents of several Latin American countries, have called for an end to the war on drugs.

4.26.2017 Doc of the Day

1. David Hume, 1742.
2. Bernard Malamud, 1975.
3. Jim Hickey, 2014
[The pier, Southend-on-Sea, England]  (LOC)
Numero Uno“The material facts in Hume’s life are to be found in the autobiography which he prefixed to his History of EnglandMy Own Life, as he calls it, is but a brief exposition, but it is sufficient for its purpose, and the longer biographies of him do little more than amplify the information which he gives us himself.  The Humes, it appears, were a remote branch of the family of Lord Hume of Douglas.  Hume’s father was Joseph Hume, of Ninewells, a minor Scotch laird, who died when his son was an infant.  David Hume was born at Edinburgh on April 26th, 1711, during a visit of his parents to the Scotch capital.  Hume tells us that his father passed for a man of parts, and that his mother, who herself came of good Scottish family, ‘was a woman of singular merit; though young and handsome, she devoted herself entirely to the rearing and educating of her children.’  At school Hume won no special distinction.  He matriculated in the class of Greek at the Edinburgh University when he was twelve years old, and, he says ‘passed through the ordinary course of education with success;’ but ‘our college education in Scotland,’ he remarks in one of his works, ‘extending little further than the languages, ends commonly when we are about fourteen or fifteen years of age.’  During his youth, Mrs. Hume does not appear to have maintained any too flattering opinion of her son’s abilities; she considered him a good-natured but ‘uncommon weak-minded’ creature.  Possibly her judgment underwent a change in course of time, since she lived to see the beginnings of his literary fame; but his worldly success was long in the making, and he was a middle-aged man before his meagre fortune was converted into anything like a decent maintenance.It may have been Hume’s apparent vacillation in choosing a career that made this “shrewd Scots wife” hold her son in such small esteem. At first the family tried to launch him into the profession of the law, but “while they fancied I was poring over Voet and Vinnius, Cicero and Virgil were the authors I was secretly devouring.” For six years Hume remained at Ninewells and then made “a feeble trial for entering on a more active scene of life.” Commerce, this time, was the chosen instrument, but the result was not more successful. “In 1734 I went to Bristol with some recommendations to eminent merchants, but in a few months found that scene totally unsuitable for me.” At length—in the middle of 1736 when Hume was twenty-three years of age and without any profession or means of earning a livelihood—he went over to France. He settled first at Rheims, and afterwards at La Flêche in Anjou, and “there I laid that plan of life which I have steadily and successfully pursued. I resolved to make a very rigid frugality supply my deficiency of fortune, to maintain unimpaired my independency, and to regard every object as contemptible except the improvement of my talents in literature.” At La Flêche Hume lived in frequent intercourse with the Jesuits at the famous college in which Descartes was educated, and he composed his first book, the Treatise of Human Nature. According to himself “it fell dead-born from the press, without reaching such distinction as even to excite a murmur among the zealots.” But this work which was planned before the author was twenty-one and written before he was twenty-five, in the opinion of Professor Huxley, is probably the most remarkable philosophical work, both intrinsically and in its effects upon the course of thought, that has ever been written. Three years later Hume published anonymously, at Edinburgh, the first volume of Essays, Moral and Political, which was followed in 1742 by the second volume. The Essays, he says, were favourably received and soon made me entirely forget my former disappointments.

In 1745 Hume became tutor to a young nobleman, the Marquis of Annandale, who was mentally affected, but he did not endure the engagement for long. Next year General St. Clair, who had been appointed to command an expedition in the War of the Pragmatic Sanction, invited him to be his secretary, an office to which that of judge-advocate was afterwards added. The expedition was a failure, but General St. Clair, who was afterwards entrusted with embassies to Turin and Vienna, and upon whom Hume seems to have created a favourable impression, insisted that he should accompany him in the same capacity as secretary; he further made him one of his aides-de-camp. Thus Hume had to attire his portly figure in a “scarlet military uniform,” and Lord Charlemont who met him in Turin says that he wore his uniform “like a grocer of the train-bands.” At Vienna the Empress-Dowager excused him on ceremonial occasions from walking backwards, a concession which was much appreciated by “my companions who were desperately afraid of my falling on them and crushing them.” Hume returned to London in 1749. “These years,” he says, “were almost the only interruptions my studies have received during the course of my life. I passed them agreeably and in good company, and my appointments, with my frugality, had made me reach a fortune which I called independent, though most of my friends were inclined to smile when I said so; in short, I was now master of near a thousand pounds.”

While Hume was away with General St. Clair his Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding was published, but it was not more successful than the original Treatise of a portion of which it was a recasting. A new edition of Moral and Political Essays met with no better fate, but these disappointments, he says, “made little or no impression” on him. In 1749 Hume returned to Ninewells, and lived for a while with his brothers. Afterwards he took a flat of his own at Edinburgh, with his sister to keep house for him. At this period the Political Discourses and the Inquiry concerning the Principles of Morals were published. Of the Inquiry Hume held the opinion, an opinion, however, which was not shared by the critics, that “it is of all my writings—historical, philosophical, or literary incomparably the best.” Slowly and surely his publications were growing in reputation. In 1752 the Faculty of Advocates elected Hume their librarian, an office which was valuable to him, not so much for the emolument as for the extensive library which enabled him to pursue the historical studies upon which he had for some time been engaged. For the next nine years he was occupied with his History of England. The first volume was published in 1754, and the second volume, which met with a better reception than the first, in 1756. Only forty-five copies of the first volume were sold in a twelvemonth; but the subsequent volumes made rapid headway, and raised a great clamour, for in the words of Macaulay, Hume’s historical picture, though drawn by a master hand, has all the lights Tory and all the shades Whig. In 1757 one of his most remarkable works, the Natural History of Religion, appeared. The book was attacked—not wholly to Hume’s dissatisfaction, for he appreciated fame as well as success—”with all the illiberal petulance, arrogance, and scurrility which distinguish the Warburtonian school.”

Hume remained in Edinburgh superintending the publication of the Historyuntil 1763 when Lord Hertford, who had been appointed ambassador to France, offered him office in the embassy, with the promise of the secretaryship later on. The appointment was the more honourable, inasmuch as Hume was not personally acquainted with Lord Hertford, who had a reputation for virtue and piety, whilst Hume’s views about religion had rendered him one of the best abused men of his time. In France Hume’s reputation stood higher than it was in England; several of his works had been translated into French; and he had corresponded with Montesquieu, Helvetius and Rousseau. Thus he was received in French society with every mark of distinction. In a letter to Adam Smith in October 1763, he wrote: “I have been three days at Paris and two at Fontainebleau, and have everywhere met with the most extraordinary honours, which the most exorbitant vanity could wish or desire.” Great nobles fêted him, and great ladies struggled for the presence of the “gros David” at their receptions or in their boxes at the theatre. “At the opera his broad unmeaning face was usually to be seen entre deux joli minois,” says Lord Charlemont. Hume took his honours with satisfaction, but with becoming good sense, and he did not allow these flatteries to turn his head.

In 1767 Hume was back in London, and for the next two years held office as Under-Secretary of State. It is not necessary to dwell upon this period of his life, or to go into the details of his quarrel with Rousseau. In 1769 he returned to Edinburgh “very opulent” in the possession of £1,000 a year, and determined to take the rest of his life easily and pleasantly. He built himself a house in Edinburgh, and for the next six years it was the centre of the most accomplished society in the city. In 1755 Hume’s health began to fail, and he knew that his illness must be fatal. Thus he made his will and wrote My Own Life, which ends simply in these words:

‘I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution.  I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of spirits; insomuch that were I to name the period of my life which I should most choose to pass over again, I might be tempted to point to this later period.  I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company; I consider, besides, that a man of sixty-five, by dying, cuts off only a few years of infirmities; and though I see many symptoms of my literary reputation’s breaking out at last with additional lustre, I know that I could have but few years to enjoy it.  It is difficult to be more detached from life than I am at present.

To conclude historically with my own character, I am, or rather was (for that is the style I must now use in speaking of myself); I was, I say, a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.  Even my love of literary fame, my ruling passion, never soured my temper, notwithstanding my frequent disappointments.  My company was not unacceptable to the young and careless, as well as to the studious and literary; and as I took a particular pleasure in the company of modest women, I had no reason to be displeased with the reception I met with from them.  In a word, though most men any wise eminent, have found reason to complain of calumny, I never was touched or even attacked by her baleful tooth; and though I wantonly exposed myself to the rage of both civil and religious factions, they seemed to be disarmed in my behalf of their wonted fury.  My friends never had occasion to vindicate any one circumstance of my character and conduct; not but that the zealots, we may well suppose, would have been glad to invent and propagate any story to my disadvantage, but they could never find any which they thought would wear the face of probability.  I cannot say there is no vanity in making this funeral oration of myself, but I hope it is not a misplaced one; and this is a matter of fact which is easily cleared and ascertained.’

Hume died in Edinburgh on August 25th, 1776, and a few days later was buried in a spot selected by himself on the Carlton Hill.

Nothing is more apt to surprise a foreigner, than the extreme liberty which we enjoy in this country of communicating whatever we please to the public and of openly censuring every measure entered into by the king or his ministers.  If the administration resolve upon war, it is affirmed, that, either wilfully or ignorantly, they mistake the interests of the nation; and that peace, in the present situation of affairs, is infinitely preferable.  If the passion of the ministers lie towards peace, our political writers breathe nothing but war and devastation, and represent the specific conduct of the government as mean and pusillanimous.  As this liberty is not indulged in any other government, either republican or monarchical; in Holland and Venice, more than in France or Spain; it may very naturally give occasion to the question, How it happens that Great Britain alone enjoys this peculiar privilege?

The reason why the laws indulge us in such a liberty, seems to be derived from our mixed form of government, which is neither wholly monarchical, nor wholly republican. It will be found, if I mistake not, a true observation in politics, that the two extremes in government, liberty and slavery, commonly approach nearest to each other; and that, as you depart from the extremes, and mix a little of monarchy with liberty, the government becomes always the more free; and, on the other hand, when you mix a little of liberty with monarchy, the yoke becomes always the more grievous and intolerable. In a government, such as that of France, which is absolute, and where law, custom, and religion concur, all of them, to make the people fully satisfied with their condition, the monarch cannot entertain any jealousy against his subjects, and therefore is apt to indulge them in great liberties, both of speech and action. In a government altogether republican, such as that of Holland, where there is no magistrate so eminent as to give jealousy to the state, there is no danger in intrusting the magistrates with large discretionary powers; and though many advantages result from such powers, in preserving peace and order, yet they lay a considerable restraint on men’s actions, and make every private citizen pay a great respect to the government. Thus it seems evident, that the two extremes of absolute monarchy and of a republic, approach near to each other in some material circumstances. In the first, the magistrate has no jealousy of the people; in the second, the people have none of the magistrate: which want of jealousy begets a mutual confidence and trust in both cases, and produces a species of liberty in monarchies, and of arbitrary power in republics.

To justify the other part of the foregoing observation, that, in every government, the means are most wide of each other, and that the mixtures of monarchy and liberty render the yoke either more grievous; I must take notice of a remark in Tacitus with regard to the Romans under the Emperors, that they neither could bear total slavery nor total liberty, Nec totam servitutem, nec totam libertatem pati possunt. This remark a celebrated poet has translated and applied to the English, in his lively description of Queen Elizabeth’s policy and government.

Et fit aimer son joug à l’Anglois indompté,
Qui ne peut ni servir, ni vivre en liberté.
HENRIADE, liv. i.

According to these remarks, we are to consider the Roman government under the Emperors as a mixture of despotism and liberty, where the despotism prevailed; and the English government as a mixture of the same kind, where the liberty predominates.  The consequences are conformable to the foregoing observation, and such as may be expected from those mixed forms of government, which beget a mutual watchfulness and jealousy.  The Roman emperors were, many of them, the most frightful tyrants that ever disgraced human nature; and it is evident, that their cruelty was chiefly excited by their jealousy, and by their observing that all the great men of Rome bore with impatience the dominion of a family, which, but a little before, was nowise superior to their own.  On the other hand, as the republican part of the government prevails in England, though with a great mixture of monarchy, it is obliged, for its own preservation, to maintain a watchful jealousy over the magistrates, to remove all discretionary powers, and to secure every one’s life and fortune by general and inflexible laws.  No action must be deemed a crime but what the law has plainly determined to be such: no crime must be imputed to a man but from a legal proof before his judges; and even these judges must be his fellow-subjects, who are obliged, by their own interest, to have a watchful eye over the encroachments and violence of the ministers.  From these causes it proceeds, that there is as much liberty, and even perhaps licentiousness, in Great Britain, as there were formerly slavery and tyranny in Rome.

These principles account for the great liberty of the press in these kingdoms, beyond what is indulged in any other government. It is apprehended that arbitrary power would steal in upon us, were we not careful to prevent its progress, and were there not any easy method of conveying the alarm from one end of the kingdom to the other.  The spirit of the people must frequently be roused, in order to curb the ambition of the court; and the dread of rousing this spirit must be employed to prevent that ambition.  Nothing so effectual to this purpose as the liberty of the press; by which all the learning, wit, and genius of the nation, may be employed on the side of freedom, and every one be animated to its defence.  As long, therefore, as the republican part of our government can maintain itself against the monarchical, it will naturally be careful to keep the press open, as of importance to its own preservation.

It must however be allowed, that the unbounded liberty of the press, though it be difficult, perhaps impossible, to propose a suitable remedy for it, is one of the evils attending those mixed forms of government. …

It is a question with several, whether there be any essential difference between one form of government and another? and, whether every form may not become good or bad, according as it is well or ill administered?  Were it once admitted, that all governments are alike, and that the only difference consists in the character and conduct of the governors, most political disputes would be at an end, and all Zeal for one constitution above another must be esteemed mere bigotry and folly.  But, though a friend to moderation, I cannot forbear condemning this sentiment, and should be sorry to think, that human affairs admit of no greater stability, than what they receive from the casual humours and characters of particular men.

It is true, those who maintain that the goodness of all government consists in the goodness of the administration, may cite many particular instances in history, where the very same government, in different hands, has varied suddenly into the two opposite extremes of good and bad.  Compare the French government under Henry III and under Henry IV.  Oppression, levity, artifice, on the part of the rulers; faction, sedition, treachery, rebellion, disloyalty on the part of the subjects: these compose the character of the former miserable era.  But when the patriot and heroic prince, who succeeded, was once firmly seated on the throne, the government, the people, every thing, seemed to be totally changed; and all from the difference of the temper and conduct of these two sovereigns.  Instances of this kind may be multiplied, almost without number, from ancient as well as modern history, foreign as well as domestic.

But here it may be proper to make a distinction. All absolute governments must very much depend on the administration; and this is one of the great inconveniences attending that form of government. But a republican and free government would be an obvious absurdity, if the particular checks and controls, provided by the constitution had really no influence, and made it not the interest, even of bad men, to act for the public good. Such is the intention of these forms of government, and such is their real effect, where they are wisely constituted: as, on the other hand, they are the source of all disorder, and of the blackest crimes, where either skill or honesty has been wanting in their original frame and institution.

So great is the force of laws, and of particular forms of government, and so little dependence have they on the humours and tempers of men, that consequences almost as general and certain may sometimes be deduced from them, as any which the mathematical sciences afford us.

The constitution of the Roman republic gave the whole legislative power to the people, without allowing a negative voice either to the nobility or consuls. This unbounded power they possessed in a collective, not in a representative body. The consequences were: when the people, by success and conquest, had become very numerous, and had spread themselves to a great distance from the capital, the city tribes, though the most contemptible, carried almost every vote: they were, therefore, most cajoled by every one that affected popularity: they were supported in idleness by the general distribution of corn, and by particular bribes, which they received from almost every candidate: by this means, they became every day more licentious, and the Campus Martius was a perpetual scene of tumult and sedition: armed slaves were introduced among these rascally citizens, so that the whole government fell into anarchy; and the greatest happiness which the Romans could look for, was the despotic power of the Cæsars. Such are the effects of democracy without a representative.

A Nobility may possess the whole, or any part of the legislative power of a state, in two different ways. Either every nobleman shares the power as a part of the whole body, or the whole body enjoys the power as composed of parts, which have each a distinct power and authority. The Venetian aristocracy is an instance of the first kind of government; the Polish, of the second. In the Venetian government the whole body of nobility possesses the whole power, and no nobleman has any authority which he receives not from the whole. In the Polish government every nobleman, by means of his fiefs, has a distinct hereditary authority over his vassals, and the whole body has no authority but what it receives from the concurrence of its parts. The different operations and tendencies of these two species of government might be made apparent even a priori. A Venetian nobility is preferable to a Polish, let the humours and education of men be ever so much varied. A nobility, who possess their power in common, will preserve peace and order, both among themselves, and their subjects; and no member can have authority enough to control the laws for a moment. The nobles will preserve their authority over the people, but without any grievous tyranny, or any breach of private property; because such a tyrannical government promotes not the interests of the whole body, however it may that of some individuals. There will be a distinction of rank between the nobility and people, but this will be the only distinction in the state. The whole nobility will form one body, and the whole people another, without any of those private feuds and animosities, which spread ruin and desolation everywhere. It is easy to see the disadvantages of a Polish nobility in every one of these particulars.

It is possible so to constitute a free government, as that a single person, call him a doge, prince, or king, shall possess a large share of power, and shall form a proper balance or counterpoise to the other parts of the legislature. This chief magistrate may be either elective or hereditary, and though the former institution may, to a superficial view, appear the most advantageous; yet a more accurate inspection will discover in it greater inconveniences than in the latter, and such as are founded on causes and principles eternal and immutable. The filling of the throne, in such a government, is a point of too great and too general interest, not to divide the whole people into factions, whence a civil war, the greatest of ills, may be apprehended, almost with certainty, upon every vacancy. The prince elected must be either a Foreigner or a Native: the former will be ignorant of the people whom he is to govern; suspicious of his new subjects, and suspected by them; giving his confidence entirely to strangers, who will have no other care but of enriching themselves in the quickest manner, while their master’s favour and authority are able to support them. A native will carry into the throne all his private animosities and friendships, and will never be viewed in his elevation without exciting the sentiment of envy in those who formerly considered him as their equal. Not to mention that a crown is too high a reward ever to be given to merit alone, and will always induce the candidates to employ force, or money, or intrigue, to procure the votes of the electors: so that such an election will give no better chance for superior merit in the prince, than if the state had trusted to birth alone for determining the sovereign.

It may, therefore, be pronounced as an universal axiom in politics, That an hereditary prince, a nobility without vassals, and a people voting by their representatives, form the best MONARCHY, ARISTOCRACY, andDEMOCRACY. But in order to prove more fully, that politics admit of general truths, which are invariable by the humour or education either of subject or sovereign, it may not be amiss to observe some other principles of this science, which may seem to deserve that character.

It may easily be observed, that though free governments have been commonly the most happy for those who partake of their freedom; yet are they the most ruinous and oppressive to their provinces: and this observation may, I believe, be fixed as a maxim of the kind we are here speaking of. When a monarch extends his dominions by conquest, he soon learns to consider his old and his new subjects as on the same footing; because, in reality, all his subjects are to him the same, except the few friends and favourites with whom he is personally acquainted. He does not, therefore, make any distinction between them in his general laws; and, at the same time, is careful to prevent all particular acts of oppression on the one as well as the other. But a free state necessarily makes a great distinction, and must always do so till men learn to love their neighbours as well as themselves. The conquerors, in such a government, are all legislators, and will be sure to contrive matters, by restrictions on trade, and by taxes, so as to draw some private, as well as public advantage from their conquests. Provincial governors have also a better chance, in a republic, to escape with their plunder, by means of bribery or intrigue; and their fellow-citizens, who find their own state to be enriched by the spoils of the subject provinces, will be the more inclined to tolerate such abuses. Not to mention, that it is a necessary precaution in a free state to change the governors frequently, which obliges these temporary tyrants to be more expeditious and rapacious, that they may accumulate sufficient wealth before they give place to their successors. What cruel tyrants were the Romans over the world during the time of their commonwealth! It is true, they had laws to prevent oppression in their provincial magistrates; but Cicero informs us, that the Romans could not better consult the interests of the provinces than by repealing these very laws. For, in that case, says he, our magistrates, having entire impunity, would plunder no more than would satisfy their own rapaciousness; whereas, at present, they must also satisfy that of their judges, and of all the great men in Rome, of whose protection they stand in need. Who can read of the cruelties and oppressions of Verres without horror and astonishment? And who is not touched with indignation to hear, that, after Cicero had exhausted on that abandoned criminal all the thunders of his eloquence, and had prevailed so far as to get him condemned to the utmost extent of the laws, yet that cruel tyrant lived peaceably to old age, in opulence and ease, and, thirty years afterwards, was put into the proscription by Mark Antony, on account of his exorbitant wealth, where he fell with Cicero himself, and all the most virtuous men of Rome? After the dissolution of the commonwealth, the Roman yoke became easier upon the provinces, as Tacitus informs us; and it may be observed, that many of the worst emperors, Domitian, for instance, were careful to prevent all oppression on the provinces. In Tiberius’s time, Gaul was esteemed richer than Italy itself: nor do I find, during the whole time of the Roman monarchy, that the empire became less rich or populous in any of its provinces; though indeed its valour and military discipline were always upon the decline. The oppression and tyranny of the Carthaginians over their subject states in Africa went so far, as we learn from Polybius, that, not content with exacting the half of all the produce of the land, which of itself was a very high rent, they also loaded them with many other taxes. If we pass from ancient to modern times, we shall still find the observation to hold. The provinces of absolute monarchies are always better treated than those of free states. Compare the Pais conquis of France with Ireland, and you will be convinced of this truth; though this latter kingdom, being in a good measure peopled from England, possesses so many rights and privileges as should naturally make it challenge better treatment than that of a conquered province. Corsica is also an obvious instance to the same purpose.

There is an observation of Machiavel, with regard to the conquests of Alexander the Great, which, I think, may be regarded as one of those eternal political truths, which no time nor accidents can vary. It may seem strange, says that politician, that such sudden conquests, as those of Alexander, should be possessed so peaceably by his successors, and that the Persians, during all the confusions and civil wars among the Greeks, never made the smallest effort towards the recovery of their former independent government. To satisfy us concerning the cause of this remarkable event, we may consider, that a monarch may govern his subjects in two different ways. He may either follow the maxims of the Eastern princes, and stretch his authority so far as to leave no distinction of rank among his subjects, but what proceeds immediately from himself; no advantages of birth; no hereditary honours and possessions; and, in a word, no credit among the people, except from his commission alone. Or a monarch may exert his power after a milder manner, like other European princes; and leave other sources of honour, beside his smile and favour; birth, titles, possessions, valour, integrity, knowledge, or great and fortunate achievements. In the former species of government, after a conquest, it is impossible ever to shake off the yoke; since no one possesses, among the people, so much personal credit and authority as to begin such an enterprise: whereas, in the latter, the least misfortune, or discord among the victors, will encourage the vanquished to take arms, who have leaders ready to prompt and conduct them in every undertaking.[3]

Such is the reasoning of Machiavel, which seems solid and conclusive; though I wish he had not mixed falsehood with truth, in asserting that monarchies, governed according to Eastern policy, though more easily kept when once subdued, yet are the most difficult to subdue; since they cannot contain any powerful subject, whose discontent and faction may facilitate the enterprises of an enemy. For, besides, that such a tyrannical government enervates the courage of men, and renders them indifferent towards the fortunes of their sovereigns; besides this, I say, we find by experience, that even the temporary and delegated authority of the generals and magistrates, being always, in such governments, as absolute within its sphere as that of the prince himself, is able, with barbarians accustomed to a blind submission, to produce the most dangerous and fatal revolutions. So that in every respect, a gentle government is preferable, and gives the greatest security to the sovereign as well as to the subject.

Legislators, therefore, ought not to trust the future government of a state entirely to chance, but ought to provide a system of laws to regulate the administration of public affairs to the latest posterity. Effects will always correspond to causes; and wise regulations, in any commonwealth, are the most valuable legacy that can be left to future ages. In the smallest court or office, the stated forms and methods by which business must be conducted, are found to be a considerable check on the natural depravity of mankind. Why should not the case be the same in public affairs? Can we ascribe the stability and wisdom of the Venetian government, through so many ages, to any thing but the form of government? And is it not easy to point out those defects in the original constitution, which produced the tumultuous governments of Athens and Rome, and ended at last in the ruin of these two famous republics? And so little dependence has this affair on the humours and education of particular men, that one part of the same republic may be wisely conducted, and another weakly, by the very same men, merely on account of the differences of the forms and institutions by which these parts are regulated. Historians inform us that this was actually the case with Genoa. For while the state was always full of sedition, and tumult, and disorder, the bank of St. George, which had become a considerable part of the people, was conducted, for several ages, with the utmost integrity and wisdom.

The ages of greatest public spirit are not always most eminent for private virtue. Good laws may beget order and moderation in the government, where the manners and customs have instilled little humanity or justice into the tempers of men. The most illustrious period of the Roman history, considered in a political view, is that between the beginning of the first and end of the last Punic war; the due balance between the nobility and people being then fixed by the contests of the tribunes, and not being yet lost by the extent of conquests. Yet at this very time, the horrid practice of poisoning was so common, that, during part of the season, a Prætor punished capitally for this crime above three thousand persons in a part of Italy; and found informations of this nature still multiplying upon him. There is a similar, or rather a worse instance, in the more early times of the commonwealth; so depraved in private life were that people, whom in their histories we so much admire. I doubt not but they were really more virtuous during the time of the two Triumvirates, when they were tearing their common country to pieces, and spreading slaughter and desolation over the face of the earth, merely for the choice of tyrants.

Here, then, is a sufficient inducement to maintain, with the utmost zeal, in every free state, those forms and institutions by which liberty is secured, the public good consulted, and the avarice or ambition of particular men restrained and punished. Nothing does more honour to human nature, than to see it susceptible of so noble a passion; as nothing can be a greater indication of meanness of heart in any man than to see him destitute of it. A man who loves only himself, without regard to friendship and desert, merits the severest blame; and a man, who is only susceptible of friendship, without public spirit, or a regard to the community, is deficient in the most material part of virtue.

But this is a subject which needs not be longer insisted on at present. There are enow of zealots on both sides, who kindle up the passions of their partisans, and, under pretence of public good, pursue the interests and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I shall always be more fond of promoting moderation than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the foregoing doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with regard to the parties into which our country is at present divided; at the same time, that we allow not this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with which every individual is bound to pursue the good of his country.

Those who either attack or defend a minister in such a government as ours, where the utmost liberty is allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and foreign management; and there is no meanness or crime, of which, in their account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive taxes, every kind of maladministration is ascribed to him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is said, will extend its baneful influence even to posterity, by undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed every security provided against wicked ministers for the future.

On the other hand, the partisans of the minister make his panegyric run as high as the accusation against him, and celebrate his wise, steady, and moderate conduct in every part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued; the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest posterity.

When this accusation and panegyric are received by the partisans of each party, no wonder they beget an extraordinary ferment on both sides, and fill the nation with violent animosities. But I would fain persuade these party zealots, that there is a flat contradiction both in the accusation and panegyric, and that it were impossible for either of them to run so high, were it not for this contradiction. If our constitution be really that noble fabric, the pride of Britain, the envy of our neighbours, raised by the labour of so many centuries, repaired at the expense of so many millions, and cemented by such a profusion of blood;[4] I say, if our constitution does in any degree deserve these eulogies, it would never have suffered a wicked and weak minister to govern triumphantly for a course of twenty years, when opposed by the greatest geniuses in the nation, who exercised the utmost liberty of tongue and pen, in parliament, and in their frequent appeals to the people. But, if the minister be wicked and weak, to the degree so strenuously insisted on, the constitution must be faulty in its original principles, and he cannot consistently be charged with undermining the best form of government in the world. A constitution is only so far good, as it provides a remedy against maladministration; and if the British, when in its greatest vigour, and repaired by two such remarkable events as the Revolution and Accession, by which our ancient royal family was sacrificed to it; if our constitution, I say, with so great advantages, does not, in fact, provide any such remedy, we are rather beholden to any minister who undermines it, and affords us an opportunity of erecting a better in its place.

I would employ the same topics to moderate the zeal of those who defend the minister.  Is our constitution so excellent?  Then a change of ministry can be no such dreadful event; since it is essential to such a constitution, in every ministry, both to preserve itself from violation, and to prevent all enormities in the administration.  Is our constitution very bad?  Then so extraordinary a jealousy and apprehension, on account of changes, is ill placed; and a man should no more be anxious in this case, than a husband, who had married a woman from the stews, should be watchful to prevent her infidelity.  Public affairs, in such a government, must necessarily go to confusion, by whatever hands they are conducted; and the zeal of patriots is in that case much less requisite than the patience and submission ofphilosophers.  The virtue and good intention of Cato and Brutus are highly laudable; but to what purpose did their zeal serve?  Only to hasten the fatal period of the Roman government, and render its convulsions and dying agonies more violent and painful.

I would not be understood to mean, that public affairs deserve no care and attention at all.  Would men be moderate and consistent, their claims might be admitted; at least might be examined.  The country party might still assert, that our constitution, though excellent, will admit of maladministration to a certain degree; and therefore, if the minister be bad, it is proper to oppose him with a suitable degree of zeal.  And, on the other hand, the court party may be allowed, upon the supposition that the minister were good, to defend, and with some zeal too, his administration.  I would only persuade men not to contend, as if they were fighting pro aris et focis, and change a good constitution into a bad one, by the violence of their factions.

I have not here considered any thing that is personal in the present controversy.  In the best civil constitutions, where every man is restrained by the most rigid laws, it is easy to discover either the good or bad intentions of a minister, and to judge whether his personal character deserve love or hatred.  But such questions are of little importance to the public, and lay those who employ their pens upon them, under a just suspicion either of malevolence or of flattery.”     David Hume, Essays; “Biographical Introduction,” “Of the Liberty of the Press,” “That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science,” 1742

Numero Dos“Bernard Malamud lives in a white clapboard house in Bennington, Vermont.  Spacious and comfortable, it sits on a gentle downward slope, behind it the rise of the Green Mountains.  To this house on April 26, 1974, came friends, family, colleagues, and the children of friends to celebrate Malamud’s sixtieth birthday.  It was a sunny weekend, the weather and ambience benign, friendly.There were about a half-dozen young people taking their rest in sleeping bags in various bedrooms and in a home volunteered by a friend and neighbor.  Three of them, from nearby universities, were children of friends who were on the faculty of Oregon State University more than a dozen years ago.

On Saturday night there was a birthday party, with champagne, birthday cake, and dancing.  At the end of the evening the young people drummed up a show of slides: scenes of past travels; in particular, scenes of Corvallis, Oregon, where Malamud had lived and taught for twelve years before returning East.

Bernard Malamud is a slender man with a graying mustache and inquisitive brown eyes that search and hide a little at the same time.  He is a quiet man who listens a lot and responds freely.  His wife, Ann, an attractive, articulate woman of Italian descent, had planned the party, assisted by the young people from Oregon and the Malamuds’ son, Paul, and daughter, Janna.

The taping of the interview began late Friday morning, on the back porch, which overlooks a long, descending sweep of lawn and, in the distance, the encircling mountains.  It was continued later in the book-filled study where Malamud writes.  (He also writes in his office at Bennington College.)  At first he was conscious of the tape recorder, but grew less so as the session—and the weekend—continued.  He has a quick laugh and found it easy to discourse on the questions asked.  An ironic humor would seem to be his mother tongue.


Why sixty?  I understand that when the Paris Review asked you to do an interview after the publication of The Fixer, you suggested doing it when you hit sixty?


Right.  It’s a respectable round number, and when it becomes your age you look at it with both eyes.  It’s a good time to see from.  In the past I sometimes resisted interviews because I had no desire to talk about myself in relation to my fiction.  There are people who always want to make you a character in your stories and want you to confirm it.  Of course there’s some truth to it: Every character you invent takes his essence from you; therefore you’re in them as Flaubert was in Emma—but, peace to him, you are not those you imagine.  They are your fictions.  And I don’t like questions of explication: What did I mean by this or that?  I want the books to speak for themselves.  You can read?  All right, tell me what my books mean.  Astonish me.


What about a little personal history?  There’s been little written about your life.


That’s how I wanted it—I like privacy, and as much as possible to stay out of my books.  I know that’s disadvantageous to certain legitimate kinds of criticism of literature, but my needs come first.  Still, I have here and there talked a little about my life: My father was a grocer; my mother, who helped him, after a long illness, died young.  I had a younger brother who lived a hard and lonely life and died in his fifties.  My mother and father were gentle, honest, kindly people, and who they were and their affection for me to some degree made up for the cultural deprivation I felt as a child.  They weren’t educated, but their values were stable.  Though my father always managed to make a living, they were comparatively poor, especially in the Depression, and yet I never heard a word in praise of the buck.  On the other hand, there were no books that I remember in the house, no records, music, pictures on the wall.  On Sundays I listened to somebody’s piano through the window.  At nine I caught pneumonia, and when I was convalescing my father bought me The Book of Knowledge, twenty volumes where there had been none.  That was, considering the circumstances, an act of great generosity.  When I was in high school he bought a radio.  As a kid, for entertainment I turned to the movies and dime novels.  Maybe The Natural derives from Frank Merriwell as well as the adventures of the Brooklyn Dodgers in Ebbets Field.  Anyway, my parents stayed close to the store.  Once in a while, on Jewish holidays, we went visiting, or saw a Jewish play—Sholem Aleichem, Peretz, and others.  My mother’s brother, Charles Fidelman, and their cousin, Isidore Cashier, were in the Yiddish theatre.

Around the neighborhood the kids played Chase the White Horse, Ringolevio, Buck-Buck, punchball, and one o’cat.  Occasionally we stole tomatoes from the Italian dirt farmers, gypped the El to ride to Coney Island, smoked in cellars, and played blackjack.  I wore sneakers every summer.  My education at home derived mostly from the presence and example of good, feelingful, hard-working people.  They were worriers, with other faults I wasn’t much conscious of until I recognized them in myself.  I learned from books, in the public schools.  I had some fine teachers in grammar school, Erasmus Hall High School, and later at City College, in New York.  I took to literature and early wanted to be a writer.


How early?


At eight or nine I was writing little stories in school and feeling the glow.  To anyone of my friends who’d listen I’d recapitulate at tedious length the story of the last movie I’d seen.  The movies tickled my imagination.  As a writer I learned from Charlie Chaplin.


What in particular?


Let’s say the rhythm, the snap of comedy; the reserved comic presence—that beautiful distancing; the funny with sad; the surprise of surprise.


Please go on about your life.


Schools meant a lot to me, those I went to and taught at. You learn what you teach and you learn from those you teach. In 1942 I met my wife, and we were married in 1945. We have two children and have lived in Oregon, Rome, Bennington, Cambridge, London, New York, and have traveled a fair amount. In sum, once I was twenty and not so young, now I’m sixty inclined on the young side.


Which means?


Largely, the life of imagination, and doing pretty much what I set out to do. I made my mistakes, took my lumps, learned. I resisted my ignorance, limitations, obsessions. I’m freer than I was. I’d rather write it than talk. I love the privileges of form.


You’ve taught during the time you were a professional writer?


Thirty-five years—


There are some who say teaching doesn’t do the writer much good; in fact it restricts life and homogenizes experience. Isn’t a writer better off on the staff of The New Yorker, or working for the BBC? Faulkner fed a furnace and wrote for the movies.


Doesn’t it depend on the writer? People experience similar things differently. Sometimes I’ve regretted the time I’ve given to teaching, but not teaching itself. And a community of serious readers is a miraculous thing. Some of the most extraordinary people I’ve met were students of mine, or colleagues. Still, I ought to say I teach only a single class of prose fiction, one term a year. I’ve taught since I was twenty-five, and though I need more time for reading and writing, I also want to keep on doing what I can do well and enjoy doing.


Do you teach literature?


If you teach prose fiction, you are teaching literature. You teach those who want to write to read fiction, even their own work, with greater understanding. Sometimes they’re surprised to find out how much they’ve said or not said that they didn’t know they had.


Can one, indeed, teach writing?


You teach writers—assuming a talent. At the beginning young writers pour it out without much knowing the nature of their talent. What you try to do is hold a mirror up to their fiction so, in a sense, they can see what they’re showing. Not all who come forth are fully armed. Some are gifted in narrative, some shun it. Some show a richness of metaphor, some have to dig for it. Some writers think language is all they need; they mistake it for subject matter. Some rely on whimsy. Some on gut feeling. Some of them don’t make the effort to create a significant form. They do automatic writing and think they’re probing themselves. The odd thing is, most young writers write traditional narrative until you introduce them to the experimental writers—not for experiment’s sake, but to try something for size. Let the writer attempt whatever he can. There’s no telling where he will come out stronger than before. Art is in life, but the realm is endless.


Experiment at the beginning?


Sometimes a new technique excites a flood of fictional ideas. Some, after experimenting, realize their strength is in traditional modes. Some, after trying several things, may give up the thought of writing fiction—not a bad thing. Writing—the problems, the commitment, the effort, scares them. Some may decide to try poetry or criticism. Some turn to painting—why not? I have no kick against those who use writing, or another art, to test themselves, to find themselves. Sometimes I have to tell them their talents are thin—not to waste their lives writing third-rate fiction.


Fidelman as a painter? The doubtful talent?


Yes. Among other things, it is a book about finding a vocation. Forgive the soft impeachment.


In Pictures of Fidelman and The Tenants you deal with artists who can’t produce, or produce badly. Why does the subject interest you so much? Have you ever been blocked?


Never. Even in anxiety I’ve written, though anxiety, because it is monochromatic, may limit effects. I like the drama of nonproductivity, especially where there may be talent. It’s an interesting ambiguity: the force of the creative versus the paralysis caused by the insults, the confusions of life.


What about work habits? Some writers, especially at the beginning, have problems settling how to do it.


There’s no one way—there’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it—and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you.


What about the number of drafts? Some writers write only one.


They’re cheating themselves. First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about. Revision is working with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to re-form it. D. H. Lawrence, for instance, did seven or eight drafts of The Rainbow. The first draft of a book is the most uncertain—where you need guts, the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better. Revision is one of the true pleasures of writing. “The men and things of today are wont to lie fairer and truer in tomorrow’s memory,” Thoreau said.


Do you teach your own writing?


No, I teach what I know about writing.


What specific piece of advice would you give to young writers?


Write your heart out.


Anything else?


Watch out for self-deceit in fiction. Write truthfully but with cunning.


Anything special to more experienced types?


To any writer: Teach yourself to work in uncertainty. Many writers are anxious when they begin, or try something new. Even Matisse painted some of his Fauvist pictures in anxiety. Maybe that helped him to simplify. Character, discipline, negative capability count. Write, complete, revise. If it doesn’t work, begin something else.


And if it doesn’t work twenty or thirty times?


You live your life as best you can.


I’ve heard you talk about the importance of subject matter?


It’s always a problem. Very young writers who don’t know themselves obviously often don’t know what they have to say. Sometimes by staying with it they write themselves into a fairly rich vein. Some, by the time they find what they’re capable of writing about, no longer want to write. Some go through psychoanalysis or a job in a paint factory and begin to write again. One hopes they then have something worth saying. Nothing is guaranteed. Some writers have problems with subject matter not in their first book, which may mine childhood experience, or an obsession, or fantasy, or the story they’ve carried in their minds and imagination to this point, but after that—after this first yield—often they run into trouble with their next few books. Especially if the first book is unfortunately a best seller. And some writers run into difficulties at the end, particularly if they exclude important areas of personal experience from their writing. Hemingway would not touch his family beyond glimpses in short stories, mostly the Nick Adams pieces. He once wrote his brother that their mother was a bitch and father a suicide—who’d want to read about them? Obviously not all his experience is available to a writer for purposes of fiction, but I feel that if Hemingway had tried during his last five years, let’s say, to write about his father rather than the bulls once more, or the big fish, he mightn’t have committed suicide. Mailer, after The Naked and the Dead, ran into trouble he couldn’t resolve until he invented his mirror image: Aquarius, prisoner of Sex, doppelgänger, without whom he can’t write. After he had invented “Norman Mailer” he produced The Armies of the Night, a beautiful feat of prestidigitation, if not fiction. He has still to write, Richard Poirier says, his Moby Dick. To write a good big novel he will have to invent other selves, richly felt selves. Roth, since Portnoy, has been hunting for a fruitful subject. He’s tried various strategies to defeat the obsession of the hated wife he almost never ceases to write about. He’ll have at last to bury her to come up with a new comedy.


What about yourself?


I say the same thing in different worlds.


Anything else to say to writers—basic stuff?


Take chances. “Dare to do,” Eudora Welty says. She’s right. One drags around a bag of fears he has to throw to the winds every so often if he expects to take off in his writing. I’m glad Virginia Woolf did Orlando, though it isn’t my favorite of her books, and in essence she was avoiding a subject. Still, you don’t have to tell everything you know. I like Updike’s Centaur, Bellow’s Henderson. Genius, after it has got itself together, may give out with a Ulysses or Remembrance of Things Past. One doesn’t have to imitate the devices of Joyce or Proust, but if you’re not a genius, imitate the daring. If you are a genius, assert yourself, in art and humanity.


Humanity? Are you suggesting art is moral?


It tends toward morality. It values life. Even when it doesn’t, it tends to. My former colleague, Stanley Edgar Hyman, used to say that even the act of creating a form is a moral act. That leaves out something, but I understand and like what he was driving at. It’s close to Frost’s definition of a poem as “a momentary stay against confusion.” Morality begins with an awareness of the sanctity of one’s life, hence the lives of others—even Hitler’s, to begin with—the sheer privilege of being, in this miraculous cosmos, and trying to figure out why. Art, in essence, celebrates life and gives us our measure.


It changes the world?


It changes me. It affirms me.




(laughs) It helps.


Let’s get to your books. In The Natural, why the baseball-mythology combination?


Baseball flat is baseball flat. I had to do something else to enrich the subject. I love metaphor. It provides two loaves where there seems to be one. Sometimes it throws in a load of fish. The mythological analogy is a system of metaphor. It enriches the vision without resorting to montage. This guy gets up with his baseball bat and all at once he is, through the ages, a knight—somewhat battered—with a lance; not to mention a guy with a blackjack, or someone attempting murder with a flower. You relate to the past and predict the future. I’m not talented as a conceptual thinker but I am in the uses of metaphor. The mythological and symbolic excite my imagination. Incidentally, Keats said, “I am not a conceptual thinker, I am a man of ideas.”


Is The Assistant mythological?


Some, I understand, find it so.


Did you set it up as a mythology?


No. If it’s mythological to some readers I have no objection. You read the book and write your ticket. I can’t tell you how the words fall, though I know what I mean. Your interpretation—pace S. Sontag—may enrich the book or denude it. All I ask is that it be consistent and make sense.


Is it a moral allegory?


You have to squeeze your brain to come up with that. The spirit is more than moral, and by the same token there’s more than morality in a good man. One must make room in those he creates. So far as range is concerned, ultimately a writer’s mind and heart, if any, are revealed in his fiction.


What is the source of The Assistant?


Source questions are piddling but you’re my friend, so I’ll tell you. Mostly my father’s life as a grocer, though not necessarily my father. Plus three short stories, sort of annealed in a single narrative: “The Cost of Living” and “The First Seven Years”—both in The Magic Barrel. And a story I wrote in the forties, “The Place is Different Now,” which I’ve not included in my story collections.


Is The Fixer also related to your father’s life?


Indirectly. My father told me the Mendel Beilis story when I was a kid. I carried it around almost forty years and decided to use it after I gave up the idea of a Sacco and Vanzetti novel. When I began to read for the Sacco and Vanzetti it had all the quality of a structured fiction, all the necessary elements of theme and narrative. I couldn’t see any way of re-forming it. I was very much interested in the idea of prison as a source of the self’s freedom and thought of Dreyfus next, but he was a dullish man, and though he endured well he did not suffer well. Neither did Beilis, for that matter, but his drama was more interesting—his experiences; so I invented Yakov Bok, with perhaps the thought of him as a potential Vanzetti. Beilis, incidentally, died a bitter man, in New York—after leaving Palestine, because he thought he hadn’t been adequately reimbursed for his suffering.


Some critics have commented on this prison motif in your work.


Perhaps I use it as a metaphor for the dilemma of all men: necessity, whose bars we look through and try not to see. Social injustice, apathy, ignorance. The personal prison of entrapment in past experience, guilt, obsession—the somewhat blind or blinded self, in other words. A man has to construct, invent, his freedom. Imagination helps. A truly great man or woman extends it for others in the process of creating his or her own.


Does this idea or theme, as you call it, come out of your experience as a Jew?


That’s probably in it—a heightened sense of prisoner of history, but there’s more to it than that. I conceive this as the major battle in life, to transcend the self—extend one’s realm of freedom.


Not all your characters do.


Obviously. But they’re all more or less engaged in the enterprise.


Humor is so much a part of your work. Is this an easy quality to deal with? Is one problem that the response to humor is so much a question of individual taste?


The funny bone is universal. I doubt humorists think of individual taste when they’re enticing the laugh. With me humor comes unexpectedly, usually in defense of a character, sometimes because I need cheering up. When something starts funny I can feel my imagination eating and running. I love the distancing—the guise of invention—that humor gives fiction. Comedy, I imagine, is harder to do consistently than tragedy, but I like it spiced in the wine of sadness.


What about suffering? It’s a subject much in your early work.


I’m against it, but when it occurs, why waste the experience?


Are you a Jewish writer?


What is the question asking?


One hears various definitions and insistences, for instance, that one is primarily a writer and any subject matter is secondary; or that one is an American-Jewish writer. There are qualifications, by Bellow, Roth, others.


I’m an American, I’m a Jew, and I write for all men. A novelist has to, or he’s built himself a cage. I write about Jews, when I write about Jews, because they set my imagination going. I know something about their history, the quality of their experience and belief, and of their literature, though not as much as I would like. Like many writers I’m influenced especially by the Bible, both Testaments. I respond in particular to the East European immigrants of my father’s and mother’s generation; many of them were Jews of the Pale as described by the classic Yiddish writers. And of course I’ve been deeply moved by the Jews of the concentration camps, and the refugees wandering from nowhere to nowhere. I’m concerned about Israel. Nevertheless, Jews like rabbis Kahane and Korff set my teeth on edge. Sometimes I make characters Jewish because I think I will understand them better as people, not because I am out to prove anything. That’s a qualification. Still another is that I know that, as a writer, I’ve been influenced by Hawthorne, James, Mark Twain, Hemingway, more than I have been by Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz, whom I read with pleasure. Of course I admire and have been moved by other writers, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, for instance, but the point I’m making is that I was born in America and respond, in American life, to more than Jewish experience. I wrote for those who read.


Thus S. Levin is Jewish and not much is made of it?


He was a gent who interested me in a place that interested me. He was out to be educated.


Occasionally I see a remark to the effect that he has more than a spoonful of you in him.


So have Roy Hobbs, Helen Bober, Willie Spearmint, and Talking Horse. More to the point—I prefer autobiographical essence to autobiographical history. Events from life may creep into the narrative, but it isn’t necessarily my life history.


How much of a book is set in your mind when you begin? Do you begin at the beginning? Does its course ever change markedly from what you had in the original concept?


When I start I have a pretty well-developed idea what the book is about and how it ought to go, because generally I’ve been thinking about it and making notes for months, if not years. Generally I have the ending in mind, usually the last paragraph almost verbatim. I begin at the beginning and stay close to the track, if it is a track and not a whale path. If it turns out I’m in the open sea, my compass is my narrative instinct, with an assist by that astrolabe, theme. The destination, wherever it is, is, as I said, already defined. If I go astray it’s not a long excursis, good for getting to know the ocean, if not the world. The original idea, altered but recognizable, on the whole remains.


Do characters ever run away from you and take on identities you hadn’t expected?


My characters run away, but not far. Their guise is surprises.


Let’s go to Fidelman. You seem to like to write about painters.


I know a few. I love painting.


Rembrandt and who else?


Too many to name, but Cézanne, Monet, and Matisse, very much, among modernists.




Not that much. He rides his nostalgic nag to death.


Some have called you a Chagallean writer.


Their problem. I used Chagallean imagery intentionally in one story, “The Magic Barrel,” and that’s it. My quality is not much like his.


Fidelman first appears in “Last Mohican,” a short story. Did you already have in mind that there would be an extended work on him?


After I wrote the story in Rome I jotted down ideas for several incidents in the form of a picaresque novel. I was out to loosen up—experiment a little—with narrative structure. And I wanted to see, if I wrote it at intervals—as I did from 1957 to 1968—whether the passing of time and mores would influence his life. I did not think of the narrative as merely a series of related stories, because almost at once I had the structure of a novel in mind and each part had to fit that form. Robert Scholes in The Saturday Review has best explained what I was up to in Fidelman.


Did you use all the incidents you jotted down?




Can you give me an example of one you left out?


Yes, Fidelman administering to the dying Keats in Rome—doing Severn’s job, one of the few times in his life our boy is engaged in a purely unselfish act, or acts. But I felt I had no need to predict a change in him, especially in a sort of dream sequence, so I dropped the idea. The painting element was to come in via some feverish watercolors of John Keats, dying.


Fidelman is characterized by some critics as a schlemiel.


Not accurately. Peter Schlemiel lost his shadow and suffered the consequences for all time. Not Fidelman. He does better. He escapes his worst fate. I dislike the schlemiel characterization as a taxonomical device. I said somewhere that it reduces to stereotypes people of complex motivations and fates. One can often behave like a schlemiel without being one.


Do you read criticism of your work?


When it hits me in the eye; even some reviews.


Does it affect you?


Some of it must. Not the crap, the self-serving pieces, but an occasional insightful criticism, favorable or unfavorable, that confirms my judgment of my work. While I’m on the subject, I dislike particularly those critics who preach their aesthetic or ideological doctrines at you. What’s important to them is not what the writer has done but how it fits, or doesn’t fit, the thesis they want to develop. Nobody can tell a writer what can or ought to be done, or not done, in his fiction. A living death if you fall for it.


That narration, for instance, is dead or dying?


It’ll be dead when the penis is.


What about the death of the novel?


The novel could disappear, but it won’t die.


How does that go?


I’m not saying it will disappear, just entertaining the idea. Assume it does; then someday a talented writer writes himself a long, heartfelt letter, and the form reappears. The human race needs the novel. We need all the experience we can get. Those who say the novel is dead can’t write them.


You’ve done two short stories and a novel about blacks. Where do you get your material?


Experience and books. I lived on the edge of a black neighborhood in Brooklyn when I was a boy. I played with blacks in the Flatbush Boys Club. I had a friend—Buster; we used to go to his house every so often. I swiped dimes so we could go to the movies together on a couple of Saturdayafternoons. After I was married I taught for a year in a black evening high school in Harlem. The short stories derive from that period. I also read black fiction and history.


What set off The Tenants?


Jews and blacks, the period of the troubles in New York City; the teachers strike, the rise of black activism, the mix-up of cause and effect. I thought I’d say a word.


Why the three endings?


Because one wouldn’t do.


Will you predict how it will be between blacks and Jews in the future?


How can one? All I know is that American blacks have been badly treated. We, as a society, have to redress the balance. Those who want for others must expect to give up something. What we get in return is the affirmation of what we believe in.


You give a sense in your fiction that you try not to repeat yourself.


Good. In my books I go along the same paths in different worlds.


What’s the path—theme?


Derived from one’s sense of values, it’s a vision of life, a feeling for people—real qualities in imaginary worlds.


Do you like writing short stories more than you do novels?


Just as much, though the short story has its own pleasures. I like packing a self or two into a few pages, predicating lifetimes. The drama is terse, happens faster, and is often outlandish. A short story is a way of indicating the complexity of life in a few pages, producing the surprise and effect of a profound knowledge in a short time. There’s, among other things, a drama, a resonance, of the reconciliation of opposites: much to say, little time to say it, something like the effect of a poem.


You write them between novels?


Yes, to breathe, and give myself time to think what’s in the next book.  Sometimes I’ll try out a character or situation similar to that in a new novel.


How many drafts do you usually do of a novel?


Many more than I call three.  Usually the last of the first puts it in place.  The second focuses, develops, subtilizes.  By the third most of the dross is gone.  I work with language.  I love the flowers of afterthought.


Your style has always seemed so individual, so recognizable.  Is this a natural gift, or is it contrived and honed?


My style flows from the fingers.  The eye and ear approve or amend.


Let’s wind up.  Are you optimistic about the future?


My nature is optimistic but not the evidence—population misery, famine, politics of desperation, the proliferation of the atom bomb.  My Lai, one minute after Hiroshima in history, was ordained.  We’re going through long, involved transformations of world society, ongoing upheavals of colonialism, old modes of distribution, mores, overthrowing the slave mentality.  With luck we may end up in a society with a larger share of the world’s goods, opportunities for education, freedom going to the presently underprivileged.  Without luck there may be a vast economic redistribution without political freedom.  In the Soviet Union, as it is presently constituted, that’s meant the kiss of death to freedom in art and literature.  I worry that democracy, which has protected us from this indignity, especially in the United States, suffers from a terrifying inadequacy of leadership, and the apathy, unimaginativeness, and hard-core selfishness of too many of us.  I worry about technology rampant.  I fear those who are by nature beastly.


What does one write novels about nowadays?


Whatever wants to be written.


Is there something I haven’t asked you that you might want to comment on?




For instance, what writing has meant to you?


I’d be too moved to say.”     Bernard Malamud, “The Art of Fiction, No. 52;” Paris Review, 1975


Numero Tres“None other than William Blackstone, storied British jurist and intellectual progenitor of much of the contemporary nexus of ownership and production, had a very astute insight.

‘There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.’

book sq5In few places in the contemporary arena is ‘Sir William’s’ notion so resonant as in matters of ‘intellectual property’ and copyright.  Unfortunately, this ‘exercise of despotic dominion’ has for some time been having the opposite effect as the proponents of authorial ownership propound—creators are making less, or less than nothing; information monopolies in such areas as textbooks and science preclude public access and the ‘flowering of the arts’ that copyright exists to induce; only very well-heeled ‘owners’ end up availing themselves of either registration or remedies.  These anomalous, or perfectly routine, results effect serious economic, social, and political detriments, which ought to cause an organization of writers to discuss matters of so-called intellectual property with open minds and not assume that established practices and protocols are beneficial to working writers.

book sq1The economic nightmare associated with contemporary copyright is also a windfall of course.  I.P. has for some time been the prime source of exports for the oligopolistic media-and-technology establishments.  However, for law students and other such strivers; for high school pupils in less-than-prosperous neighborhoods; for writers and creators who don’t have sixty-five bucks—now only $35 through the new eco portal–to invest every time they write something and thus will never be able to ‘remedy’ infringement; for communities here and elsewhere who desperately need access to information that they can only obtain in a legally ‘monopolized market’ of often exorbitant prices; and for many others, both scribes and citizens, the operation of the current copyright regime is, at best, suboptimal and at worst a disaster.  Of course, these policies do encourage the rich to get even richer, but why should any grassroots group back rules that help big business and harm a substantial proportion, perhaps the vast majority, of everyday wordsmiths?  Inquiring minds might want to consider such queries, even as I and every other W.O.W. member absolutely commit to fight like fiends for writer-members’ legitimate copyright claims.  The point is, that commitment is not nearly enough.

book sq5The social impact of today’s copyright morass represents a complex and multifaceted mess that largely elicits negative consequences.  One need only consider that a substantial majority of the planet’s teenaged-and-older inhabitants, were a strict enforcement regime in place, would at least technically and potentially be felons under today’s copyright rubric.  Moreover, rather than fostering creative congruence and generosity, copyright now operates to cause everyone to hide ingenuity away, to treat the potential for cooperation and sharing with disdain or suspicion.  In a networked world that absolutely requires joint, multidisciplinary, cross-border, intergenerational, multicultural ventures to solve a host of hideous problems, fostering a psychology of “it’s-mine-and-you-can’t-have-it” is likely suicidal.

The political outcome of the legal thicket in place today is equally insidious.  An invasive police apparatus has to be legitimate if ‘sacred property-rights’ are at stake.  The further polarization between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ means that electoral democracy becomes a charade and participatory democracy becomes either a crime or an impossibility.  At the very least, the plutocrats’ lobbyists write the legal caveats that further ratchet up the rapine of the present process; ordinary citizens become cynical, ripe for the latest divide-and-conquer scheme or, perish the thought, ready to find some ‘strong man’ who will always end up being a straw-man and a puppet for the forces that originated and gained from the system as it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat should be the World Organization of Writers stance in such a pass?  One answer would be to foster a lot more dialog, call for the equivalent of a ‘Writers Constitutional Convention on Copyright,’ and generally to dig deep into the archives of government and the annals of history to facilitate a nuanced and rich comprehension of these matters.  Amelia Andersdotter, a member of Sweden’s Piratpartiet and member of the European Parliament, summed up simply when she said, ‘Copyleft and Copymore Instead of Copyright and Copyless.’  Her analysis is at least persuasive, deserving a lot more attention at all levels among actual scribes than it is currently receiving.

The current legislation is adapted for, and even wants to promote, scarcity of information.  You won’t find users of information services or indeed any citizens at all who have a relationship with information corresponding to a scarcity model.  When thinking carefully about it, you will probably find that having such users and citizens isn’t even desirable. So our information management laws need to change.  Essentially, legislators and lobbyists all over the world will have to abandon the idea that restricting access to individual pieces of, or copies of pieces of, information is good.  It’s not.  We need laws that encourage abundance of each piece of information, and make use of the wealth derived from the fast spread of those pieces.”    Jim Hickey, “If Copying Is Wrong, What’s a Copyright?” 2014

4.25.2017 Day in History

Portugal today marks Freedom Day as Italy commemorates a different sort of release in Liberation Day, while around the planet celebrants recognize DNA Day, World Malaria Day, Remembrance of Parental Alienation Day and Red Hat Society Day; among contending groups of Greeks two thousand four hundred and twenty-one years ago, Sparta’s soldiers overwhelmed the Athenians, thus ending the Peloponnesian War on terms unfavorable to even the limited form’s of Athens’ ancient democracy; twelve hundred forty-two years in advance of today’s dawn, the Battle of Bagrevand ended to the Abbasid Caliphate’s decided advantage, crushing the Armenian rebellion and causing leading proponents of the uprising to flee to the shelter, risky thought it might prove, of the Byzantine Empire; two dozen years later, in 799, a third Pope Leo absconded with himself to the court of Charlemagne after Roman opponents of his rule attacked and disfigured the pontiff; eight hundred forty-five years subsequently, in 1644, the final Ming Dynasty emperor killed himself as peasants rose in a fiery uprising against his regime; a hundred forty-eight years after that, in 1792, Claude Joseph de Lisle composed La Marseillaise as an appropriate national anthem for revolutionary France, and a hapless highwayman lost his head as the first victim to suffer execution via ‘Madam’ Guillotine; eight years beyond that, in 1800, the acclaimed and widely popular hymn writer William Cowper sang his final verse; another four years past that point, in 1804, a Georgian kingdom adjacent to Ukraine acknowledged Russian rule for the first time; seventeen decades and one year back, the so-called Thornton Affair unfolded with fierce fighting along the Texas-Mexican border that quickly erupted in the Mexican-American War; three years thereafter, in 1849, a different imbroglio erupted in North America when Canada’s Governor General acceded to the Rebellion Losses Bill and induced riots among Montreal’s English speaking residents; a decade additional in the direction of now, in 1859, workers under the guidance of French and British engineers broke ground for the Suez Canal; in a further extension of imperial sway, even further from home, twenty-three years hence, in 1882, French troops fought Vietnamese as the Europeans sought dominion over Indochina; a thousand four hundred sixty-one days more in the vicinity of now, in 1886, the New York Times editorialized that the movement for an eight hour day was tantamount to a treasonous plot to undermine the sacred imprimatur of property and capital, a plot against property that other sources guaranteed would lead to licentiousness, dissolution, and non-stop vice; twelve years farther along time’s pathway, in 1898, the U.S. inaugurated its first extracontinental imperial conquest with a declaration of war against Spain; three years yet later on, in 1901, New York required America’s first license plates on cars; seven years afterward, in 1908, a male infant opened his eyes who would rise as the celebrated journalist, Edward R. Murrow; eight years nearer to now, in 1916, in the aftermath of an uprising, the English colonial authorities declared martial law in Dublin and Ireland; a mere three hundred sixty-five days down the pike from that, in 1917, across the wide Atlantic, a little baby girl entered our midst en route to a life of magnificence as a performer and lyricist by the name of Ella Fitzgerald;ten hundred ninety-six days subsequent to that conjunction, in 1920, the ‘victors’ of World War One at the San Remo Conference proceeded to divvy up the ‘spoils of war,’ parceling out former Ottoman territories as ‘mandates’ of England and France for the most part; another three years onward exactly, in 1923, International Workers of the World Maritime Workers Union adherents began a wave of West Coast strikes; half a decade later, in 1928, a baby boy cried out who would become the renowned fiddler and bluegrass performer, Vassar Clements; a decade henceforth, in 1938, the Supreme Court decided in the Erie Railroad case of that year that no Federal diversity jurisdiction necessities permitted any establishment of a ‘Federal common law,’ meaning that reactionary states could not face compulsion, except according to statutory provisions, to adhere to a uniform standard of justice; six years still more proximate to the present pass, in 1944, the United Negro College Fund first solicited money to assist Black scholars and historically black colleges and universities in, respectively, obtaining and providing higher education; a single year past that juncture in time and space, in 1945, across the sea in fire, catastrophe, holocaust, nuclear, nukeEurope, American G.I.’s and seasoned soldiers of the Red Army met at the River Elbe, sundering German lines and effectively ending the war, and Italian partisans captured Benito Mussolini as he sought to escape with his mistress, and six thousand miles to the West, representatives of fifty nations met in San Francisco to grapple with what international organizations could do to avoid a World War Three scenario; five years even closer to the current context, in 1953, Frank Crick and James Watson published Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acid: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, claiming credit, whether with complete accuracy or not, for discovering the DNA that sits at the base of all life; a year thereafter, in 1954, Bell Laboratory scientists first released a practically functional solar cell, though even now the Modern Nuclear Project impedes its full utilization for human benefit; five years onward from that intersection, in 1959, Canadian and American engineers and workers opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, thereby permitting ocean-going ships to penetrate deep into the heart of North America via the Great Lakes; two years on the dot after that, in 1961, researcher Frank Noyce garnered the first patent for a fully integrated circuit, on which most all consumer and production output now rests; four years on the road to today, in 1965, one of the first outbreaks of male teenage mass murder unfolded in California, as Michael Clark shot highway bypassers, murdering three, before he blew his own brains out; a farther four year trek en route to the here and now, in 1969, Ralph David Abernathy and more than a hundred cohorts faced arrest and solidarityincarceration rather than give up their pickets for workers’ union rights at a Charleston, South Carolina hospital; five extra years on the trajectory toward this moment, in 1974, Portuguese citizens rose up in a ‘Carnation Revolution’ that for the most part consigned fascists and reactionaries to the sidelines in their portion of the Iberian Peninsula; back across the Atlantic four years yet later on, in 1978, the Supreme Court held that pension plans that required higher contributions from women were inherently unconstitutional; a half decade even more subsequent to today’s dawn and passage, in 1983, young Samantha Smith met with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union after he read her letter of concern about nuclear war, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Pioneer 10 spaceship hurtled past Pluto on its way to the stars; seven years beyond that, in 1990, Violetta Chamorro became the first woman to lead war-torn and blood-drenched Nicaragua; fifteen years more on the trek toward our light and air, in 2005, Bulgaria and Romania became part of the European Union, more fodder for Russia’s worries of geopolitical isolation and attack; five further years along the temporal arc, in 2010, the writer and storyteller of working class narratives and socially real plots, Alan Sillitoe, lived out his final scene; a half a decade subsequent to that exact instant, in 2015, citizens of Baltimore burst forth in riotous protest against the murderous impunity of the Baltimore police, on display in the crucifixion of Freddie Gray just a short time before their uprising.

4.25.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Sunday’s and Monday’s Files

Birth Control Pills and Mental Health – 

CASTRO’S Bay of Pigs Speech –

Max on Sociology & Objectivity –

Arrogant Economic Bullshitters –

Oklahoma Cop’s Dubious ‘Suicide’ –

Lyotard on Postmodern ‘Knowledge’ –

Jesus and the Death Penalty –

Habermasian Schemes of International Democracy –

Gorging on Wealth at the Top –

Adam Clayton Powell & Identity, Power –

Two Short Bits by Peirce


Early Pragmatism Dissertation –

Wyatt Earp As Police-State Exemplar –

Darwin & Wallace, 1858 –

Castro’s May Day ’61 Speech –

Even ‘Liberals’ Are Critiquing Bombing –

An Interview About Armageddon’s Beckoning –

A Fictional Feminist Future – https://electricliterature.com/civic-memory-feminist-future-b919e881d1c5

‘Public’ Education & ‘Private’ Engagement –

Student Debt Death Sentences –

Bullshit ‘Progressives’ Who Foment War –

4.25.2017 Doc of the Day

  1. Edward R. Murrow, 1958.
  2. Jane Jacobs, 1992.
  3. Alan Sillitoe, 2010.

television tv media propaganda

Numero Uno“This just might do nobody any good.  At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts.  But I am persuaded that the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered.  It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television in this generous and capacious land.  I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard the one that produces words and pictures.  You will, I am sure, forgive me for not telling you that the instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated.  It is not necessary to remind you of the fact that your voice, amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other, does not confer upon you greater wisdom than when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.  All of these things you know.

You should also know at the outset that, in the manner of witnesses before Congressional committees, I appear here voluntarily–by invitation–that I am an employee of the Columbia Broadcasting System, that I am neither an officer nor any longer a director of that corporation and that these remarks are strictly of a ‘do-it-yourself’ nature.  If what I have to say is responsible, then I alone am responsible for the saying of it.  Seeking neither approbation from my employers, nor new sponsors, nor acclaim from the critics of radio and television, I cannot very well be disappointed.  Believing that potentially the commercial system of broadcasting as practiced in this country is the best and freest yet devised, I have decided to express my concern about what I believe to be happening to radio and television.  These instruments have been good to me beyond my due.  There exists in mind no reasonable grounds for any kind of personal complaint.  I have no feud, either with my employers, any sponsors, or with the professional critics of radio and television.  But I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

Our history will be what we make it.  And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or perhaps in color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.  I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time.  Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger.  There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons.  But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live.  If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, AND PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must indeed be faced if we are to survive.  And I mean the word survive, quite literally.  If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show.  If Hollywood were to run out of Indians, the program schedules would be mangled beyond all recognition.  Then perhaps, some young and courageous soul with a small budget might do a documentary telling what, in fact, we have done–and are still doing–to the Indians in this country.  But that would be unpleasant.  And we must at all costs shield the sensitive citizen from anything that is unpleasant.

I am entirely persuaded that the American public is more reasonable, restrained and more mature than most of our industry’s program planners believe.  Their fear of controversy is not warranted by the evidence.  I have reason to know, as do many of you, that when the evidence on a controversial subject is fairly and calmly presented, the public recognizes it for what it is–an effort to illuminate rather than to agitate.

Several years ago, when we undertook to do a program on Egypt and Israel, well-meaning, experienced and intelligent friends in the business said, ‘This you cannot do.  This time you will be handed your head.  It is an emotion-packed controversy, and there is no room for reason in it.’  We did the program.  Zionists, anti-Zionists, the friends of the Middle East, Egyptian and Israeli officials said, I must confess with a faint tone of surprise, ‘It was a fair account.  The information was there.  We have no complaints.’

Our experience was similar with two half-hour programs dealing with cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Both the medical profession and the tobacco industry cooperated, but in a rather wary fashion. But in the end of the day they were both reasonably content. The subject of radioactive fallout and the banning of nuclear tests was, and is, highly controversial. But according to what little evidence there is, viewers were prepared to listen to both sides with reason and restraint. This is not said to claim any special or unusual competence in the presentation of controversial subjects, but rather to indicate that timidity in these areas is not warranted by the evidence.

Recently, network spokesmen have been disposed to complain that the professional critics of television in print have been rather beastly. There have been ill-disguised hints that somehow competition for the advertising dollar has caused the critics in print to gang up on television and radio. This reporter has no desire to defend the critics. They have space in which to do that on their own behalf. But it remains a fact that the newspapers and magazines are the only instruments of mass communication which remain free from sustained and regular critical comment. I would suggest that if the network spokesmen are so anguished about what appears in print, then let them come forth and engage in a little sustained and regular comment regarding newspapers and magazines. It is an ancient and sad fact that most people in network television, and radio, have an exaggerated regard for what appears in print. And there have been cases where executives have refused to make even private comment on a program for which they are responsible until they had read the reviews in print. This is hardly an exhibition of confidence in their own judgment.

The oldest excuse of the networks for their timidity is their youth. Their spokesmen say, “We are young. We have not developed the traditions. nor acquired the experience of the older media.” If they but knew it, they are building those traditions and creating those precedents every day. Each time they yield to a voice from Washington or any political pressure, each time they eliminate something that might offend some section of the community, they are creating their own body of precedent and tradition, and it will continue to pursue them. They are, in fact, not content to be half safe.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than by the fact that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission publicly prods broadcasters to engage in their legal right to editorialize. Of course, to undertake an editorial policy; overt, clearly labeled, and obviously unsponsored; requires a station or a network to be responsible. Most stations today probably do not have the manpower to assume this responsibility, but the manpower could be recruited. Editorials, of course, would not be profitable. If they had a cutting edge, they might even offend. It is much easier, much less troublesome, to use this money-making machine of television and radio merely as a conduit through which to channel anything that will be paid for that is not libelous, obscene or defamatory. In that way one has the illusion of power without responsibility.

So far as radio–that most satisfying, ancient but rewarding instrument–is concerned, the diagnosis of the difficulties is not too difficult. And obviously I speak only of news and information. In order to progress, it need only go backward. Back to the time when singing commercials were not allowed on news reports, when there was no middle commercial in a 15-minute news report, when radio was rather proud, and alert, and fast. I recently asked a network official, “Why this great rash of five-minute news reports (including three commercials) on weekends?” And he replied, “Because that seems to be the only thing we can sell.”

Well, in this kind of complex and confusing world, you can’t tell very much about the “why” of the news in a broadcast where only three minutes is available for news. The only man who could do that was Elmer Davis, and his kind aren’t around any more. If radio news is to be regarded as a commodity, only acceptable when saleable, and only when packaged to fit the advertising appropriate of a sponsor, then I don’t care what you call it–I say it isn’t news.

My memory — and I have not yet reached the point where my memories fascinate me — but my memory also goes back to the time when the fear of a slight reduction in business did not result in an immediate cutback in bodies in the news and public affairs department, at a time when network profits had just reached an all-time high. We would all agree, I think, that whether on a station or a network, the stapling machine is a very poor substitute for a newsroom typewriter, and somebody to beat it properly.

One of the minor tragedies of television news and information is that the networks will not even defend their vital interests. When my employer, CBS, through a combination of enterprise and good luck, did an interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the President uttered a few ill-chosen, uninformed words on the subject, and the network thereupon practically apologized. This produced something of a rarity: Many newspapers defended the CBS right to produce the program and commended it for its initiative. The other networks remained silent.

Likewise, when John Foster Dulles, by personal decree, banned American journalists from going to Communist China, and subsequently offered seven contradictory explanations, for his fiat the networks entered only a mild protest. Then they apparently forgot the unpleasantness. Can it be that this national industry is content to serve the public interest only with the trickle of news that comes out of Hong Kong, to leave its viewers in ignorance of the cataclysmic changes that are occurring in a nation of six hundred million people? I have no illusions about the difficulties of reporting from a dictatorship, but our British and French allies have been better served–in their public interest–with some very useful information from their reporters in Communist China.

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and, at times, demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions, has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is, after all, not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time– frequently on the long, same long day–to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.

Sometimes there is a clash between the public interest and the corporate interest. A telephone call or a letter from a proper quarter in Washington is treated rather more seriously than a communication from an irate but not politically potent viewer. It is tempting enough to give away a little air time for frequently irresponsible and unwarranted utterances in an effort to temper the wind of political criticism. But this could well be the subject of a separate and even lengthier and drearier dissertation.

Upon occasion, economics and editorial judgment are in conflict. And there is no law which says that dollars will be defeated by duty. Not so long ago the President of the United States delivered a television address to the nation. He was discoursing on the possibility or the probability of war between this nation and the Soviet Union and Communist China. It would seem to have been a reasonably compelling subject, with a degree of urgency attached. Two networks, CBS and NBC, delayed that broadcast for an hour and fifteen minutes. If this decision was dictated by anything other than financial reasons, the networks didn’t deign to explain those reasons. That hour-and-fifteen-minute delay, by the way, is a little more than twice the time required for an ICBM to travel from the Soviet Union to major targets in the United States. It is difficult to believe that this decision was made by men who love, respect and understand news.

I have been dealing largely with the deficit side of the ledger, and the items could be expanded. But I have said, and I believe, that potentially we have in this country a free enterprise system of radio and television which is superior to any other. But to achieve its promise, it must be both free and enterprising. There is no suggestion here that networks or individual stations should operate as philanthropies. But I can find nothing in the Bill of Rights or in the Communications Act which says that they must increase their net profits each year, lest the republic collapse. I do not suggest that news and information should be subsidized by foundations or private subscriptions. I am aware that the networks have expended, and are expending, very considerable sums of money on public affairs programs from which they cannot receive any financial reward. I have had the privilege at CBS of presiding over a considerable number of such programs. And I am able to stand here and say, that I have never had a program turned down by my superiors just because of the money it would cost.

But we all know that you cannot reach the potential maximum audience in marginal time with a sustaining program. This is so because so many stations on the network–any network–will decline to carry it. Every licensee who applies for a grant to operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity makes certain promises as to what he will do in terms of program content. Many recipients of licenses have, in blunt language, just plain welshed on those promises. The money-making machine somehow blunts their memories. The only remedy for this is closer inspection and punitive action by the F.C.C. But in the view of many, this would come perilously close to supervision of program content by a federal agency.

So it seems that we cannot rely on philanthropic support or foundation subsidies. We cannot follow the sustaining route. The networks cannot pay all the freight. And the F.C.C. cannot, will not, or should not discipline those who abuse the facilities that belong to the public. What, then, is the answer? Do we merely stay in our comfortable nests, concluding that the obligation of these instruments has been discharged when we work at the job of informing the public for a minimum of time? Or do we believe that the preservation of the republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated.

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation. Heywood Broun once said, “No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch.” I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers. It can be done. Maybe it won’t be, but it could. But let us not shoot the wrong piano player. Do not be deluded into believing that the titular heads of the networks control what appears on their networks. They all have better taste. All are responsible to stockholders, and in my experience all are honorable men. But they must schedule what they can sell in the public market.

And this brings us to the nub of the question. In one sense it rather revolves around the phrase heard frequently along Madison Avenue: “The Corporate Image.” I am not precisely sure what this phrase means, but I would imagine that it reflects a desire on the part of the corporations who pay the advertising bills to have a public image, or believe that they are not merely bodies with no souls, panting in pursuit of elusive dollars. They would like us to believe that they can distinguish between the public good and the private or corporate gain. So the question is this: Are the big corporations who pay who pay the freight for radio and television programs to use that time exclusively for the sale of goods and services? Is it in their own interest and that of the stockholders so to do? The sponsor of an hour’s television program is not buying merely the six minutes devoted to his commercial message. He is determining, within broad limits, the sum total of the impact of the entire hour. If he always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologists will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or letting the public decide.

I refuse to believe that the presidents and chairmen of the boards of these big corporations want their corporate image to consist exclusively of a solemn voice in an echo chamber, or a pretty girl opening the door of a refrigerator, or a horse that talks. They want something better, and on occasion some of them have demonstrated it. But most of the men whose legal and moral responsibility it is to spend the stockholders’ money for advertising are, in fact, removed from the realities of the mass media by five, six, or a dozen contraceptive layers of vice-presidents, public relations counsel and advertising agencies. Their business is to sell goods, and the competition is pretty tough.

But this nation is now in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects and fill those minds with slogans, determination and faith in the future. If we go on as we are, we are protecting the mind of the American public from any real contact with the menacing world that squeezes in upon us. We are engaged in a great experiment to discover whether a free public opinion can devise and direct methods of managing the affairs of the nation. We may fail. But in terms of information, we are handicapping ourselves needlessly.

Let us have a little competition not only in selling soap, cigarettes and automobiles, but in informing a troubled, apprehensive but receptive public. Why should not each of the 20 or 30 big corporations–and they dominate radio and television–decide that they will give up one or two of their regularly scheduled programs each year, turn the time over to the networks and say in effect: “This is a tiny tithe, just a little bit of our profits. On this particular night we aren’t going to try to sell cigarettes or automobiles; this is merely a gesture to indicate our belief in the importance of ideas.” The networks should, and I think they would, pay for the cost of producing the program. The advertiser, the sponsor, would get name credit but would have nothing to do with the content of the program. Would this blemish the corporate image? Would the stockholders rise up and object? I think not. For if the premise upon which our pluralistic society rests, which as I understand it is that if the people are given sufficient undiluted information, they will then somehow, even after long, sober second thoughts, reach the right conclusion. If that premise is wrong, then not only the corporate image but the corporations and the rest of us are done for.

There used to be an old phrase in this country, employed when someone talked too much. I am grateful to all of you for not having employed it earlier. The phrase was: “Go hire a hall.” Under this proposal, the sponsor would have hired the hall; he has bought the time. The local station operator, no matter how indifferent, is going to carry the program–he has to–he’s getting paid for it. Then it’s up to the networks to fill the hall. I am not here talking about editorializing but about straightaway exposition as direct, unadorned and impartial as fallible human beings can make it. Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information. Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore also the future of the corporations? This method would also provide real competition between the networks as to which could outdo the others in the palatable presentation of information. It would provide an outlet for the young men of skill, and there are many, even of dedication, who would like to do something other than devise methods of insulating while selling.

There may be other and simpler methods of utilizing these instruments of radio and television in the interest of a free society. But I know of none that could be so easily accomplished inside the framework of the existing commercial system. I don’t know how you would measure the success or failure of a given program. And it would be very hard to prove the magnitude of the benefit accruing to the corporation which gave up one night of a variety or quiz show in order that the network might marshal its skills to do a thorough-going job on the present status of NATO, or plans for controlling nuclear tests. But I would reckon that the president, and indeed the stockholders of the corporation who sponsored such a venture, would feel just a little bit better about both the corporation and the country.

It may be that this present system, with no modifications and no experiments, can survive. Perhaps the money-making machine has some kind of built-in perpetual motion, but I do not think so. To a very considerable extent, the media of mass communications in a given country reflects the political, economic and social climate in which it grows and flourishes. That is the reason our system differs from the British and the French, and also from the Russian and the Chinese. We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. And our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense.  But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live.  I would like to see it done inside the existing framework, and I would like to see the doing of it redound to the credit of those who finance and program it.  Measure the results by Nielsen, Trendex or Silex–it doesn’t matter.  The main thing is to try.  The responsibility can be easily placed, in spite of all the mouthings about giving the public what it wants.  It rests on big business, and on big television, and it rests on the top.  Responsibility is not something that can be assigned or delegated.  And it promises its own reward: both good business and good television.

Perhaps no one will do anything about it.  I have ventured to outline it against a background of criticism that may have been too harsh only because I could think of nothing better.  Someone once said–and I think it was Max Eastman–that ‘that publisher serves his advertiser best who best serves his readers.’  I cannot believe that radio and television, or the corporations that finance the programs, are serving well or truly their viewers or their listeners, or themselves.

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it.  If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

We are to a large extent an imitative society.  If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small fraction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure might well grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure–exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention.  But even if they are right, what have they got to lose?  Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire.  But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends.  Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.  There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.  This weapon of television could be useful.

Stonewall Jackson, who is generally believed to have known something about weapons, is reported to have said, ‘When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.’  The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.  Thank you for your patience.”     Edward R. Murrow, “Wires and Lights in a Box;” speech to the RTNDA, which became the Radio Television Digital News Association, 1958 

manhattan new york city urban

Numero Dos“When I began work on this book in 1958, I expected merely to describe the civilizing and enjoyable services that good city street life casually provides–and to deplore planning fads and architectural fashions that were expunging these necessities and charms instead of helping to strengthen them.  Some of Part One of this book: that’s all I intended.

But learning and thinking about city streets and the trickiness of city parks launched me into an unexpected treasure hunt.  I quickly found that the valuables in plain sight–streets and parks–were intimately mingled with clues and keys to other peculiarities of cities.  Thus one discovery led to another, then another.  Some of the findings from the hunt fill the rest of this book.  Others, as they turned up, have gone into four further books.  Obviously, this book exerted an influence on me, and lured me into my subsequent life’s work.  But has it been influential otherwise?  My own appraisal is yes and no.

Some people prefer doing their workaday errands on foot, or feel they would like to if they lived in a place where they could.  Other people prefer hopping into the car to do errands, or would like to if they had a car.  In the old days, before automobiles, some people liked ordering up carriages or sedan chairs and many wished they could.  But as we know from novels, biographies, and legends, some people whose social positions required them to ride–except for rural rambles–wistfully peered out at passing street scenes and longed to participate in their camaraderie, bustle, and promises of surprise and adventure.

In a kind of shorthand, we can speak of foot people and car people.  This book was instantly understood by foot people, both actual and wishful.  They recognized that what it said jibed with their own enjoyment, concerns, and experiences, which is hardly surprising, since much of the book’s information came from observing and listening to foot people.  They were collaborators in the research.  Then, reciprocally, the book collaborated with foot people by giving legitimacy to what they already knew for themselves.  Experts of the time did not respect what foot people knew and valued.  They were deemed old-fashioned and selfish–troublesome sand in the wheels of progress.  It is not easy for uncredentialed people to stand up to the credentialed, even when the so-called expertise is grounded in ignorance and folly.  This book turned out to be helpful ammunition against such experts.  But it is less accurate to call this effect ‘influence’ than to see it as corroboration and collaboration.  Conversely, the book neither collaborated with car people nor had an influence on them.  It still does not, as far as I can see.

The case of students of city planning and architecture is similarly mixed, but with special oddities. At the time of the book’s publication, no matter whether the students were foot or car people by experience and temperament, they were being rigorously trained as anti-city and anti-street designers and planners: trained as if they were fanatic car people and so was everybody else. Their teachers had been trained or indoctrinated that way too. So in effect, the whole establishment concerned with the physical form of cities (including bankers, developers, and politicians who had assimilated the planning and architectural visions and theories) acted as gatekeepers protecting forms and visions inimical to city life. However, among architectural students especially, and to some extent among planning students, there were foot people. To them, the book made sense. Their teachers (though not all) tended to consider it trash or “bitter, coffee-house rambling” as one planner put it. Yet the book, curiously enough, found its way onto required or optional reading lists-sometimes, I suspect, to arm students with awareness of the benighted ideas they would be up against as practitioners. Indeed, one university teacher told me just that. But for foot people among students, the book was subversive. Of course their subversion was by no means all my doing. Other authors and researchers-notably William H. Whyte-were also exposing the unworkability and joylessness of anti-city visions. In London, editors and writers of The Architectural Review were already up to the same thing in the mid-1950s.

Nowadays, many architects, and some among the younger generation of planners, have excellent ideas-beautiful, ingenious ideas-for strengthening city life. They also have the skills to carry out their plans. These people are a far cry from the ruthless, heedless city manipulators I have castigated.

But here we come to something sad. Although the numbers of arrogant old gatekeepers have dwindled with time, the gates themselves are another matter. Anti-city planning remains amazingly sturdy in American cities. It is still embodied in thousands of regulations, bylaws, and codes, also in bureaucratic timidities owing to accepted practices, and in unexamined public attitudes hardened by time. Thus, one may be sure that there have been enormous and dedicated efforts in the face of these obstacles wherever one sees stretches of old city buildings that have been usefully recycled for new and different purposes; wherever sidewalks have been widened and vehicular roadways narrowed precisely where they should be-on streets in which pedestrian traffic is bustling and plentiful; wherever downtowns are not deserted after their offices close; wherever new, fine-grained mixtures of street uses have been fostered successfully; wherever new buildings have been sensitively inserted among old ones to knit up holes and tatters in a city neighborhood so that the mending is all but invisible. Some foreign cities have become pretty good at these feats. But to try to accomplish such sensible things in America is a daunting ordeal at best, and often enough heartbreaking.

In Chapter Twenty of this book I proposed that the ground levels of self-isolating projects within cities could be radically erased and reconstituted with two objects in view: linking the projects into the normal city by fitting them out with plentiful, new, connecting streets; and converting the projects themselves into urban places at the same time, by adding diverse new facilities along those added streets. The catch here, of course, is that new commercial facilities would need to work out economically, as a measure of their genuine and not fake usefulness.

It is disappointing that this sort of radical replanning has not been tried-as far as I know-in the more than thirty years since this book was published. To be sure, with every decade that passes, the task of carrying out the proposal would seem to be more difficult. That is because anti-city projects, especially massive public housing projects, tend to cause their city surroundings to deteriorate, so that as time passes, less and less healthy adjoining city is available to tie into.

Even so, good opportunities still exist for converting city projects into city. Easy ones ought to be tried first on the premise that this is a learning challenge, and it is good policy for all learning to start with easy cases and work up to more difficult ones. The time is coming when we will sorely need to apply this learning to suburban sprawls since it is unlikely we can continue extending them without limit. The costs in energy waste, infrastructure waste, and land waste are too high. Yet if already existing sprawls are intensified, in favor of thriftier use of resources, we need to have learned how to make the intensifications and linkages attractive, enjoyable, safe, and sustainable-for foot people as well as car people.

Occasionally this book has been credited with having helped halt urban-renewal and slum-clearance programs. I would be delighted to take credit if this were true. It isn’t. Urban renewal and slum clearance succumbed to their own failures and fiascos, after continuing with their extravagant outrages for many years after this book was published. Even now they pop up when wishful thinking and forgetfulness set in, abetted by sufficient cataclysmic money lent to developers and sufficient political hubris and public subsidies. A recent example, for instance, is the grandiose but bankrupt Canary Wharf project set in isolation in what were London’s dilapidated docklands and the demolished, modest Isle of Dogs community, beloved by its inhabitants.

To return to the treasure hunt that began with the streets and one thing leading to another and another: at some point along the trail I realized I was engaged in studying the ecology of cities. Offhand, this sounds like taking note that raccoons nourish themselves from city backyard gardens and garbage bags (in my own city they do, sometimes even downtown), that hawks can possibly reduce pigeon populations among skyscrapers, and so on. But by city ecology I mean something different from, yet similar to, natural ecology as students of wilderness address the subject. A natural ecosystem is defined as “composed of physical-chemical-biological processes active within a space-time unit of any magnitude.” A city ecosystem is composed of physical-economic-ethical processes active at a given time within a city and its close dependencies. I’ve made up this definition, by analogy.

The two sorts of ecosystems-one created by nature, the other by human beings-have fundamental principles in common. For instance, both types of ecosystems-assuming they are not barren-require much diversity to sustain themselves. In both cases, the diversity develops organically over time, and the varied components are interdependent in complex ways. The more niches for diversity of life and livelihoods in either kind of ecosystem, the greater its carrying capacity for life. In both types of ecosystems, many small and obscure components-easily overlooked by superficial observation can be vital to the whole, far out of proportion to their own tininess of scale or aggregate quantities. In natural ecosystems, gene pools are fundamental treasures. In city ecosystems, kinds of work are fundamental treasures; furthermore, forms of work not only reproduce themselves in newly created proliferating organizations, they also hybridize, and even mutate into unprecedented kinds of work. And because of their complex interdependencies of components, both kinds of ecosystems are vulnerable and fragile, easily disrupted or destroyed.

If not fatally disrupted, however, they are tough and resilient.  And when their processes are working well, ecosystems appear stable.  But in a profound sense, the stability is an illusion.  As a Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, observed long ago, everything in the natural world is in flux.  When we suppose we see static situations, we actually see processes of beginning and processes of ending occurring simultaneously.  Nothing is static.  It is the same with cities.  Thus, to investigate either natural or city ecosystems demands the same kind of thinking.  It does not do to focus on ‘things’ and expect them to explain much in themselves.  Processes are always of the essence; things have significances as participants in processes, for better or worse.

This way of seeing is fairly young and new, which is perhaps why the hunt for knowledge to understand either natural or city ecology seems so inexhaustible.  Little is known; so much yet to know.

We human beings are the only city-building creatures in the world.  The hives of social insects are fundamentally different in how they develop, what they do, and their potentialities.  Cities are in a sense natural ecosystems too-for us.  They are not disposable.  Whenever and wherever societies have flourished and prospered rather than stagnated and decayed, creative and workable cities have been at the core of the phenomenon; they have pulled their weight and more.  It is the same still.  Decaying cities, declining economies, and mounting social troubles travel together.  The combination is not coincidental.

It is urgent that human beings understand as much as we can about city ecology–starting at any point in city processes.  The humble, vital services performed by grace of good city streets and neighborhoods are probably as good a starting point as any.  So I find it heartening that The Modem Library is issuing this beautiful new edition for a new generation of readers who, I hope, will become interested in city ecology, respect its marvels, discover more. ”    Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; “Foreword to the Modern Library Edition,” 1992   

Numero TresMr Sillitoe…
It’s Alan.  Please call me Alan.

Alan. Firstly, thanks a lot for agreeing to do the interview, we really appreciate it.  You’ve been a big influence on LeftLion and one of the reasons we started up – so much so that we nicked ‘All The Rest Is Propaganda’ off you…
I noticed.  That was wonderful of you, thank you very much.

No, thank you.
I’ve got the last two copies of the paper.  It’s wonderful.  Spot on.

OK, let’s talk about your childhood and see where it goes from there.  What was it like growing up in Nottingham, and whereabouts did you live?
I lived in Radford, mostly.  And it was very good really.  It was a jungle.  I don’t mean a terrible jungle, but a benign jungle where we knew every twist and turn and double alley.

A happy place?
We all felt perfectly safe as kids and it was a good place to grow up actually.  I had a good education at Radford Boulevard.   They taught me to read, taught me to write, they gave me an interest in history and geography, and that’s all I needed.  In those days, you had to spell properly – nowadays it’s doesn’t matter, apparently, but I think that’s a load o’ bollocks.  If you can spell, you can do everything with the English language that you need to.

Radford’s slowly becoming a student area now…
I’ve been around, yeah, sure. I think the Radford Arms is still there though. At least it was when I was last there. It was a big pub, standing in a vast open space and they decided to leave it.

Well I’m sure the developers will be eyeing it up sooner or later.
Oh yes, they do things like that. Some of the houses they knock down are alright, actually. The house we lived in wasn’t particularly okay, although it wasn’t bad. People used to say to me ‘what was it like growing up in the slums?’, and I’d say ‘fuck you. I didn’t grow up in the slums’. Radford was alright, it wasn’t slummy. We all knew where everything was and we had a good time.

So whereabouts in Radford?
We lived about a hundred yards from the Raleigh Factory where we were on munitions during the war. When I say munitions, I mean shell taps and fuses, things like that. I went to work there in 1942 when I was fourteen, and stayed there for three months and then went somewhere else to a place on Dulwich Road, which I don’t think exists any longer. They were making plywood parts for invasion barges and Mosquito bombers. All I wanted to do was get in the Air Force and bomb Germany. That’s all you wanted to do in those days of course.

You attracted a lot of attention a few years ago by being one of the few authors to support the Iraq War. Given what’s happened since, is it a view you still stand by?
Not entirely. But to a certain extent, I do, because I believe that giving the people there a say in their own destiny is a good idea. But obviously they don’t seem to think so. And now it’s very difficult for us to come out of it and leave them on their own. It’s a shame they they’re not more educated, and that religion has such a high place in their life. If it didn’t, they’d be alright. But they’ve buggered it up, really. You can’t help some people.

I think the problem with modern warfare, and I’m thinking in particular of Afghanistan and Iraq, is that the motives are dubious to say the least. There isn’t the same moral conviction or sense of purpose that your generation, rightly, felt. You knew who the enemy was. I’m worried that we don’t.
It’s more complicated now, that’s a fact. But there’s another major difference. These days soldiers are volunteers.

You can’t volunteer for the army today and not expect that you won’t be bloody killed. It’s terrible. I (long pause) grieve for the parents, I really do. You’re a young man of twenty or sixteen, and the minute you volunteer your life is at risk from that point onwards. That’s your lot, really. You can’t volunteer and not expect to be put at risk. It’s terrible, but fact.

I apologise if the next few questions cause offence, because they’re certainly not intended to. They’re about the double-edged effect your fame has had on Nottingham. Firstly, you have become synonymous with the city and as a result, every new local writer who breaks through is instantly compared to you. How does this make you feel? 
Well it doesn’t make me feel very good, really. Every new writer has their own blueprint, or purpose. Fingerprint, if you like. I suppose it’s a matter of art – if you can stomach that word. I don’t use it lightly. If you’ve got something to say, you’ve got to say it in the most direct way possible. There’s this [Nicola] Monaghan woman who wrote The Killing Jar, she’s really very good. She’s got her own private, personal, stamp on writing. If you don’t find that, then it’s no good.

Where did you find your voice?   
I found mine, well…it took about ten years, but I did find it eventually. But to go back to your original question, I don’t feel good when they compare me to them or them to me. I don’t feel terrible either. But let them. This is what the media do. You have to fight free of all types of prejudices in life.

A lot of your characters, particularly in the short stories, escape the humdrum of their lives through petty crime or heavy drinking. Presently, Nottingham has a bad reputation for both, not to mention gun crime. Do you think your stories have somehow contributed to this myth, or that the media have perhaps used it for their own agenda?
I don’t know really. I mean this type of crime you get in Nottingham now is nothing like the kind of crime the people I knew when growing up would ever perpetrate. We wouldn’t dare. I wrote before the druggy era and what they then called the ‘black crime’- which sounds terrible to hear of now as the drug pushers are both black and white, of course.

Do you sense this change in the city when you visit?
I came up to Nottingham about two years ago, and instead of going to stay with my brothers I stayed in a hotel right at the top of Hockley, behind the Council House. It was Friday night, and I went out after having a bite to eat and I saw all these lovely girls, queuing up at cashpoints to get money and go to the clubs and get stinking!

Did they try to shoot you?
(laughs) They were all very nice.  I didn’t stay out till 2am in the morning to see what the scene was like then, but I enjoyed seeing the beginning and stayed out till midnight. Then I went and got some kip. The girls, the boys, the young men, they were all really polite.

So should we be afraid of the new generation?
I don’t believe that they’re all wicked kids, these young people, and that they should be stopped from drinking, smoking, fucking, hunting… whatever they want to do. The administrators would like everyone to be tame and not do anything that they wouldn’t approve of. I don’t know.

To go back to your earlier point, I wonder if there is a generational difference in attitude towards crime, perhaps even in need. People don’t seem to be committing crime out of necessity but rather for the sheer hell of it, which is more or less what the media seem to be indicating.  
Well if it’s there, nick it. That’s what we used to say.

So things haven’t changed at all?
When I grew up in Nottingham, up to the age of eighteen, I, we, were lucky. I had plenty of work and I didn’t have to do anything that I didn’t want to do. All I did was work, which was alright – because after all, that’s what you’re on the Earth for, you know. So I consider myself lucky. I don’t know what young people are meant to do these days when they can’t work but then they don’t start, that’s a fact.

I don’t think we have the same level of ‘want’ though. We can get anything on credit. Nobody seems to go without.
I was brought up not to do that. You didn’t get anything on tick. You either paid or went without.

A lesson learnt from personal experience?
Having seen my father taken off to prison because he got something on tick that he couldn’t finally afford to pay, I thought, fuck that, that’s no good. And I never did it. I never owed any money. But I emphasise that I was lucky because I could earn it. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to keep me in the clear.

The fact that people can’t earn enough to pay their mortgage or even put petrol in the car seems to have culminated in a real fatalism about Saturday night that you’ve got to get drunker than ever, more so perhaps than Arthur Seaton ever needed to.
There’s a part of me that thinks fucking good; get drunk, get pissed up, why not, what the hell. Then there’s another part of me that thinks no, don’t do it, learn, be careful, hoard your money, work as hard as you can. I’m sort of two people in that respect. But I can’t help admiring people who say, ‘fuck ‘em all, let’s get pissed’.

I suppose this is Arthur Seaton’s dilemma?
True enough. That’s why I was taken to draw him in a realistic way, with sympathy. Because people that you write about, you’ve got to love in a way, otherwise you won’t get the truth.

I guess conformity is inevitable in the end. At the end of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Arthur gets engaged and reflects that ‘we’re all caught one way or another’.
There’s a rite of passage that you go through. I didn’t really need to do it because of various circumstances, but a lot fight their way through then settle down. It’s better to do it and settle down than not do it and settle down in my view.

The need for escapism is as relevant now as it was fifty years ago. The only difference being that Arthur’s lathe has been replaced with a computer terminal.
I honestly don’t know. I suppose he’d have a job driving a van somewhere, but I can’t say.

In this sense Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a more prophetic vision of society than say 1984, which hasn’t, in most respects, come true. Is the need to escape therefore an ageless thing, part of the human condition?
A book like 1984 is pretty good, but it’s a work of the imagination. It’s right in some ways and not in others, like everything else. But I don’t know whether Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was prophetic. To me I sat under an orange tree in Majorca writing it, thinking this is all right because I’m writing about something I know, and so on. I wasn’t sitting there thinking, ‘ah, this is fucking prophetic, mate,’ not at all. You write and do the best you can and you wait, if you’re daft enough, for the critics to tell you what you’ve done and what was in your mind, although you don’t think anything of them either. You just do what you want to do. Do what you have to do, and do what you can do.

Do you think you would have still been able to write the novel if you had remained in Nottingham?
I’m not sure. I think I still would have been able to produce it but it would have been twice as long and therefore not as good. A thousand miles south meant I was perhaps able to produce it a lot clearer than if I had stayed in Nottingham. You just don’t know. If. If. If. What can you say?

Don’t you think it’s ironic that you’re the literary voice of Nottingham when you left here before you were even published?
I don’t think I’ve left Nottingham altogether – I certainly never left it in my spirit. I physically left it not because I disliked it, but because I wanted to see other places in the world.

Well, you can return anytime you like, now that you’ve been given the keys to the city. How does that feel?     
I thought it was very good. I’ve always had a very soft spot for Nottingham. I was born there, brought up there, been in contact with the place through family in all the time I’ve lived in other places. I really do have a soft spot for it, like it, and I’m always up and down anyway. Apart from that, it’s a wonderful place. It really is one of the great cities of England. There’s no doubt about that at all.

We interviewed local grocers the Thompson brothers recently, and they said that Nottingham is a friendly place due to it having such a mix of industries. Is this something you would agree with, having grown up when there actually was industry?
Yes, I think that could possibly be true. You had Boots, Raleigh, Players, lots of other little cottage industries, but I think the most important thing was the housing. If you lived in Radford, Basford or West Bridgford you were living in each other’s pockets in a way, or houses. You couldn’t really do anything bad, because everyone had their noses out of the windows and would say, ‘hey you, what are you fucking around with? Our Fred will set onto you’. It was quite rich.

So what do you miss about Nottingham?
The thing I notice about Nottingham or have done over the years is that when I come back and call on my two brothers and we all put on our flat caps and go to the pub, I find that however much people seem to change, they still retain the same accent and slang. There’s a certain core, and of course even other people like Muslims pick it up, which is good because it helps them integrate. I think this is what I really like about the place; the accent is still there and so people of Nottingham are quite eternal to me. People are very nice. Charming. You know where you stand with them, at least.

Now the factories are gone, Nottingham seems to be casting round for a new identity. What do you think about that?
If you leave it to the people, they’ll give you the identity. The people of Nottingham are so positive in a sense, that when the factories go, a new identity will be brewed out of the people, who sooner or later will see what is exactly needed. You can try to give a place an identity, but it’s the people who live there that make it happen.

We’ll be able to use a Speaker’s Corner soon. What do you think about things like that?
Speakers’ Corner is a good idea, but it’s a way of keeping the people down. As long as they’ve got a place to spout what they think they won’t go out and blow any buildings up, which is fair enough. We don’t want that anyway.

What do you think Arthur Seaton would say? 
Fucking hell, and God, he might say that as well! (Laughter) It would definitely be off the cuff that’s for sure. I wrote a novel called Birthday which I think probably gives a good indication of what Arthur Seaton would say today because it’s about his present life and how he went on from SaturdayNight and Sunday Morning.

And what would you talk about?
Oh, I don’t know, I’d have to think about that a little more. I couldn’t just say it off the cuff. I would waffle on I suppose about non-smoking, non- drinking, non-fucking, non-hunting, non-this and that and the way the puritanical system was trying to beat one down.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is such a cult novel because it’s about fighting against the system, which seems increasingly difficult to do today. What can people do to stop the bastards grinding them down?
You can’t do anything. You walk around and you’ve got cameras looking at you. Take a piss in the corner and they take a picture.

In the book Arthur is bedridden for three days, which is difficult for him to deal with as he is always active. Was this based on the eighteen months you spent in hospital with tuberculosis?
No, it wasn’t. It just came out of imagination. Arthur is bedridden out of self-indulgence. He just couldn’t get over the idea that he’d been pissed about with and beaten up, and wanted to reflect on his life without too much disturbance from the outside world.

Arthur finds escapism at the lathe or fishing. Are these introspections the only place we can find true freedom?
You find your own ways of doing things, that’s all, and I just imagined that these were the kind of things these people would find.

Freedom for Colin Smith in Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner comes from deliberately losing the race.  Was this always your intention, or did it become clearer as the book progressed?
Yes, it was my intention from the start to make Colin Smith lose the race.  If he had won the race, he wouldn’t have been half the man he was.  He had to lose.

Fifty years on we have the iPod generation. It would seem everybody wants distracting, rather than freedom to think.
Well, you don’t need these cheap toys.  I just have a pen and a typewriter.  Mind you, I have the radio as well of course.  But you can live without all these toys.

Ernest Burton, whose grave the Seaton brothers visit towards the end of A Man of His Time, was too busy grafting to put food on the table to thinkWhat can we learn from him?
I think he’s someone to emulate – not in his worst moments, but in his attitude.  He lived through a terrible time.  People could learn from his stoicism, hard work and so on.

And it also seems to me that one lesson readers can learn from Burton, Arthur Seaton and Colin Smith is that status, authority even, is something earned rather than inherited.
I’ve always strongly believed in a meritocracy, where people make their mark through their talent alone.  There was a stage in my life where I truly thought the class system was dying out, and I still hope it does.  Some of the greatest English people England has ever produced – engineers, scientists, even writers – never even went to university.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to LeftLion readers?
Keep on keeping on.  Believe in yourself, and be kind to other people.  Something nonsensical like that.”  Alan Sillitoe, “The Alan Sillitoe Interview;” LeftLion, 2010  

4.25.2017 Daily Links

            A Thought for the Day                  

To celebrate anti-intellectual attitudes, a practice tantamount to holding up illiteracy and willful ignorance as sacred rites, reeks of the sort of vile and rotten trickery—forms of savagery with which the high and mighty savage those who would analyze or criticize their reigns—that rulers have ever practiced on the gullible, and, all too often, coopted ‘lower orders’ of their proprietary and exclusionary realms, a practice, therefore, equivalent to acceding to the extinguishing altogether of the human flame, inasmuch as only the powers of knowledge and the courage of honesty can rescue the human family from the psychotically navigated course to perdition that the believers in the profit motive have purposefully and cleverly charted as if complete collective suicide were the most natural thing in the world to aspire to achieving.

                    This Day in History                  

Portugal today marks Freedom Day as Italy commemorates a different sort of release in Liberation Day, while around the planet celebrants recognize DNA Day, World Malaria Day, Remembrance of Parental Alienation Day and Red Hat Society Day; among contending groups of Greeks two thousand four hundred and twenty-one years ago, Sparta’s soldiers overwhelmed the Athenians, thus ending the Peloponnesian War on terms unfavorable to even the limited form’s of Athens’ ancient democracy; twelve hundred forty-two years in advance of today’s dawn, the Battle of Bagrevand ended to the Abbasid Caliphate’s decided advantage, crushing the Armenian rebellion and causing leading proponents of the uprising to flee to the shelter, risky thought it might prove, of the Byzantine Empire; MORE HERE

                  Quote of the Day                       

Now all the week long we’ve gone through that period of preparation, gettin’ ourselves ready, askin’ God to get us ready, askin’ Him to purge us with His discipline and burn us with his fire and cleanse us and make us holy and ready to stand. For when you go down to downtown, you are goin’ down there amidst mean and cruel people. Your’e goin’ down there ‘midst the police force and you’ve got to have God on your side. So you need to get ready. Ask Him to prepare you as He did Shadrach, Meshach and ABednego. You know, when they went to the fiery furnance, they said to the king, “We will not bow” But God was on their side… Just like God went in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew boys, God will go with us on whatever operation we decide on. Now, you can’t win the battle at home. You got to go to the battlefield. Now when you go to the battlefield, ain’t no need to go out there without expectin’ to have some casualitites. Somebody will get hurt. I don’t know who it will be. It may be me. If it is me, I can only rejoice in the Lord that I had a little part to play… Now nobody can enjoin God. I don’t care what kind of injuction the city attorney seeks to get, he cannot enjoin God. This is God’s movement. Nobody can enjoin God. There can be no injuction against God. Because Albany does not belong to the Democratic Party of the state of Georgia. Albany does not beong to the Republicans of the state of Georgia. Albany does not belong to Governor Vandiver. Albany does not belong to the white people of the state of Georgia. All-benny belongs to God, for the prophet said: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulllnes thereof, the world and they that dwell therein”. And this is God’s world, this is God’s All-benny, and God tells us that out of one blood He created all nations that dwell upon the face of this earth.”

  • In a sermon he gave on 15 December 1961, during the Albany Movement; as quoted in Watters, Pat. 2012. Down to Now: Reflections on the Southern Civil Rights Movement. University of Georgia Press. pp. 202-203.

Ralph David Abernathy

                   Doc of the Day                      
1. Edward R. Murrow, 1958.
2. Jane Jacobs, 1992.
3. Alan Sillitoe, 2010.

Numero Uno“This just might do nobody any good.  At the end of this discourse a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts.  But I am persuaded that the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered.  It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television in this generous and capacious land.  I have no technical advice or counsel to offer those of you who labor in this vineyard the one that produces words and pictures.  You will, I am sure, forgive me for not telling you that the instruments with which you work are miraculous, that your responsibility is unprecedented or that your aspirations are frequently frustrated.  It is not necessary to remind you of the fact that your voice, amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other, does not confer upon you greater wisdom than when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.  All of these things you know.  MORE HERE

book hor2

"public health" OR "clean water" OR "publicly available healthcare" OR nursing longevity OR "life expectancy" OR wellness "sine qua non" OR prerequisite OR foundation OR precursor "prescription drugs" OR "medical equipment" OR "modern hospitals" OR "specialized physicians" "less important" OR "of less consequence" OR overemphasized = 129,000 finds.

book hor



                   Nearly Naked Links                  

From Sunday’s and Monday’s Files

Birth Control Pills and Mental Health – 

CASTRO’S Bay of Pigs Speech –



student writing arm



In addition to a full year of promotion and the publication of the winning story by Brain, Child Magazine, a $1,000 prize will be presented to the new Pen Parentis Writing Fellow at a public reading of the winning work at our September Salon Season Opener in Manhattan. Entrants must be the parent of at least one child under 10 years of age, but there are no style or genre limitations on the works of fiction submitted for consideration. Entrants can be at any level of their literary careers. Deadline April 17, 2017. Submissions call for a new, never-published fiction story — any genre, on any subject — of up to 800 words.


Mothers Always Write is hosting an online Boot Camp for writers interested in perfecting the literary essay through one-on-one coaching.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


Practitioner Liberation Project is looking for a Content Writer/Blogger – remote

We are looking for skilled freelance ghostwriters who can take currently existing content in our company in the form of videos, audios, transcripts, pdfs, worksheets, etc and repurpose them into new blog posts. A small level of research would be required per article to ensure that the writer is knowledgeable on the topic and is able to add in the correct subheadings…

Company: Practitioner Liberation Project
Payment: TBD
Skills: Writing
Source: problogger


Monthly Review on Cuba’s Relevance

A Monthly Review look at the importance of Cuba today, in spite of the sea change undergoing there right now: Diana Raby is senior fellow at the Research Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Liverpool (UK) and is also professor emeritus of history at the University of Toronto. She has written extensively on Latin America and is also active in solidarity movements such as the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and the Venezuela Information Centre (UK). Her latest book, Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today(London: Pluto Press, 2006), argues for the crucial importance of Venezuela, along with Cuba and the ALBA countries, in the renewal of the international left in this century.”


Formatting Tool 

A useful tool from Reedsy for formatting and typesetting a book: “If you’ve ever published a book, you know how much of a pain formatting can be. Getting the ebook formats right is a challenge already, and if you’re going into print as well, hiring a typesetter can cost you quite a bit of money. 

But fear no more! Over the past few years, Reedsy has built and perfected the ultimate writing and formatting tool for you. You can write in a beautiful interface, format your book, and export a flawless ePub and a professionally-typeset PDF in seconds.”


Jailed Scholarship, Imprisoned Intellectuals

A New York Review of Books look at prison university programs’ evolution and devolution: “Lagemann links the decline of college prison programs to the punitive spirit of criminal justice over the past several decades and to the simultaneous drop in public commitment to higher education. Since the 1960s, America has incarcerated more people—and for longer periods of time—than at any time in its history, and more than any other nation on earth. Many criminals were seen as beyond rehabilitation, so the only seemingly reasonable thing to do was to lock them up for many years. And even as states and the federal government plowed more money into prisons, they cut funds for colleges and universities. They also slashed student aid, shifting the cost burden from grants to loans—that is, from public to private hands. The imprisoning widened, and the educational state withered.”

The ‘Left’s’ Fascist Plunge

A Blacklisted News look at some alarming developments in different social movements that already suffered from imprecise definition:  “The Left is now the political wing of the corporatocracy. As Phillipe Poutou, a Ford factory mechanic from Bordeaux who is the sole working-class candidate in France’s presidential election, so deliciously pointed out, the Left and Right status quo candidates are indistinguishable in terms of their self-serving corruption and elitism: Mechanic-Candidate Bursts French Political Elite’s Bubble (NY Times)

Here in the U.S., the self-serving Democratic Party elites operate within the Corporatocracy structure, in which the state protects and funds private-sector cartels; the two intertwined and self-reinforcing elites manifest and enforce state policies.”

GENISSAn SOP Sanctuary Cities Examination

A Journalist’s Resource article that contextualizes the alarming news in regards to recent Federal injunctions against sanctuary cities: “Donald Trump ran for president promising to be tough on immigration. Five days after taking office, he ordered Washington to cut funding to so-called “sanctuary cities” that defy federal immigration orders.

Communities around the country are struggling to understand the order. Many wonder if disobeying the president will merely cost them funds for law enforcement. Or will it also cut money for critical programs, including education, clean water and public housing?”

4.24.2017 Day in History

forest trees nature fog mist mystery woodsIn one of many celebrations of life now before us, today is Arbor Day in the U.S., as well as, much more bizarrely around the globe, World Laboratory Animal Day, while in Armenia April 24 is Genocide Remembrance Day; at least in traditional calendars, in the territory over which at least a half a dozen world class empires have since passed, three thousand two hundred and one years ago, the Trojan imperial center at Troy fell to the Greeks; three hundred and thirteen years ago, the first regular newspaper in British Colonial America, The Boston News-Letter, was published in Boston, Massachusetts; twenty seven years later, in 1731, the English journalist and spy Daniel Defoe met his end; two hundred and thirty six years prior to the present pass, in 1779, the American minister and academic who founded Dartmouth College and who bore the name Eleazar Wheelock spent his last day on earth; twenty one years after, in 1800, the United States Library of Congress was established when President John Adams signed legislation to appropriate $5,000 USD to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress”; fifteen years later, in 1815, the baby boy who would grow up to be the English author Anthony Trollope, drew his first breath; thirty years after that and across the English Channel, in 1845, the Swiss poet and Nobel Prize laureate Carl Spitteler uttered his first cry; one hundred and forty years previous to the present moment, the Russian Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire; one hundred and thirty-two years before the present pass, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show acquiredindex.1the talents of the wily sharpshooter Annie Oakley thanks to the discernment of hiring man Nate Salsbury; one hundred and thirteen years ago, Lithuania released a press ban that had been operating for almost 40 years, that same year, in 1904, across the Atlantic, the baby who would become the brilliant abstract painter Willem de Kooning had his first day on earth; exactly fifty two weeks later, in 1905, celebrated writer Robert Penn Warrenwas born; one hundred and three years from the present pass, the Franck–Hertz experiment, a pillar of quantum mechanics, was presented to the German Physical Society; one short year later, in 1915, the Armenian Genocide took off with the arrest of 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul; three hundred and sixty five days beyond that point, in 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood led by nationalists Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett starts a rebellion in Ireland, in what came to be known as the Easter Rising; six years in the future, in 1922, the first segment of the Imperial Wireless Chain providing wireless telegraphy between Leafield in Oxfordshire, England, and Cairo, Egypt, came into operation; a mere four entire seasons later, in 1923, the paper Das Ich und das Es (The Ego and the Id) by Sigmund Freud was published in Vienna, which outlined Freud’s theories of the id, ego, and super-ego; three years after that point, in 1926, the Treaty of Berlin, where Germany and the Soviet Union each pledged neutrality in the event of an attack on the other by a third party for the next five years, was signed; eighty four years ago, Nazi Germany begun one of its many persecutions by shutting down the Jehovah’s Witnesses  Watch Tower Society office in Magdeburg; seventy-seven years before the present moment,  Sue Grafton, American author, was born; just two years later, the infant who would become the American singing star Barbra Streisand uttered her first vocalization; half a decade beyond that point, another strong American woman, the writer Willa Cather, told her last tale; sixty-four years in the past, the baby boy who would become Eric Bogosian, American actor, playwright, and author, drew his first breath; a mere three hundred sixty five years later, the baby who would have a very interesting destiny, Mumia Abu-Jamal, was born; sixty-two years ago, the twenty-nine non-aligned nations of Asia and Africa finished a meeting that condemned colonialism,

"Panama Canal Gatun Locks opening" by Stan Shebs. cc 3.0
“Panama Canal Gatun Locks opening” by Stan Shebs. cc 3.0

racism, and the Cold War; two years later, in 1957,  the Suez Canal was reopened following the introduction of UNEF peacekeepers to the region; fifty-two years into the past, Civil war broke out in the Dominican Republic when Colonel Francisco Caamaño, overthrew the triumvirate that had been in power since the coup d’état against Juan Bosch; fifty years prior to this day, American General William Westmoreland said in a news conference regarding the Civil War that the enemy had “gained support in the United States that gives him hope that he can win politically that which he cannot win militarily.”  Three years later, in 1970, the first Chinese satellite, Dong Fang Hong I, was launched; thirty-seven years ago, eight U.S. servicemen died in Operation Eagle Claw as they attempted to end the Iran hostage crisis; a decade after that, in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched from the Space Shuttle Discovery; six years after that, in 1996, in the United States, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 was passed into law; eleven years ago, in 2004, the United States lifted economic sanctions imposed on Libya 18 years previously, as a reward for its cooperation in eliminating weapons of mass destruction, and a mere year later, in 2005, Snuppy becomes world’s first cloned dog. From Wikipedia Day in History

4.24.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Friday’s and Saturday’s Files

Bathroom-gender-sign men women sexism

A Libertarian Neurosexism Take – http://quillette.com/2017/04/17/rhetorical-trap-heart-neurosexism-debate/

Managing Radioactive Waste – https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24715/low-level-radioactive-waste-management-and-disposition-proceedings-of-a

Game-Changing Academics – https://theconversation.com/academics-can-change-the-world-if-they-stop-talking-only-to-their-peers-55713

Devastations of Development –   http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/04/17/destruction-inlet-beach/

Atoms for Peace – https://academic.oup.com/dh/article-abstract/40/5/948/2402997/The-Nuclear-Imperative-Atoms-for-Peace-and-the

Nuke Power’s Fraud – http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/17/the-false-promise-of-nuclear-power/

Staged Syrian Gas Attack – http://thefreethoughtproject.com/mit-expert-fmr-dod-science-advisor-released-report-syrian-gas-attack-was-staged/

Department of Defense Announcements – http://fortunascorner.com/2017/04/17/dod-announces-commencement-of-the-nuclear-posture-review/

Solar Energy Benefits – http://www.sciencealert.com/new-graphene-based-electrode-could-boost-solar-energy-storage-by-3-000

New Labor Forum Aggregation –  http://mailchi.mp/qc/what-happened-to-the-peace-movement-nlf-highlights-for-apr-17th-2017

Corporate Takeover – http://chieforganizer.org/2017/04/17/corporate-takeover-of-government-means-trouble-for-all-of-us/

4.24.2017 Doc of the Day

1. Willa Cather, 1895-1900.
2. Sigmund Freud, 1923.
3. Jim Hickey, 2015.
4. Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2016.
boat ship naval steamship
Numero UnoMark Twain
If there is anything which should make an American sick and disgusted at the literary taste of his country, and almost swerve his allegiance to his flag it is that controversy between Mark Twain and Max O’Rell, in which the Frenchman proves himself a wit and a gentleman and the American shows himself little short of a clown and an all around tough.  The squabble arose apropos of Paul Bourget’s new book on America, Outre Mer, a book which deals more fairly and generously with this country than any book yet written in a foreign tongue.  Mr. Clemens did not like the book, and like all men of his class, and limited mentality, he cannot criticise without becoming personal and insulting.  He cannot be scathing without being a blackguard.  He tried to demolish a serious and well considered work by publishing a scurrilous, slangy and loosely written article about it.  In this article Mr. Clemens proves very little against Mr. Bourget and a very great deal against himself.  He demonstrates clearly that he is neither a scholar, a reader or a man of letters and very little of a gentleman.  His ignorance of French literature is something appalling.  Why, in these days it is as necessary for a literary man to have a wide knowledge of the French masterpieces as it is for him to have read Shakespeare or the Bible.  What man who pretends to be an author can afford to neglect those models of style and composition.  George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James excepted, the great living novelists are Frenchmen.

Mr. Clemens asks what the French sensualists can possibly teach the great American people about novel writing or morality?   Well, it would not seriously hurt the art of the classic author of “Puddin’ Head Wilson” to study Daudet, De Maupassant, Hugo, and George Sand, whatever it might do to his morals.  Mark Twain is a humorist of a kind.  His humor is always rather broad, so broad that the polite world can justly call it coarse.  He is not a reader nor a thinker nor a man who loves art of any kind.  He is a clever Yankee who has made a ‘good thing’ out of writing.  He has been published in the North American Review and in the Century, but he is not and never will be a part of literature.  The association and companionship of cultured men has given Mark Twain a sort of professional veneer, but it could not give him fine instincts or nice discriminations or elevated tastes.  His works are pure and suitable for children, just as the work of most shallow and mediocre fellows.   House dogs and donkeys make the most harmless and chaste companions for young innocence in the world. Mark Twain’s humor is of the kind that teamsters use in bantering with each other, and his laugh is the gruff ‘haw-haw’ of the backwoodsman.  He is still the rough, awkward, good-natured boy who swore at the deck hands on the river steamer and chewed uncured tobacco when he was three years old.  Thoroughly likeable as a good fellow, but impossible as a man of letters.  It is an unfortunate feature of American literature that a hostler with some natural cleverness and a great deal of assertion receives the same recognition as a standard American author that a man like Lowell does.  The French academy is a good thing after all.  It at least divides the sheep from the goats and gives a sheep the consolation of knowing that he is a sheep.

It is rather a pity that Paul Bourget should have written Outre Mer, thoroughly creditable book though it is.  Mr. Bourget is a novelist, and he should not content himself with being an essayist, there are far too many of them in the world already.  He can develop strong characters, invent strong situations, he can write the truth and he should not drift into penning opinions and platitudes.  When God has made a man a creator, it is a great mistake for him to turn critic.  It is rather an insult to God and certainly a very great wrong to man.

Nebraska State Journal, May 5, 1895

I got a letter last week from a little boy just half-past seven who had just read “Huckleberry Finn” and “Tom Sawyer.” He said: “If there are any more books like them in the world, send them to me quick.” I had to humbly confess to him that  if there were any others I had not the good fortune to know of them. What a red-letter-day it is to a boy, the day he first opens “Tom Sawyer.” I would rather sail on the raft down the Missouri again with “Huck” Finn and Jim than go down the Nile in December or see Venice from a gondola in May. Certainly Mark Twain is much better when he writes of his Missouri boys than when he makes sickley romances about Joan of Arc. And certainly he never did a better piece of work than “Prince and Pauper.” One seems to get at the very heart of old England in that dearest of children’s books, and in its pages the frail boy king, and his gloomy sister Mary who in her day wrought so much woe for unhappy England, and the dashing Princess Elizabeth who lived to rule so well, seem to live again. A friend of Mr. Clemens’ once told me that he said he wrote that book so that when his little daughters grew up they might know that their tired old jester of a father could be serious and gentle sometimes.

The Home Monthly, May 1897 … .

Edgar Allan Poe

My tantalized spirit

Here blandly reposes,

Forgetting, or never

Regretting its roses,

Its old agitations

Of myrtles and roses.

For now, while so quietly

Lying, it fancies

A holier odor

About it, of pansies—

A rosemary odor

Commingled with pansies.

With rue and the beautiful

Puritan pansies.

—Edgar Allan Poe.

The Shakespeare society of New York, which is really about the only useful literary organization in this country, is making vigorous efforts to redress an old wrong and atone for a long neglect. Sunday, Sept. 22, it held a meeting at the Poe cottage on Kingsbridge road near Fordham, for the purpose of starting an organized movement to buy back the cottage, restore it to its original condition and preserve it as a memorial of Poe. So it has come at last. After helping build monuments to Shelley, Keats and Carlyle we have at last remembered this man, the greatest of our poets and the most unhappy. I am glad that this movement is in the hands of American actors, for it was among them that Poe found his best friends and warmest admirers. Some way he always seemed to belong to the strolling Thespians who were his mother’s people.

Among all the thousands of life’s little ironies that make history so diverting, there is none more paradoxical than that Edgar Poe should have been an American. Look at his face. Had we ever another like it? He must have been a strange figure in his youth, among those genial, courtly Virginians, this handsome, pale fellow, violent in his enthusiasm, ardent  in his worship, but spiritually cold in his affections. Now playing heavily for the mere excitement of play, now worshipping at the shrine of a woman old enough to be his mother, merely because her voice was beautiful; now swimming six miles up the James river against a heavy current in the glaring sun of a June midday. He must have seemed to them an unreal figure, a sort of stage man who was wandering about the streets with his mask and buskins on, a theatrical figure who had escaped by some strange mischance into the prosaic daylight. His speech and actions were unconsciously and sincerely dramatic, always as though done for effect. He had that nervous, egotistic, self-centered nature common to stage children who seem to have been dazzled by the footlights and maddened by the applause before they are born. It was in his blood. With the exception of two women who loved him, lived for him, died for him, he went through life friendless, misunderstood, with that dense, complete, hopeless misunderstanding which, as Amiel said, is the secret of that sad smile upon the lips of the great. Men tried to befriend him, but in some way or other he hurt and disappointed them. He tried to mingle and share with other men, but he was always shut from them by that shadow, light as gossamer but unyielding as adamant, by which, from the beginning of the world, art has shielded and guarded and protected her own, that God-concealing mist in which the heroes of old were hidden, immersed in that gloom and solitude which, if we could but know it here, is but the shadow of God’s hand as it falls upon his elect.

We lament our dearth of great prose. With the exception of Henry James and Hawthorne, Poe is our only master of pure prose. We lament our dearth of poets. With the exception of Lowell, Poe is our only great poet. Poe found short story writing a bungling makeshift. He left it a perfect art. He wrote the first perfect short stories in the English language. He first gave the short story purpose, method, and artistic form. In a careless reading one can not realize the wonderful literary art, the cunning devices, the masterly effects that those entrancing tales conceal. They are simple and direct enough to delight us when we are children, subtle and artistic enough to be our marvel when we are old. To this day they  are the wonder and admiration of the French, who are the acknowledged masters of craft and form. How in his wandering, laborious life, bound to the hack work of the press and crushed by an ever-growing burden of want and debt, did he ever come upon all this deep and mystical lore, this knowledge of all history, of all languages, of all art, this penetration into the hidden things of the East? As Steadman says, “The self training of genius is always a marvel.” The past is spread before us all and most of us spend our lives in learning those things which we do not need to know, but genius reaches out instinctively and takes only the vital detail, by some sort of spiritual gravitation goes directly to the right thing.

Poe belonged to the modern French school of decorative and discriminating prose before it ever existed in France. He rivalled Gautier, Flaubert and de Maupassant before they were born. He clothed his tales in a barbaric splendor and persuasive unreality never before heard of in English. No such profusion of color, oriental splendor of detail, grotesque combinations and mystical effects had ever before been wrought into language. There are tales as grotesque, as monstrous, unearthly as the stone griffens and gargoyles that are cut up among the unvisited niches and towers of Notre Dame, stories as poetic and delicately beautiful as the golden lace work chased upon an Etruscan ring. He fitted his words together as the Byzantine jewelers fitted priceless stones. He found the inner harmony and kinship of words. Where lived another man who could blend the beautiful and the horrible, the gorgeous and the grotesque in such intricate and inexplicable fashion? Who could delight you with his noun and disgust you with his verb, thrill you with his adjective and chill you with his adverb, make you run the whole gamut of human emotions in a single sentence? Sitting in that miserable cottage at Fordham he wrote of the splendor of dream palaces beyond the dreams of art. He hung those grimy walls with dream tapestries, paved those narrow halls with black marble and polished onyx, and into those low-roofed chambers he brought all the treasured imagery of fancy, from the “huge carvings of untutored Egypt” to “mingled and conflicting perfumes, reeking up from strange convolute censers, together  with multitudinous, flaring and flickering tongues of purple and violet fire.” Hungry and ragged he wrote of Epicurean feasts and luxury that would have beggared the purpled pomp of pagan Rome and put Nero and his Golden House to shame.

And this mighty master of the organ of language, who knew its every stop and pipe, who could awaken at will the thin silver tones of its slenderest reeds or the solemn cadence of its deepest thunder, who could make it sing like a flute or roar like a cataract, he was born into a country without a literature. He was of that ornate school which usually comes last in a national literature, and he came first. American taste had been vitiated by men like Griswold and N. P. Willis until it was at the lowest possible ebb. Willis was considered a genius, that is the worst that could possibly be said. In the North a new race of great philosophers was growing up, but Poe had neither their friendship nor encouragement. He went indeed, sometimes, to the chilly salon of Margaret Fuller, but he was always a discord there. He was a mere artist and he had no business with philosophy, he had no theories as to the “higher life” and the “true happiness.” He had only his unshapen dreams that battled with him in dark places, the unborn that struggled in his brain for birth. What time has an artist to learn the multiplication table or to talk philosophy? He was not afraid of them. He laughed at Willis, and flung Longfellow’s lie in his teeth, the lie the rest of the world was twenty years in finding. He scorned the obtrusive learning of the transcendentalists and he disliked their hard talkative women. He left them and went back to his dream women, his Berenice, his Ligeia, his Marchesa Aphrodite, pale and cold as the mist maidens of the North, sad as the Norns who weep for human woe.

The tragedy of Poe’s life was not alcohol, but hunger. He died when he was forty, when his work was just beginning. Thackeray had not touched his great novels at forty, George Eliot was almost unknown at that age. Hugo, Goethe, Hawthorne, Lowell and Dumas all did their great work after they were forty years old. Poe never did his great work. He could not endure the hunger. This year the Drexel Institute has put over sixty thousand dollars into a new edition of Poe’s poems and stories. He himself never got six thousand for them altogether. If one of the great and learned institutions of the land had invested one tenth of that amount in the living author forty years ago we should have had from him such works as would have made the name of this nation great. But he sold “The Masque of the Red Death” for a few dollars, and now the Drexel Institute pays a publisher thousands to publish it beautifully. It is enough to make Satan laugh until his ribs ache, and all the little devils laugh and heap on fresh coals. I don’t wonder they hate humanity. It’s so dense, so hopelessly stupid.

Only a few weeks before Poe’s death he said he had never had time or opportunity to make a serious effort. All his tales were merely experiments, thrown off when his day’s work as a journalist was over, when he should have been asleep. All those voyages into the mystical unknown, into the gleaming, impalpable kingdom of pure romance from which he brought back such splendid trophies, were but experiments. He was only getting his tools into shape getting ready for his great effort, the effort that never came.

Bread seems a little thing to stand in the way of genius, but it can. The simple sordid facts were these, that in the bitterest storms of winter Poe seldom wrote by a fire, that after he was twenty-five years old he never knew what it was to have enough to eat without dreading tomorrow’s hunger. Chatterton had only himself to sacrifice, but Poe saw the woman he loved die of want before his very eyes, die smiling and begging him not to give up his work. They saw the depths together in those long winter nights when she lay in that cold room, wrapped in Poe’s only coat, he, with one hand holding hers, and with the other dashing off some of the most perfect masterpieces of English prose. And when he would wince and turn white at her coughing, she would always whisper: “Work on, my poet, and when you have finished read it to me. I am happy when I listen.” O, the devotion of women and the madness of art! They are the two most awesome things on earth, and surely this man knew both to the full.

I have wondered so often how he did it. How he kept his purpose always clean and his taste always perfect. How it was  that hard labor never wearied nor jaded him, never limited his imagination, that the jarring clamor about him never drowned the fine harmonies of his fancy. His discrimination remained always delicate, and from the constant strain of toil his fancy always rose strong and unfettered. Without encouragement or appreciation of any sort, without models or precedents he built up that pure style of his that is without peer in the language, that style of which every sentence is a drawing by Vedder. Elizabeth Barrett and a few great artists over in France knew what he was doing, they knew that in literature he was making possible a new heaven and a new earth. But he never knew that they knew it. He died without the assurance that he was or ever would be understood. And yet through all this, with the whole world of art and letters against him, betrayed by his own people, he managed to keep that lofty ideal of perfect work. What he suffered never touched or marred his work, but it wrecked his character. Poe’s character was made by his necessity. He was a liar and an egotist; a man who had to beg for bread at the hands of his publishers and critics could be nothing but a liar, and had he not had the insane egotism and conviction of genius, he would have broken down and written the drivelling trash that his countrymen delighted to read. Poe lied to his publishers sometimes, there is no doubt of that, but there were two to whom he was never false, his wife and his muse. He drank sometimes too, when for very ugly and relentless reasons he could not eat. And then he forgot what he suffered. For Bacchus is the kindest of the gods after all. When Aphrodite has fooled us and left us and Athene has betrayed us in battle, then poor tipsy Bacchus, who covers his head with vine leaves where the curls are getting thin, holds out his cup to us and says, “forget.” It’s poor consolation, but he means it well.

The Transcendentalists were good conversationalists, that in fact was their principal accomplishment. They used to talk a great deal of genius, that rare and capricious spirit that visits earth so seldom, that is wooed by so many, and won by so few. They had grand theories that all men should be poets, that the visits of that rare spirit should be made as frequent and universal as afternoon calls. O, they had plans to make a  whole generation of little geniuses. But she only laughed her scornful laughter, that deathless lady of the immortals, up in her echoing chambers that are floored with dawn and roofed with the spangled stars. And she snatched from them the only man of their nation she had ever deigned to love, whose lips she had touched with music and whose soul with song. In his youth she had shown him the secrets of her beauty and his manhood had been one pursuit of her, blind to all else, like Anchises, who on the night that he knew the love of Venus, was struck sightless, that he might never behold the face of a mortal woman. For Our Lady of Genius has no care for the prayers and groans of mortals, nor for their hecatombs sweet of savor. Many a time of old she has foiled the plans of seers and none may entreat her or take her by force. She favors no one nation or clime. She takes one from the millions, and when she gives herself unto a man it is without his will or that of his fellows, and he pays for it, dear heaven, he pays!

“The sun comes forth and many reptiles spawn,

He sets and each ephemeral insect then

Is gathered unto death without a dawn,

And the immortal stars awake again.”

Yes, “and the immortal stars awake again.” None may thwart the unerring justice of the gods, not even the Transcendentalists. What matter that one man’s life was miserable, that one man was broken on the wheel? His work lives and his crown is eternal. That the work of his age was undone, that is the pity, that the work of his youth was done, that is the glory. The man is nothing. There are millions of men. The work is everything. There is so little perfection. We lament our dearth of poets when we let Poe starve. We are like the Hebrews who stoned their prophets and then marvelled that the voice of God was silent. We will wait a long time for another. There are Griswold and N. P. Willis, our chosen ones, let us turn to them. Their names are forgotten. God is just. They are,

“Gathered unto death without a dawn.

And the immortal stars awake again.”

The Courier, October 12, 1895

You can afford to give a little more care and attention to this imaginative boy of yours than to any of your other children. His nerves are more finely strung and all his life he will need your love more than the others. Be careful to get him the books he likes and see that they are good ones. Get him a volume of Poe’s short stories. I know many people are prejudiced against Poe because of the story that he drank himself to death. But that myth has been exploded long ago. Poe drank less than even the average man of his time. No, the most artistic of all American story tellers did not die because he drank too much, but because he ate too little. And yet we, his own countrymen who should be so proud of him, are not content with having starved him and wronged him while he lived, we must even go on slandering him after he has been dead almost fifty years. But get his works for this imaginative boy of yours and he will tell you how great a man the author of “The Gold Bug” and “The Masque of the Red Death” was. Children are impartial critics and sometimes very good ones. They do not reason about a book, they just like it or dislike it intensely, and after all that is the conclusion of the whole matter. I am very sure that “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Black Cat” will give this woolgathering lad of yours more pleasure than a new bicycle could.

The Home Monthly, May 1897 … .

Henry James
Their mania for careless and hasty work is not confined to the lesser men. Howells and Hardy have gone with the crowd. Now that Stevenson is dead I can think of but one English speaking author who is really keeping his self-respect and sticking for perfection. Of course I refer to that mighty master of language and keen student of human actions and motives, Henry James. In the last four years he has published, I believe, just two small volumes, “The Lesson of the Master” and “Terminations,” and in those two little volumes of short stories he who will may find out something of what it means to be really an artist. The framework is perfect and the polish is absolutely without flaw. They are sometimes a little hard, always calculating and dispassionate, but they are perfect. I wish James would write about modern society, about “degeneracy” and the new woman and all the rest of it. Not that he would throw any light on it. He seldom does; but he would say such awfully clever things about it, and turn on so many side-lights. And then his sentences! If his character novels were all wrong one could read him forever for the mere beauty of his sentences. He never lets his phrases run away with him. They are never dull and never too brilliant. He subjects them to the general tone of his sentence and has his whole paragraph partake of the same predominating color. You are never startled, never surprised, never thrilled or never enraptured; always delighted by that masterly prose that is as correct, as classical, as calm and as subtle as the music of Mozart.

The Courier, November 16, 1895

It is strange that from “Felicia” down, the stage novel has never been a success. Henry James’ “Tragic Muse” is the only theatrical novel that has a particle of the real spirit of the stage in it, a glimpse of the enthusiasm, the devotion, the exaltation and the sordid, the frivolous and the vulgar which are so  strangely and inextricably blended in that life of the green room. For although Henry James cannot write plays he can write passing well of the people who enact them. He has put into one book all those inevitable attendants of the drama, the patronizing theatre goer who loves it above all things and yet feels so far superior to it personally; the old tragedienne, the queen of a dying school whose word is law and whose judgments are to a young actor as the judgments of God; and of course there is the girl, the aspirant, the tragic muse who beats and beats upon those brazen doors that guard the unapproachable until one fine morning she beats them down and comes into her kingdom, the kingdom of unborn beauty that is to live through her. It is a great novel, that book of the master’s, so perfect as a novel that one does not realize what a masterly study it is of the life and ends and aims of the people who make plays live.

Nebraska State Journal, March 29, 1896 … .

Kate Chopin
A Creole ‘Bovary’ is this little novel of Miss Chopin’s. Not that the heroine is a creole exactly, or that Miss Chopin is a Flaubert—save the mark!—but the theme is similar to that which occupied Flaubert. There was, indeed, no need that a second “Madame Bovary” should be written, but an author’s choice of themes is frequently as inexplicable as his choice of a wife. It is governed by some innate temperamental bias that cannot be diagrammed. This is particularly so in women who write, and I shall not attempt to say why Miss Chopin has devoted so exquisite and sensitive, well-governed a style to so trite and sordid a theme. She writes much better than it is ever given to most people to write, and hers is a genuinely literary style; of no great elegance or solidity; but light, flexible, subtle and capable of producing telling effects directly and simply. The story she has to tell in the present instance is new neither in matter nor treatment. “Edna Pontellier,” a Kentucky girl, who, like “Emma Bovary,” had been in love with innumerable dream heroes before she was out of short skirts, married “Leonce Pontellier” as a sort of reaction from a vague and visionary passion for a tragedian whose unresponsive picture she used to kiss. She acquired the habit of liking her husband in time, and even of liking her children. Though we are not justified in presuming that she ever threw articles from her dressing table at them, as the charming “Emma” had a winsome habit of doing, we are told that “she would sometimes gather them passionately to her heart, she would sometimes forget them.” At a creole watering place, which is admirably and deftly sketched by Miss Chopin, “Edna” met “Robert Lebrun,” son of the landlady, who dreamed of a fortune awaiting him in Mexico while he occupied a petty clerical position in New Orleans. “Robert” made it his business to be agreeable to his mother’s boarders, and “Edna,” not being a creole, much against his wish and will, took him seriously. “Robert” went to Mexico but found that  fortunes were no easier to make there than in New Orleans. He returns and does not even call to pay his respects to her. She encounters him at the home of a friend and takes him home with her. She wheedles him into staying for dinner, and we are told she sent the maid off “in search of some delicacy she had not thought of for herself, and she recommended great care in the dripping of the coffee and having the omelet done to a turn.”Only a few pages back we were informed that the husband, “M. Pontellier,” had cold soup and burnt fish for his dinner. Such is life. The lover of course disappointed her, was a coward and ran away from his responsibilities before they began. He was afraid to begin a chapter with so serious and limited a woman. She remembered the sea where she had first met “Robert.” Perhaps from the same motive which threw “Anna Keraninna” under the engine wheels, she threw herself into the sea, swam until she was tired and then let go.

“She looked into the distance, and for a moment the old terror flamed up, then sank again. She heard her father’s voice, and her sister Margaret’s. She heard the barking of an old dog that was chained to the sycamore tree. The spurs of the cavalry officer clanged as he walked across the porch. There was a hum of bees, and the musky odor of pinks filled the air.”

“Edna Pontellier” and “Emma Bovary” are studies in the same feminine type; one a finished and complete portrayal, the other a hasty sketch, but the theme is essentially the same. Both women belong to a class, not large, but forever clamoring in our ears, that demands more romance out of life than God put into it. Mr. G. Barnard Shaw would say that they are the victims of the over-idealization of love. They are the spoil of the poets, the Iphigenias of sentiment. The unfortunate feature of their disease is that it attacks only women of brains, at least of rudimentary brains, but whose development is one-sided; women of strong and fine intuitions, but without the faculty of observation, comparison, reasoning about things. Probably, for emotional people, the most convenient thing about being able to think is that it occasionally gives them a rest from feeling. Now with women of the “Bovary” type,  this relaxation and recreation is impossible. They are not critics of life, but, in the most personal sense, partakers of life. They receive impressions through the fancy. With them everything begins with fancy, and passions rise in the brain rather than in the blood, the poor, neglected, limited one-sided brain that might do so much better things than badgering itself into frantic endeavors to love. For these are the people who pay with their blood for the fine ideals of the poets, as Marie Delclasse paid for Dumas’ great creation, “Marguerite Gauthier.” These people really expect the passion of love to fill and gratify every need of life, whereas nature only intended that it should meet one of many demands. They insist upon making it stand for all the emotional pleasures of life and art, expecting an individual and self-limited passion to yield infinite variety, pleasure and distraction, to contribute to their lives what the arts and the pleasurable exercise of the intellect gives to less limited and less intense idealists. So this passion, when set up against Shakespeare, Balzac, Wagner, Raphael, fails them. They have staked everything on one hand, and they lose. They have driven the blood until it will drive no further, they have played their nerves up to the point where any relaxation short of absolute annihilation is impossible. Every idealist abuses his nerves, and every sentimentalist brutally abuses them. And in the end, the nerves get even. Nobody ever cheats them, really. Then “the awakening” comes. Sometimes it comes in the form of arsenic, as it came to “Emma Bovary,” sometimes it is carbolic acid taken covertly in the police station, a goal to which unbalanced idealism not infrequently leads. “Edna Pontellier,” fanciful and romantic to the last, chose the sea on a summer night and went down with the sound of her first lover’s spurs in her ears, and the scent of pinks about her. And next time I hope that Miss Chopin will devote that flexible, iridescent style of hers to a better cause.

Pittsburg Leader, July 8, 1899

Stephen Crane
This truly remarkable book is printed on dirty gray blotting paper, on each page of which is a mere dot of print over a large I of vacancy. There are seldom more than ten lines on a page, and it would be better if most of those lines were not there at all. Either Mr. Crane is insulting the public or insulting himself, or he has developed a case of atavism and is chattering the primeval nonsense of the apes. His “Black Riders,” uneven as it was, was a casket of polished masterpieces when compared with “War Is Kind.” And it is not kind at all, Mr. Crane; when it provokes such verses as these, it is all that Sherman said it was.

The only production in the volume that is at all coherent is the following, from which the book gets its title:

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,

Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky,

And the affrighted steed ran on alone.

Do not weep,

War is kind.

Hoarse booming drums of the regiment,

Little souls who thirst for fight,

These men were born to drill and die.

The unexplained glory flies above them.

Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—

A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind,

Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,

Raged at the breast, gulped and died.

Do not weep,

War is kind.

Swift-blazing flag of the regiment,

Eagle with crest of red and gold,

 These men were born to drill and die.

Point for them the virtue of slaughter,

Make plain to them the excellence of killing,

And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button

On the bright, splendid shroud of your son,

Do not weep,

War is kind.

Of course, one may have objections to hearts hanging like humble buttons, or to buttons being humble at all, but one should not stop to quarrel about such trifles with a poet who can perpetrate the following:

Thou art my love,

And thou art the beard

On another man’s face—

Woe is me.

Thou art my love,

And thou art a temple,

And in this temple is an altar,

And on this temple is my heart—

Woe is me.

Thou art my love,

And thou art a wretch.

Let these sacred love-lies choke thee.

For I am come to where I know your lies as truth

And your truth as lies—

Woe is me.

Now, if you please, is the object of these verses animal, mineral or vegetable? Is the expression, “Thou art the beard on another man’s face,” intended as a figure, or was it written by a barber? Certainly, after reading this, “Simple Simon” is a ballade of perfect form, and “Jack and Jill” or “Hickity, Pickity, My Black Hen,” are exquisite lyrics. But of the following what shall be said:

Now let me crunch you

With full weight of affrighted love.

 I doubted you

—I doubted you—

And in this short doubting

My love grew like a genie

For my further undoing.

Beware of my friends,

Be not in speech too civil,

For in all courtesy

My weak heart sees specters,

Mists of desire

Arising from the lips of my chosen;

Be not civil.

This is somewhat more lucid as evincing the bard’s exquisite sensitiveness:

Ah, God, the way your little finger moved

As you thrust a bare arm backward.

And made play with your hair

And a comb, a silly gilt comb

—Ah, God, that I should suffer

Because of the way a little finger moved.

Mr. Crane’s verselets are illustrated by some Bradley pictures, which are badly drawn, in bad taste, and come with bad grace. On page 33 of the book there are just two lines which seem to completely sum up the efforts of both poet and artist:

“My good friend,” said a learned bystander,
“Your operations are mad.”

Yet this fellow Crane has written short stories equal to some of Maupassant’s.

Pittsburg Leader, June 3, 1899

After reading such a delightful newspaper story as Mr. Frank Norris’ “Blix,” it is with assorted sensations of pain and discomfort that one closes the covers of another newspaper novel, “Active Service,” by Stephen Crane. If one happens to have some trifling regard for pure English, he does not come forth from the reading of this novel unscathed. The hero of this lurid tale is a newspaper man, and he edits the Sunday edition of the New York “Eclipse,” and delights in publishing “stories” about deformed and sightless infants. “The office of the ‘Eclipse’ was at the top of an immense building on Broadway. It was a sheer mountain to the heights of which the interminable thunder of the streets rose faintly. The Hudson was a broad path of silver in the distance.” This leaves little doubt as to the fortunate journal which had secured Rufus Coleman as its Sunday editor. Mr. Coleman’s days were spent in collecting yellow sensations for his paper, and we are told that he “planned for each edition as for a campaign.” The following elevating passage is one of the realistic paragraphs by which Mr. Crane makes the routine of Coleman’s life known to us:

Suddenly there was a flash of light and a cage of bronze, gilt and steel dropped magically from above. Coleman yelled “Down!” * * * A door flew open. Coleman stepped upon the elevator. “Well, Johnnie,” he said cheerfully to the lad who operated the machine, “is business good?” “Yes, sir, pretty good,” answered the boy, grinning. The little cage sank swiftly. Floor after floor seemed to be rising with marvelous speed; the whole building was winging straight into the sky. There was soaring lights, figures and the opalescent glow of ground glass doors marked with black inscriptions. Other lights were springing heavenward. All the lofty corridors rang with cries. “Up!” “Down!” “Down!” “Up!!” The boy’s hand grasped a lever and his machine obeyed his lightest movement with sometimes an unbalancing swiftness.

Later, when Coleman reached the street, Mr. Crane describes the cable cars as marching like panoplied elephants, which is rather far, to say the least. The gentleman’s nights were spent something as follows:

“In the restaurant he first ordered a large bottle of champagne. The last of the wine he finished in somber  mood like an unbroken and defiant man who chews the straw that litters his prison house. During his dinner he was continually sending out messenger boys. He was arranging a poker party. Through a window he watched the beautiful moving life of upper Broadway at night, with its crowds and clanging cable cars and its electric signs, mammoth and glittering like the jewels of a giantess.

“Word was brought to him that poker players were arriving. He arose joyfully, leaving his cheese. In the broad hall, occupied mainly by miscellaneous people and actors, all deep in leather chairs, he found some of his friends waiting. They trooped upstairs to Coleman’s rooms, where, as a preliminary, Coleman began to hurl books and papers from the table to the floor. A boy came with drinks. Most of the men, in order to prepare for the game, removed their coats and cuffs and drew up the sleeves of their shirts. The electric globes shed a blinding light upon the table. The sound of clinking chips arose; the elected banker spun the cards, careless and dextrous.”

The atmosphere of the entire novel is just that close and enervating. Every page is like the next morning taste of a champagne supper, and is heavy with the smell of stale cigarettes. There is no fresh air in the book and no sunlight, only the “blinding light shed by the electric globes.” If the life of New York newspaper men is as unwholesome and sordid as this, Mr. Crane, who has experienced it, ought to be sadly ashamed to tell it. Next morning when Coleman went for breakfast in the grill room of his hotel he ordered eggs on toast and a pint of champagne for breakfast and discoursed affably to the waiter.

“May be you had a pretty lively time last night, Mr. Coleman?”

“Yes, Pat,” answered Coleman. “I did. It was all because of an unrequitted affection, Patrick.” The man stood near, a napkin over his arm. Coleman went on impressively. “The ways of the modern lover are strange. Now, I, Patrick, am a modern lover, and when, yesterday, the dagger of disappointment was driven deep into my heart, I immediately played poker as hard as I could, and incidentally got loaded. This is the modern point of view. I understand on good authority that in old times lovers used to languish. That is probably a lie, but at any rate we do not, in these times, languish to any great extent. We get drunk. Do you understand Patrick?”

The waiter was used to a harangue at Coleman’s breakfast time. He placed his hand over his mouth and giggled. “Yessir.”

“Of course,” continued Coleman, thoughtfully. “It might be pointed out by uneducated persons that it is difficult to maintain a high standard of drunkenness for the adequate length of time, but in the series of experiments which I am about to make, I am sure I can easily prove them to be in the wrong.”

“I am sure, sir,” said the waiter, “the young ladies would not like to be hearing you talk this way.”

“Yes; no doubt, no doubt. The young ladies have still quite medieval ideas. They don’t understand. They still prefer lovers to languish.”

“At any rate, sir, I don’t see that your heart is sure enough broken. You seem to take it very easy.”

“Broken!” cried Coleman. “Easy? Man, my heart is in fragments. Bring me another small bottle.”

After this Coleman went to Greece to write up the war for the “Eclipse,” and incidentally to rescue his sweetheart from the hands of the Turks and make “copy” of it. Very valid arguments might be advanced that the lady would have fared better with the Turks. On the voyage Coleman spent all his days and nights in the card room and avoided the deck, since fresh air was naturally disagreeable to him. For all that he saw of Greece or that Mr. Crane’s readers see of Greece Coleman might as well have stayed in the card room of the steamer, or in the card room of his New York hotel for that matter. Wherever he goes he carries the atmosphere of the card room with him and the “blinding glare of the electrics.” In Greece he makes love when he has leisure, but he makes “copy”  much more ardently, and on the whole is quite as lurid and sordid and showy as his worst Sunday editions. Some good bits of battle descriptions there are, of the “Red Badge of Courage” order, but one cannot make a novel of clever descriptions of earthworks and poker games. The book concerns itself not with large, universal interests or principles, but with a yellow journalist grinding out yellow copy in such a wooden fashion that the Sunday “Eclipse” must have been even worse than most. In spite of the fact that Mr. Crane has written some of the most artistic short stories in the English language, I begin to wonder whether, blinded by his youth and audacity, two qualities which the American people love, we have not taken him too seriously. It is a grave matter for a man in good health and with a bank account to have written a book so coarse and dull and charmless as “Active Service.” Compared with this “War was kind,” indeed.

Pittsburg Leader, November 11, 1899

  Frank Norris

A new and a great book has been written. The name of it is “McTeague, a Story of San Francisco,” and the man who wrote it is Mr. Frank Norris. The great presses of the country go on year after year grinding out commonplace books, just as each generation goes on busily reproducing its own mediocrity. When in this enormous output of ink and paper, these thousands of volumes that are yearly rushed upon the shelves of the book stores, one appears which contains both power and promise, the reader may be pardoned some enthusiasm. Excellence always surprises: we are never quite prepared for it. In the case of “McTeague, a Story of San Francisco,” it is even more surprising than usual. In the first place the title is not alluring, and not until you have read the book, can you know that there is an admirable consistency in the stiff, uncompromising commonplaceness of that title. In the second place the name of the author is as yet comparatively unfamiliar, and finally the book is dedicated to a member of the Harvard faculty, suggesting that whether it be a story of San Francisco or Dawson City, it must necessarily be vaporous, introspective and chiefly concerned with “literary” impressions. Mr. Norris is, indeed, a “Harvard man,” but that he is a good many other kinds of a man is self-evident. His book is, in the language of Mr. Norman Hapgood, the work of “a large human being, with a firm stomach, who knows and loves the people.”

In a novel of such high merit as this, the subject matter is the least important consideration. Every newspaper contains the essential material for another “Comedie Humaine.” In this case “McTeague,” the central figure, happens to be a dentist practicing in a little side street of San Francisco. The novel opens with this description of him:

“It was Sunday, and, according to his custom on that day, McTeague took his dinner at two in the afternoon at the car conductor’s coffee joint on Polk street. He had a thick, gray soup, heavy, underdone meat, very hot, on a cold plate; two kinds of vegetables; and a sort  of suet pudding, full of strong butter and sugar. Once in his office, or, as he called it on his sign-board, ‘Dental Parlors,’ he took off his coat and shoes, unbuttoned his vest, and, having crammed his little stove with coke, he lay back in his operating chair at the bay window, reading the paper, drinking steam beer, and smoking his huge porcelain pipe while his food digested; crop-full, stupid and warm.”

McTeague had grown up in a mining camp in the mountains. He remembered the years he had spent there trundling heavy cars of ore in and out of the tunnel under the direction of his father. For thirteen days out of each fortnight his father was a steady, hard-working shift-boss of the mine. Every other Sunday he became an irresponsible animal, a beast, a brute, crazed with alcohol. His mother cooked for the miners. Her one ambition was that her son should enter a profession. He was apprenticed to a traveling quack dentist and after a fashion, learned the business.

“Then one day at San Francisco had come the news of his mother’s death; she had left him some money—not much, but enough to set him up in business; so he had cut loose from the charlatan and had opened his ‘Dental Parlors’ on Polk street, an ‘accommodation street’ of small shops in the residence quarter of the town. Here he had slowly collected a clientele of butcher boys, shop girls, drug clerks and car conductors. He made but few acquaintances. Polk street called him the ‘doctor’ and spoke of his enormous strength. For McTeague was a young giant, carrying his huge shock of blonde hair six feet three inches from the ground; moving his immense limbs, heavy with ropes of muscle, slowly, ponderously. His hands were enormous, red, and covered with a fell of stiff yellow hair; they were as hard as wooden mallets, strong as vices, the hands of the old-time car boy. Often he dispensed with forceps and extracted a refractory tooth with his thumb and finger. His head was square-cut, angular; the jaw salient: like that of the carnivora.

“But for one thing McTeague would have been perfectly  contented. Just outside his window was his signboard—a modest affair—that read: ‘Doctor McTeague. Dental Parlors. Gas Given;’ but that was all. It was his ambition, his dream, to have projecting from that corner window a huge gilded tooth, a molar with enormous prongs, something gorgeous and attractive. He would have it some day, but as yet it was far beyond his means.”

Then Mr. Norris launches into a description of the street in which “McTeague” lives. He presents that street as it is on Sunday, as it is on working days; as it is in the early dawn when the workmen are going out with pickaxes on their shoulders, as it is at ten o’clock when the women are out purchasing from the small shopkeepers, as it is at night when the shop girls are out with the soda-fountain tenders and the motor cars dash by full of theatre-goers, and the Salvationists sing before the saloon on the corner. In four pages he reproduces the life in a by-street of a great city, the little tragedy of the small shopkeeper. There are many ways of handling environment—most of them bad. When a young author has very little to say and no story worth telling, he resorts to environment. It is frequently used to disguise a weakness of structure, as ladies who paint landscapes put their cows knee-deep in water to conceal the defective drawing of the legs. But such description as one meets throughout Mr. Norris’ book is in itself convincing proof of power, imagination and literary skill. It is a positive and active force, stimulating the reader’s imagination, giving him an actual command, a realizing sense of this world into which he is suddenly transplanted. It gives to the book perspective, atmosphere, effects of time and distance, creates the illusion of life. This power of mature, and accurate and comprehensive description is very unusual among the younger American writers. Most of them observe the world through a temperament, and are more occupied with their medium than the objects they see. And temperament is a glass which distorts most astonishingly. But this young man sees with a clear eye, and reproduces with a touch firm and decisive, strong almost to  brutalness. Yet this hand that can depict so powerfully the brute strength and brute passions of a “McTeague,” can deal very finely and adroitly with the feminine element of his story. This is his portrait of the little Swiss girl, “Trina,” whom the dentist marries:

“Trina was very small and prettily made. Her face was round and rather pale; her eyes long and narrow and blue, like the half-opened eyes of a baby; her lips and the lobes of her tiny ears were pale, a little suggestive of anaemia. But it was to her hair that one’s attention was most attracted. Heaps and heaps of blue-black coils and braids, a royal crown of swarthy bands, a veritable sable tiara, heavy, abundant and odorous. All the vitality that should have given color to her face seemed to have been absorbed by that marvelous hair: It was the coiffure of a queen that shadowed the temples of this little bourgeoise.”

The tragedy of the story dates from a chance, a seeming stroke of good fortune, one of those terrible gifts of the Danai. A few weeks before her marriage “Trina” drew $5 000 from a lottery ticket. From that moment her passion for hoarding money becomes the dominant theme of the story, takes command of the book and its characters. After their marriage the dentist is disbarred from practice. They move into a garret where she starves her husband and herself to save that precious hoard. She sells even his office furniture, everything but his concertina and his canary bird, with which he stubbornly refuses to part and which are destined to become very important accessories in the property room of the theatre where this drama is played. This removal from their first home is to this story what Gervaise’s removal from her shop is to L’Assommoir; it is the fatal episode of the third act, the sacrifice of self-respect, the beginning of the end. From that time the money stands between “Trina” and her husband. Outraged and humiliated, hating her for her meanness, demoralized by his idleness and despair, he begins to abuse her. The story becomes a careful and painful study of the disintegration of this union, a penetrating and searching  analysis of the degeneration of these two souls, the woman’s corroded by greed, the man’s poisoned by disappointment and hate.

And all the while this same painful theme is placed in a lower key. Maria, the housemaid who took care of “McTeague’s” dental parlors in his better days, was a half-crazy girl from somewhere in Central America, she herself did not remember just where. But she had a wonderful story about her people owning a dinner service of pure gold with a punch bowl you could scarcely lift, which rang like a church bell when you struck it. On the strength of this story “Zercow,” the Jew junk man, marries her, and believing that she knows where this treasure is hidden, bullies and tortures her to force her to disclose her secret. At last “Maria” is found with her throat cut, and “Zercow” is picked up by the wharf with a sack full of rusty tin cans, which in his dementia he must have thought the fabled dinner service of gold.

From this it is a short step to “McTeague’s” crime. He kills his wife to get possession of her money, and escapes to the mountains. While he is on his way south, pushing toward Mexico, he is overtaken by his murdered wife’s cousin and former suitor. Both men are half mad with thirst, and there in the desert wastes of Death’s Valley, they spring to their last conflict. The cousin falls, but before he dies he slips a handcuff over “McTeague’s” arm, and so the author leaves his hero in the wastes of Death’s Valley, a hundred miles from water, with a dead man chained to his arm. As he stands there the canary bird, the survivor of his happier days, to which he had clung with stubborn affection, begins “chittering feebly in its little gilt prison.” It reminds one a little of Stevenson’s use of poor “Goddedaal’s” canary in “The Wrecker.” It is just such sharp, sure strokes that bring out the high lights in a story and separate excellence from the commonplace. They are at once dramatic and revelatory. Lacking them, a novel which may otherwise be a good one, lacks its chief reason for being. The fault with many worthy attempts at fiction lies not in what they are, but in what they are not.

Mr. Norris’ model, if he will admit that he has followed one, is clearly no less a person than M. Zola himself. Yet there is no discoverable trace of imitation in his book. He has  simply taken a method which has been most successfully applied in the study of French life and applied it in studying American life, as one uses certain algebraic formulae to solve certain problems. It is perhaps the only truthful literary method of dealing with that part of society which environment and heredity hedge about like the walls of a prison. It is true that Mr. Norris now and then allows his “method” to become too prominent, that his restraint savors of constraint, yet he has written a true story of the people, courageous, dramatic, full of matter and warm with life. He has addressed himself seriously to art, and he seems to have no ambition to be clever. His horizon is wide, his invention vigorous and bold, his touch heavy and warm and human. This man is not limited by literary prejudices: he sees the people as they are, he is close to them and not afraid of their unloveliness. He has looked at truth in the depths, among men begrimed by toil and besotted by ignorance, and still found her fair. “McTeague” is an achievement for a young man. It may not win at once the success which it deserves, but Mr. Norris is one of those who can afford to wait.

The Courier, April 8, 1899

If you want to read a story that is all wheat and no chaff, read “Blix.” Last winter that brilliant young Californian, Mr. Norris, published a remarkable and gloomy novel, “McTeague,” a book deep in insight, rich in promise and splendid in execution, but entirely without charm and as disagreeable as only a great piece of work can be. And now this gentleman, who is not yet thirty, turns around and gives us an idyll that sings through one’s brain like a summer wind and makes one feel young enough to commit all manner of indiscretions. It may be that Mr. Norris is desirous of showing us his versatility and that he can follow any suit, or it may have been a process of reaction. I believe it was after M. Zola had completed one of his greatest and darkest novels of Parisian life that he went down to the seaside and wrote “La Reve,” a book that every girl should read when she is eighteen, and then again when she is eighty. Powerful and solidly built as  “McTeague” is, one felt that there method was carried almost too far, that Mr. Norris was too consciously influenced by his French masters. But “Blix” belongs to no school whatever, and there is not a shadow of pedantry or pride of craft in it from cover to cover. “Blix” herself is the method, the motives and the aim of the book. The story is an exhalation of youth and spring; it is the work of a man who breaks loose and forgets himself. Mr. Norris was married only last summer, and the march from “Lohengrin” is simply sticking out all over “Blix.” It is the story of a San Francisco newspaper man and a girl. The newspaper man “came out” in fiction, so to speak, in the drawing room of Mr. Richard Harding Davis, and has languished under that gentleman’s chaperonage until he has come to be regarded as a fellow careful of nothing but his toilet and his dinner. Mr. Davis’ reporters all bathed regularly and all ate nice things, but beyond that their tastes were rather colorless. I am glad to see one red-blooded newspaper man, in the person of “Landy Rivers,” of San Francisco, break into fiction; a real live reporter with no sentimental loyalty for his “paper,” and no Byronic poses about his vices, and no astonishing taste about his clothes, and no money whatever, which is the natural and normal condition of all reporters. “Blix” herself was just a society girl, and “Landy” took her to theatres and parties and tried to make himself believe he was in love with her. But it wouldn’t work, for “Landy” couldn’t love a society girl, not though she were as beautiful as the morning and terrible as an army with banners, and had “round full arms,” and “the skin of her face was white and clean, except where it flushed into a most charming pink upon her smooth, cool cheeks.” For while “Landy Rivers” was at college he had been seized with the penchant for writing short stories, and had worshiped at the shrines of Maupassant and Kipling, and when a man is craft mad enough to worship Maupassant truly and know him well, when he has that tingling for technique in his fingers, not Aphrodite herself, new risen from the waves, could tempt him into any world where craft was not lord and king. So it happened that their real love affair never began until one morning when “Landy” had to go down to the wharf to write up a whaleback, and “Blix” went along, and an old sailor told them a  story and “Blix” recognized the literary possibilities of it, and they had lunch in a Chinese restaurant, and “Landy” because he was a newspaper man and it was the end of the week, didn’t have any change about his clothes, and “Blix” had to pay the bill. And it was in that green old tea house that “Landy” read “Blix” one of his favorite yarns by Kipling, and she in a calm, off-handed way, recognized one of the fine, technical points in it, and “Landy” almost went to pieces for joy of her doing it. That scene in the Chinese restaurant is one of the prettiest bits of color you’ll find to rest your eyes upon, and mighty good writing it is. I wonder, though if when Mr. Norris adroitly mentioned the “clack and snarl” of the banjo “Landy” played, he remembered the “silver snarling trumpets” of Keats? After that, things went on as such things will, and “Blix” quit the society racket and went to queer places with “Landy,” and got interested in his work, and she broke him of wearing red neckties and playing poker, and she made him work, she did, for she grew to realize how much that meant to him, and she jacked him up when he didn’t work, and she suggested an ending for one of his stories that was better than his own; just this big, splendid girl, who had never gone to college to learn how to write novels. And so how, in the name of goodness, could he help loving her? So one morning down by the Pacific, with “Blix” and “The Seven Seas,” it all came over “Landy,” that “living was better than reading and life was better than literature.” And so it is; once, and only once, for each of us; and that is the tune that sings and sings through one’s head when one puts the book away.

The Courier, January 13, 1900

An Heir Apparent.
Last winter a young Californian, Mr. Frank Norris, published a novel with the unpretentious title, “McTeague: a Story of San Francisco.” It was a book that could not be ignored nor dismissed with a word. There was something very unusual about it, about its solidity and mass, the thoroughness  and firmness of texture, and it came down like a blow from a sledge hammer among the slighter and more sprightly performances of the hour.The most remarkable thing about the book was its maturity and compactness. It has none of the ear-marks of those entertaining “young writers” whom every season produces as inevitably as its debutantes, young men who surprise for an hour and then settle down to producing industriously for the class with which their peculiar trick of phrase has found favor. It was a book addressed to the American people and to the critics of the world, the work of a young man who had set himself to the art of authorship with an almighty seriousness, and who had no ambition to be clever. “McTeague” was not an experiment in style nor a pretty piece of romantic folly, it was a true story of the people—having about it, as M. Zola would say, “the smell of the people”—courageous, dramatic, full of matter and warm with life. It was realism of the most uncompromising kind. The theme was such that the author could not have expected sudden popularity for his book, such as sometimes overtakes monstrosities of style in these discouraging days when Knighthood is in Flower to the extent of a quarter of a million copies, nor could he have hoped for pressing commissions from the fire-side periodicals. The life story of a quack dentist who sometimes extracted molars with his fingers, who mistreated and finally murdered his wife, is not, in itself, attractive. But, after all, the theme counts for very little. Every newspaper contains the essential subject matter for another Comedie Humaine. The important point is that a man considerably under thirty could take up a subject so grim and unattractive, and that, for the mere love of doing things well, he was able to hold himself down to the task of developing it completely, that he was able to justify this quack’s existence in literature, to thrust this hairy, blonde dentist with the “salient jaw of the carnivora,” in amongst the immortals.

It was after M. Zola had completed one of the greatest and gloomiest of his novels of Parisian life, that he went down by the sea and wrote “La Reve,” that tender, adolescent story of love and purity and youth. So, almost simultaneously with “McTeague,” Mr. Norris published “Blix,” another San Francisco  story, as short as “McTeague” was lengthy, as light as “McTeague” was heavy, as poetic and graceful as “McTeague” was somber and charmless. Here is a man worth waiting on; a man who is both realist and poet, a man who can teach

“Not only by a comet’s rush,

But by a rose’s birth.”

Yet unlike as they are, in both books the source of power is the same, and, for that matter, it was even the same in his first book, “Moran of the Lady Letty.” Mr. Norris has dispensed with the conventional symbols that have crept into art, with the trite, half-truths and circumlocutions, and got back to the physical basis of things. He has abjured tea-table psychology, and the analysis of figures in the carpet and subtile dissections of intellectual impotencies, and the diverting game of words and the whole literature of the nerves. He is big and warm and sometimes brutal, and the strength of the soil comes up to him with very little loss in the transmission. His art strikes deep down into the roots of life and the foundation of Things as They Are—not as we tell each other they are at the tea-table. But he is realistic art, not artistic realism. He is courageous, but he is without bravado.

He sees things freshly, as though they had not been seen before, and describes them with singular directness and vividness, not with morbid acuteness, with a large, wholesome joy of life. Nowhere is this more evident than in his insistent use of environment. I recall the passage in which he describes the street in which McTeague lives. He represents that street as it is on Sunday, as it is on working days, as it is in the early dawn when the workmen are going out with pickaxes on their shoulders, as it is at ten o’clock when the women are out marketing among the small shopkeepers, as it is at night when the shop girls are out with the soda fountain tenders and the motor cars dash by full of theater-goers, and the Salvationists sing before the saloon on the corner. In four pages he reproduces in detail the life in a by-street of a great city, the little tragedy of the small shopkeeper. There are many ways of handling environment—most of them bad. When a young author has very little to say and no story worth telling, he resorts to environment. It is frequently used to disguise a  weakness of structure, as ladies who paint landscapes put their cows knee-deep in water to conceal the defective drawing of the legs. But such description as one meets throughout Mr. Norris’ book is in itself convincing proof of power, imagination and literary skill. It is a positive and active force, stimulating the reader’s imagination, giving him an actual command, a realizing sense of this world into which he is suddenly transported. It gives to the book perspective, atmosphere, effects of time and distance, creates the illusion of life. This power of mature and comprehensive description is very unusual among the younger American writers. Most of them observe the world through a temperament, and are more occupied with their medium than the objects they watch. And temperament is a glass which distorts most astonishingly. But this young man sees with a clear eye, and reproduces with a touch, firm and decisive, strong almost to brutalness.

Mr. Norris approaches things on their physical side; his characters are personalities of flesh before they are anything else, types before they are individuals.  Especially is this true of his women.  His Trina is ‘very small and prettily made.  Her face was round and rather pale; her eyes long and narrow and blue, like the half-opened eyes of a baby; her lips and the lobes of her tiny ears were pale, a little suggestive of anaemia.   But it was to her hair that one’s attention was most attracted.  Heaps and heaps of blue-black coils and braids, a royal crown of swarthy bands, a veritable sable tiara, heavy, abundant and odorous.  All the vitality that should have given color to her face seems to have been absorbed by that marvelous hair.  It was the coiffure of a queen that shadowed the temples of this little bourgeoise.’  Blix had ’round, full arms,’ and ‘the skin of her face was white and clean, except where it flushed into a most charming pink upon her smooth, cool cheeks.’  In this grasp of the element of things, this keen, clean, frank pleasure at color and odor and warmth, this candid admission of the negative of beauty, which is co-existent with and inseparable from it, lie much of his power and promise.  Here is a man catholic enough to include the extremes of physical and moral life, strong enough to handle the crudest colors and darkest shadows.  Here is a man who has an appetite for the physical universe, who loves the rank smells of crowded alley-ways, or  the odors of boudoirs, or the delicate perfume exhaled from a woman’s skin; who is not afraid of Pan, be he ever so shaggy, and redolent of the herd.

Structurally, where most young novelists are weak, Mr. Norris is very strong.  He has studied the best French masters, and he has adopted their methods quite simply, as one selects an algebraic formula to solve his particular problem.  As to his style, that is, as expression always is, just as vigorous as his thought compels it to be, just as vivid as his conception warrants.   If God Almighty has given a man ideas, he will get himself a style from one source or another.  Mr. Norris, fortunately, is not a conscious stylist.  He has too much to say to be exquisitely vain about his medium.  He has the kind of brain stuff that would vanquish difficulties in any profession, that might be put to building battleships, or solving problems of finance, or to devising colonial policies.  Let us be thankful that he has put it to literature.  Let us be thankful, moreover, that he is not introspective and that his intellect does not devour itself, but feeds upon the great race of man, and, above all, let us rejoice that he is not a ‘temperamental’ artist, but something larger, for a great brain and an assertive temperament seldom dwell together.

There are clever men enough in the field of American letters, and the fault of most of them is merely one of magnitude; they are not large enough; they travel in small orbits, they play on muted strings.  They sing neither of the combats of Atriedes nor the labors of Cadmus, but of the tea-table and the Odyssey of the Rialto.  Flaubert said that a drop of water contained all the elements of the sea, save one—immensity.  Mr. Norris is concerned only with serious things, he has only large ambitions.  His brush is bold, his color is taken fresh from the kindly earth, his canvas is large enough to hold American life, the real life of the people.  He has come into the court of the troubadours singing the song of Elys, the song of warm, full nature.  He has struck the true note of the common life.  He is what Mr. Norman Hapgood said the great American dramatist must be: ‘A large human being, with a firm stomach, who knows and loves the people.'”   Willa Cather, Stories, Reviews, & Essays; several reviews from 1895-1900

brain head mental psychology creativity inquiy

The present discussions are a further development of some trains of thought which I opened up in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and to which, as I remarked there, my attitude was one of a kind of benevolent curiosity.  In the following pages these thoughts are linked to various facts of analytic observation and an attempt is made to arrive at new conclusions from this conjunction; in the present work, however, there are no fresh borrowings from biology, and on that account it stands closer to psycho-analysis than does Beyond the Pleasure Principle.   It is more in the nature of a synthesis than of a speculation and seems to have had an ambitious aim in view.   I am conscious, however, that it does not go beyond the roughest outline and with that limitation I am perfectly content.In these pages things are touched on which have not yet been the subject of psychoanalytic consideration, and it has not been possible to avoid trenching upon some theories which have been put forward by non-analysts or by former analysts on their retreat from analysis.   I have elsewhere always been ready to acknowledge what I owe to other workers; but in this instance I feel burdened by no such debt of gratitude.   If psycho-analysis has not hitherto shown its appreciation of certain things, this has never been because it overlooked their achievement or sought to deny their importance, but because it followed a particular path, which had not yet led so far.  And finally, when it has reached them, things have a different look to it from what they have to others.
In this introductory chapter there is nothing new to be said and it will not be possible to avoid repeating what has often been said before. The division of the psychical into what is conscious and what is unconscious is the fundamental premiss of psycho-analysis; and it alone makes it possible for psycho-analysis to understand the pathological processes in mental life, which are as common as they are important, and to find a place for them in the framework of science. To put it once more, in a different way: psycho-analysis cannot situate the essence of the psychical in consciousness, but is obliged to regard consciousness as a quality of the psychical, which may be present in addition to other qualities or may be absent.If I could suppose that everyone interested in psychology would read this book, I should also be prepared to find that at this point some of my readers would already stop short and would go no further; for here we have the first shibboleth of psycho-analysis. To most people who have been educated in philosophy the idea of anything psychical which is not also conscious is so inconceivable that it seems to them absurd and refutable simply by logic. I believe this is only because they have never studied the relevant phenomena of hypnosis and dreams, which—quite apart from pathological manifestations—necessitate this view. Their psychology of consciousness is incapable of solving the problems of dreams and hypnosis.

Being conscious‘ is in the first place a purely descriptive term, resting on perception of the

most immediate and certain character. Experience goes on to show that a psychical element (for instance, an idea) is not as a rule conscious for a protracted length of time. On the contrary, a state of consciousness is characteristically very transitory; an idea that is conscious now is no

longer so a moment later, although it can become so again under certain conditions that are

easily brought about. In the interval the idea was ‘we do not know what.’ We can say that it was latent, and by this we mean that it was capable of becoming conscious at any time. Or, if we say that is was unconscious, we shall also be giving a correct description of it. Here ‘unconscious‘ coincides with latent and capable of becoming ‘conscious‘. The philosophers would no doubt object: No, the term ‘unconscious’ is not applicable here; so long as the idea was in a state of latency it was not anything psychical at all.‘ To contradict them at this point would lead to nothing more profitable than a verbal dispute.

But we have arrived at the term or concept of the unconscious along another path, by

considering certain experiences in which mental dynamics play a part. We have found—that is,

we have been obliged to assume—that very powerful mental processes or ideas exist (and here

a quantitative or economic factor comes into question for the first time) which can produce all

the effects in mental life that ordinary ideas do (including effects that can in their turn become

conscious as ideas), though they themselves do not become conscious. It is unnecessary to repeat in detail here what has been explained so often before. It is enough to say that at this point psycho-analytic theory steps in and asserts that the reason why such ideas cannot become conscious is that a certain force opposes them, that otherwise they could become conscious, and that it would then be apparent how little they differ from other elements which are admittedly psychical. The fact that in the technique of psycho-analysis a means has been found by which the opposing force can be removed and the ideas in question made conscious renders this theory irrefutable. The state in which the ideas existed before being made conscious is called by us repression, and we assert that the force which instituted the repression and maintains it is perceived as resistance during the work of analysis.

Thus we obtain our concept of the unconscious from the theory of repression. The repressed is the prototype of the unconscious for us. We see, however, that we have two kinds of

unconscious—the one which is latent but capable of becoming conscious, and the one which is repressed and which is not, in itself and without more ado, capable of becoming conscious. This

piece of insight into psychical dynamics cannot fail to affect terminology and description. The

latent, which is unconscious only descriptively, not in the dynamic sense, we call preconscious;

we restrict the term unconscious to the dynamically unconscious repressed; so that now we have three terms, conscious (Cs.), preconscious (Pcs.), and unconscious (Ucs.), whose sense is no longer purely descriptive. The Pcs. is presumably a great deal closer to the Cs. than is the Ucs., and since we have called the Ucs. psychical we shall with even less hesitation call the latent Pcs. psychical. But why do we not rather, instead of this, remain in agreement with the philosophers and, in a consistent way, distinguish the Pcs. as well as the Ucs. from the conscious psychical? The philosophers would then propose that the Pcs. and the Ucs. should be described as two species or stages of the ‘psychoid‘, and harmony would be established. But endless difficulties in exposition would follow; and the one important fact, that these two kinds of ‘psychoid‘ coincide in almost every other respect with what is admittedly psychical, would be forced into the background in the interests of a prejudice dating from a period in which these psychoids, or the most important part of them, were still unknown.

We can now play about comfortably with our three terms, Cs., Pcs., and Ucs., so long as we do not forget that in the descriptive sense there are two kinds of unconscious, but in the dynamic

sense only one. For purposes of exposition this distinction can in some cases be ignored, but in

others it is of course indispensable. At the same time, we have become more or less accustomed to this ambiguity of the unconscious and have managed pretty well with it. As far as I can see, it is impossible to avoid this ambiguity; the distinction between conscious and unconscious is in the last resort a question of perception, which must be answered ‘yes‘ or ‘no,’ and the act of perception itself tells us nothing of the reason why a thing is or is not perceived.

No one has a right to complain because the actual phenomenon expresses the dynamic factor ambiguously. A new turn taken by criticisms of the unconscious deserves consideration at this point. Some investigators, who do not refuse to recognize the facts of psycho-analysis but who are unwilling to accept the unconscious, find a way out of the difficulty in the fact, which no

one contests, that in consciousness (regarded as a phenomenon) it is possible to distinguish a great variety of gradations in intensity or clarity. Just as there are processes which are very vividly, glaringly, and tangibly conscious, so we also experience others which are only faintly, hardly even noticeably conscious; those that are most faintly conscious are, it is argued, the ones to which psycho-analysis wishes to apply the unsuitable name unconscious‘. These too, however (the argument proceeds), are conscious or in consciousness‘, and can be made fully and intensely

conscious if sufficient attention is paid to them.

In so far as it is possible to influence by arguments the decision of a question of this kind which depends either on convention or on emotional factors, we may make the following comments. The reference to gradations of clarity in consciousness is in no way conclusive and has no more evidential value than such analogous statements as: ‘There are so very many gradations in illumination—from the most glaring and dazzling light to the dimmest glimmer—therefore there is no such thing as darkness at all‘; or, ‘There are varying degrees of vitality, therefore there is no such thing as death.‘ Such statements may in a certain way have a meaning, but for practical purposes they are worthless. This will be seen if one tries to draw particular conclusions from them, such as, ‘there is therefore no need to strike a light‘, or, ‘therefore all organisms are immortal.’ Further, to include what is unnoticeable‘ under the concept of what is

conscious‘ is simply to play havoc with the one and only piece of direct and certain knowledge that we have about the mind. And after all, a consciousness of which one knows nothing seems to me a good deal more absurd than something mental that is unconscious. Finally, this attempt to equate what is unnoticed with what is unconscious is obviously made without taking into account the dynamic conditions involved, which were the decisive factors in forming the psychoanalytic view.

For it ignores two facts: first, that it is exceedingly difficult and requires very great effort

to concentrate enough attention on something unnoticed of this kind; and secondly, that when this has been achieved the thought which was previously unnoticed is not recognized by consciousness, but often seems entirely alien and opposed to it and is promptly disavowed by it. Thus, seeking refuge from the unconscious in what is scarcely noticed or unnoticed is after all only a derivative of the preconceived belief which regards the identity of the psychical and the conscious as settled once and for all.

In the further course of psycho-analytic work, however, even these distinctions have proved to be inadequate and, for practical purposes, insufficient. This has become clear in more ways than one; but the decisive instance is as follows. We have formed the idea that in each individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes; and we call this his ego. It is to this ego that consciousness is attached; the ego controls the approaches to motility—that is, to the discharge of excitations into the external world; it is the mental agency which supervises all its own constituent processes, and which goes to sleep at night, though even then it exercises the censorship on dreams. From this ego proceed the repressions, too, by means of which it is sought to exclude certain trends in the mind not merely from consciousness but also from other forms of effectiveness and activity. In analysis these trends which have been shut out stand in opposition to the ego, and the analysis is faced with the task of removing the resistances which the ego displays against concerning itself with the repressed. Now we find during analysis that, when we put certain tasks before the patient, he gets into difficulties; his associations fail when they should be coming near the repressed. We then tell him that he is dominated by a resistance; but he is quite unaware of the fact, and, even if he guesses from his unpleasurable feelings that a resistance is now at work in him, he does not know what it is or how to describe it. Since, however, there can be no question but that this resistance emanates from his ego and belongs to it, we find ourselves in an unforeseen situation. We have come upon something in the ego itself which is also unconscious, which behaves exactly like the repressed—that is, which produces powerful effects without itself being conscious and which requires special work before it can be made conscious. From the point of view of analytic practice, the consequence of this discovery is that we land in endless obscurities and difficulties if we keep to our habitual forms of expression and try, for instance, to derive neuroses from a conflict between the conscious and the unconscious. We shall have to substitute for this antithesis another, taken from our insight into the structural conditions of the mind—the antithesis between the coherent ego and the repressed which is split off from it.

For our conception of the unconscious, however, the consequences of our discovery are even more important. Dynamic considerations caused us to make our first correction; our insight into the structure of the mind leads to the second. We recognize that the Ucs. does not coincide with the repressed; it is still true that all that is repressed is Ucs., but not all that is Ucs. Is repressed. A part of the ego, too—and Heaven knows how important a part—may be Ucs., undoubtedly is Ucs. And this Ucs. belonging to the ego is not latent like the Pcs.; for if it were, it could not be activated without becoming Cs., and the process of making it conscious would not encounter such great difficulties. When we find ourselves thus confronted by the necessity of postulating a third Ucs., which is not repressed, we must admit that the characteristic of being unconscious begins to lose significance for us. It becomes a quality which can have many meanings, a quality which we are unable to make, as we should have hoped to do, the basis of far-reaching and inevitable conclusions. Nevertheless we must beware of ignoring this characteristic, for the property of being conscious or not is in the last resort our one beacon-light in the darkness of depth-psychology.

Pathological research has directed our interest too exclusively to the repressed. We should like to learn more about the ego, now that we know that it, too, can be unconscious in the proper sense of the word. Hitherto the only guide we have had during our investigations has been the distinguishing mark of being conscious or unconscious; we have finally come to see how ambiguous this can be. Now all our knowledge is invariably bound up with consciousness. We can come to know even the Ucs, only by making it conscious. But stop, how is that possible?What does it mean when we say making something ‘conscious‘? How can that come about? We already know the point from which we have to start in this connection. We have said that consciousness is the surface of the mental apparatus; that is, we have ascribed it as a function to a system which is spatially the first one reached from the external world—and spatially not only in the functional sense but, on this occasion, also in the sense of anatomical dissection.

Our investigations too must take this perceiving surface as a starting-point. All perceptions which are received from without (sense-perceptions) and from within—what we call sensations and feelings—are Cs. from the start. But what about those internal processes which we may—roughly and inexactly—sum up under the name of thought-processes? They represent displacements of mental energy which are effected somewhere in the interior of the apparatus as this energy proceeds on its way towards action. Do they advance to the surface, which causes consciousness to be generated? Or does consciousness make its way to them?

This is clearly one of the difficulties that arise when one begins to take the spatial or ‘topographical‘ idea of mental life seriously. Both these possibilities are equally unimaginable, there must be a third alternative.

I have already, in another place, suggested that the real difference between a Ucs. and a Pcs. idea (thought) consists in this: that the former is carried out on some material which remains unknown, whereas the latter (the Pcs.) is in addition brought into connection with word-presentations. This is the first attempt to indicate distinguishing marks for the two systems, the Pcs. and the Ucs., other than their relation to consciousness. The question, ‘How does a thing become conscious?‘ would thus be more advantageously stated: ‘How does a thing become preconscious?‘ And the answer would be: ‘Through becoming connected with the word-presentations corresponding to it.‘

These word-presentations are residues of memories; they were at one time perceptions, and like all mnemic residues they can become conscious again. Before we concern ourselves further with their nature, it dawns upon us like a new discovery that only something which has once been a Cs. perception can become conscious, and that anything arising from within (apart from feelings) that seeks to become conscious must try to transform itself into external perceptions: this becomes possible by means of memory-traces.

We think of the mnemic residues as being contained in systems which are directly adjacent to the system Pcpt.-Cs., so that the cathexes of those residues can readily extend from within on to the elements of the latter system. We immediately think here of hallucinations, and of the fact that the most vivid memory is always distinguishable both from a hallucination and from an external perception; but it will also occur to us at once that when a memory is revived the cathexis remains in the mnemic system, whereas a hallucination, which is not distinguishable from a perception, can arise when the cathexis does not merely spread over from the memory-trace on to the Pcpt. element, but passes over to it entirely.

Verbal residues are derived primarily from auditory perceptions, so that the system Pcs. has, as it were, a special sensory source. The visual components of word-presentations are secondary, acquired through reading, and may to begin with be left on one side; so may the motor images of words, which, except with deaf-mutes, play the part of auxiliary indications. In essence a word is after all the mnemic residue of a word that has been heard.

We must not be led, in the interests of simplification perhaps, to forget the importance of optical mnemic residues, when they are of things, or to deny that it is possible for thought-processes to become conscious through a reversion to visual residues, and that in many people this seems to be the favoured method. The study of dreams and of preconscious phantasies as shown in Varendonck‘s observations can give us an idea of the special character of this visual thinking. We learn that what becomes conscious in it is as a rule only the concrete subject-matter of the thought, and that the relations between the various elements of this subject-matter, which is what specially characterizes thoughts, cannot be given visual expression.

Thinking in pictures is, therefore, only a very incomplete form of becoming conscious. In some way, too, it stands nearer to unconscious processes than does thinking in words, and it is

unquestionably older than the latter both ontogenetically and phylogenetically.

To return to our argument: if, therefore, this is the way in which something that is in itself unconscious becomes preconscious, the question how we make something that is repressed (pre)conscious would be answered as follows. It is done by supplying Pcs. intermediate links through the work of analysis. Consciousness remains where it is, therefore; but, on the other hand, the Ucs. does not rise into the Cs.

Whereas the relation of external perceptions to the ego is quite perspicuous, that of internal perceptions to the ego requires special investigation. It gives rise once more to a doubt whether we are really right in referring the whole of consciousness to the single superficial system Pcpt-Cs.

Internal perceptions yield sensations of processes arising in the most diverse and certainly also in the deepest strata of the mental apparatus. Very little is known about these sensations and feelings; those belonging to the pleasure/unpleasure series may still be regarded as the best examples of them. They are more primordial, more elementary, than perceptions arising externally and they can come about even when consciousness is clouded. I have elsewhere expressed my views about their greater economic significance and the metapsychological reasons for this. These sensations are multilocular, like external perceptions; they may come from different places simultaneously and may thus have different or even opposite qualities.

Sensations of a pleasurable nature have not anything inherently impelling about them, whereas unpleasurable ones have it in the highest degree. The latter impel towards change, towards discharge, and that is why we interpret unpleasure as implying a heightening and pleasure a lowering of energic cathexis. Let us call what becomes conscious as pleasure and unpleasure a quantitative and qualitative ‘something‘ in the course of mental events; the question then is whether this ‘something‘ can become conscious in the place where it is, or whether it must first be transmitted to the system Pcpt.

Clinical experience decides for the latter. It shows us that this ‘something‘ behaves like a repressed impulse. It can exert driving force without the ego noticing the compulsion. Not until there is resistance to the compulsion, a holdup in the discharge-reaction, does the ‘something‘ at once become conscious as unpleasure. In the same way that tensions arising rom physical needs can remain unconscious, so also can pain—a thing intermediate between external and internal perception, which behaves like an internal perception even when its source is in the external world. It remains true, therefore, that sensations and feelings, too, only become conscious through reaching the system Pcpt.; if the way forward is barred, they do not come into being as sensations, although the ‘something‘ that corresponds to them in the course of excitation is the same as if they did. We then come to speak, in a condensed and not entirely correct manner, of unconscious feelings‘, keeping up an analogy with unconscious ideas which is not altogether justifiable. Actually the difference is that, whereas with Ucs ideas connecting links must be created before they can be brought into the Cs., with feelings, which are themselves transmitted directly, this does not occur. In other words: the distinction between Cs. and Pcs, has no meaning where feelings are concerned; the Pcs. here drops out—and feelings are either conscious or unconscious. Even when they are attached to word-presentations, their becoming conscious is not due to that circumstance, but they become so directly.

The part played by word-presentations now becomes perfectly clear. By their interposition internal thought processes are made into perceptions. It is like a demonstration of the theorem that all knowledge has its origin in external perception. When a hypercathexis of the process of thinking takes place, thoughts are actually perceived—as if they came from without and are consequently held to be true.

After this clarifying of the relations between external and internal perception and the superficial system Pcpt.-Cs., we can go on to work out our idea of the ego. It starts out, as we see, from the system Pcpt., which is its nucleus, and begins by embracing the Pcs., which is adjacent to the mnemic residues. But, as we have learnt, the ego is also unconscious.

Now I think we shall gain a great deal by following the suggestion of a writer who, from personal motives, vainly asserts that he has nothing to do with the rigours of pure science. I am speaking of Georg Groddeck, who is never tired of insisting that what we call our ego behaves

essentially passively in life, and that, as he expresses it, we are ‘lived‘ by unknown and uncontrollable forces. We have all had impressions of the same kind, even though they may not have overwhelmed us to the exclusion of all others, and we need feel no hesitation in finding a place for Groddeck‘s discovery in the structure of science. I propose to take it into account by calling the entity which starts out from the system Pcpt. and begins by being Pcs. ‘the ego‘, and by following Groddeck in calling the other part of the mind, into which this entity extends and which behaves as though it were Ucs., ‘the id‘.

We shall soon see whether we can derive any advantage from this view for purposes either of description or of understanding. We shall now look upon an individual as a psychical id, unknown and unconscious, upon whose surface rests the ego, developed from its nucleus the Pcpt. System. If we make an effort to represent this pictorially, we may add that the ego does not completely envelop the id, but only does so to the extent to which the system Pcpt. Forms its surface, more or less as the germinal disc rests upon the ovum. The ego is not sharply separated from the id; its lower portion merges into it.

But the repressed merges into the id as well, and is merely a part of it. The repressed is only cut off sharply from the ego by the resistances of repression; it can communicate with the ego through the id. We at once realize that almost all the lines of demarcation we have drawn at the instigation of pathology relate only to the superficial strata of the mental apparatus—the only ones known to us. The state of things which we have been describing can be represented diagrammatically; though it must be remarked that the form chosen has no pretensions to any special applicability, but is merely intended to serve for purposes of exposition. We might add, perhaps, that the ego wears a cap of ‘hearing’—on one side only, as we learn from cerebral anatomy. It might be said to wear it awry.

It is easy to see that the ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world through the medium of the Pcpt.-Cs.; in a sense it is an extension of the surface-differentiation. Moreover, the ego seems to bring the influence of the external world to bear upon the id and its tendencies, and endeavours to substitute the reality principle for the pleasure principle which reigns unrestrictedly in the id. For the ego, perception plays the part which in the id falls to instinct. The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions. All this falls into line with popular distinctions which we are all familiar with; at the same time, however, it is only to be regarded as holding good on the average or ‘ideally‘.

The functional importance of the ego is manifested in the fact that normally control over the approaches to motility devolves upon it. Thus in its relation to the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superior strength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength while the ego uses borrowed forces. The analogy may be carried a little further. Often a rider, if he is not to be parted from his horse, is obliged to guide it where it wants to go; so in the same way the ego is in the habit of transforming the id‘s will into action as if it were its own.

Another factor, besides the influence of the system Pcpt., seems to have played a part in bringing about the formation of the ego and its differentiation from the id. A person‘s own body, and above all its surface, is a place from which both external and internal perceptions may spring. It is seen like any other object, but to the touch it yields two kinds of sensations, one of which may be equivalent to an internal perception. Psycho-physiology has fully discussed the manner in which a person‘s own body attains its special position among other objects in the world of perception. Pain, too, seems to play a part in the process, and the way in which we gain new knowledge of our organs during painful illnesses is perhaps a model of the way by which in general we arrive at the idea of our body.

The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego; it is not merely a surface entity, but is itself the projection of a surface.  If we wish to find an anatomical analogy for it we can best identify it with the cortical homunculus‘ of the anatomists, which stands on its head in the cortex, sticks up its heels, faces backwards and, as we know, has its speech-area on the left-hand side.

The relation of the ego to consciousness has been entered into repeatedly; yet there are some important facts in this connection which remain to be described here.   Accustomed as we are to taking our social or ethical scale of values along with us wherever we go, we feel no surprise at hearing that the scene of the activities of the lower passions is in the unconscious; we expect, moreover, that the higher any mental function ranks in our scale of values the more easily it will find access to consciousness assured to it.   Here, however, psycho-analytic experience disappoints us.  On the one hand, we have evidence that even subtle and difficult intellectual operations which ordinarily require strenuous reflection can equally be carried out preconsciously and without coming into consciousness.  Instances of this are quite incontestable; they may occur, for example, during the state of sleep, as is shown when someone finds, immediately after waking, that he knows the solution to a difficult mathematical or other problem with which he had been wrestling in vain the day before.

I was quite recently told an instance of this which was, in fact, brought up as an objection against my description of the ‘dream-work.’  There is another phenomenon, however, which is far stranger. In our analyses we discover that there are people in whom the faculties of self-criticism and conscience—mental activities, that is, that rank as extremely high ones—are unconscious and unconsciously produce effects of the greatest importance; the example of resistance remaining unconscious during analysis is therefore by no means unique.   But this new discovery, which compels us, in spite of our better critical judgement, to speak of an ‘unconscious sense of guilt,’ bewilders us far more than the other and sets us fresh problems, especially when we gradually come to see that in a great number of neuroses an unconscious sense of guilt of this kind plays a decisive economic part and puts the most powerful obstacles in the way of recovery.   If we come back once more to our scale of values, we shall have to say that not only what is lowest but also what is highest in the ego can be unconscious.   It is as if we were thus supplied with a proof of what we have just asserted of the conscious ego: that it is first and foremost a body-ego.”   Sigmund Freud, The Ego & the Id; 1923:

nuke nuclear explosion holocaust

Numero Tres“(T)he (biographical) briefs that follow do solidify the overall proposition that this initial installment about the Modern Nuclear Project offers to its readers.  These men all entered the world with substantial fortunes, in four out of five cases with vast sums at their command.Their biographers speak glowingly of the ‘restless intellects,’ the ‘drive to discover,’ the ‘commitment to knowledge,’ and other characteristics that no doubt this quintet did display.  However, their cash-on-hand, their imperial positions, their substantial interest in a commanding position in competitive commerce—with the possible exception of Frederick Soddy—mean that much more mundane and less admirable qualities were also in play as this group, along with many others who happen not to trot across this particular state, determined that the human future would involve atomic energy and the omnipresent proximity of mass collective suicide.

The hypothesis of this report, of course, is that this second set of goals and objectives both has received inadequate attention among chroniclers and, clearly, may have equal or greater heft in explicating why the Modern Nuclear Project has been humanity’s fate.  Perhaps our survival will keep intertwining with this path: yet without a single doubt, we also must acknowledge that avoiding Homo Sapiens extinction may instead require abandoning this pathway that in any event has so obviously emerged from the class interests and moneyed predominance of the likes of these five children of millions and magnates of empire.

Frederick Soddy emerged from great wealth. His family members were grocery moguls. In a sense, the arc of Soddy’s career—from nuclear chemistry to political economy—delineates his kin’s evolution from the sale of nutrients to the banking of massive fortunes.The focus of the young chemist’s efforts revolved around the heavier elements. In this realm of nature, of little interest prior to the machinery and theories that accompanied electricity’s conjunction with magnetism induced, oddities soon began to appear. Some of this strangeness would take till the doorstep of World War Two to puzzle out, but of one thing Soddy quickly became certain: Radium was a treasure chest of energy, though we now might ponder the metaphor of Pandora’s closet.

In his monumental and seminal work, The Interpretation of Radium, Soddy attests to all of these ideas as he extolled the 91st member of the Periodic Table. One might write volumes about each of Soddy’s chapters, so informative and dense with thought and wonder were they all. He especially demonstrates the last sensibility, the awestruck apprehension of being in the presence of holy orders.

He makes this clear from the outset. For example, in the original Preface he notes the material’s “application not (being) confined to the physical sciences, but ha(ving) a wide and general bearing on our whole outlook upon nature.”

The Preface to the Third Edition, penned in 1912, confirms and expands on this assertion of revolutionary implications. In Chapter One, “The New Science,” he writes that no homey analogy can do Uranium’s potential justice, “because in these latest developments science has broken fundamentally new ground.”

He then continues as follows. “The phenomena with which I am concerned…belong to the newly born science of radioactivity and to the spontaneous disintegration of elements which the study of radioactivity has revealed to us. …see(ing) the first definite and considerable step into the ultimate nature of…atoms, which in one sense is not merely an extension of existing knowledge or principles, but a radical new departure. …concerned with the knowledge of the elementary atoms themselves of a character so fundamental and intimate that the old laws of chemistry and physics, concerned almost wholly with external relationships, do not suffice.”

And he carries such ideation through to a climactic crescendo, in Chapter Ten, as “this interpretation of Radium is drawing to a close.” First, he presents the deconstruction of the physics and chemistry of Maxwell.

“The aspects which matter has presented to us in the past is but a consummate disguise, concealing latent energies and hidden activities beneath a hitherto impenetrable mask. The ultra-material potentialities of radium are the common possession of all the world to which in our ignorance we used to refer as mere inanimate matter.”

He goes on to lionize, in tones foretelling the nuclear engineers and other atomic priests of the present. “Is it not wonderful to reflect that in this little bottle (with less than a pound of Uranium) there lies asleep and waiting to be evolved the energy of at least one hundred sixty tons of coal?…The store of energy in Uranium would be worth a thousand times as much as the Uranium itself, if only it were under our control and could be harnessed to do the world’s work in the same way as the energy in coal has been harnessed and controlled.”

Near the final pages, Soddy waxes eloquent.

“When we have learned how to transmute the elements at will the one into the other, then, and not until then, will the key to this hidden treasure house of Nature be in our hands. …(I)t has come to be recognized that in the discovery of radioactivity, or rather, of the subatomic power and processes of which radioactivity is but the outward and visible manifestation, we have penetrated one of Nature’s innermost secrets. …A race which could transmute matter would have little need to earn its bread by the sweat of its brow. …(S)uch a race could transform a desert continent, thaw the frozen poles, and make the whole world one smiling garden of Eden. …It is a legitimate aspiration to believe that one day (w)e will attain the power to regulate…the primary fountains of energy which Nature now so jealously reserves for the future.”

The language here bespeaks the realm of the sacred, at the same time that the arrogation of ‘Nature’s’ essence to paltry human hands also suggests the sacrilegious. In this vein, an observer needs to realize that all of this priestly poking about for new knowledge was impossible outside of the context of a bargained-for-exchange.

Moreover, at every level of the manifestation of the Modern Nuclear Project, a humble cash-out of the lofty ideals was on the minds of all the players, with the exception of the very rare ‘dear Max Planck’ whom Einstein extolled fifteen thousand words back. In the event, if for no other reason than that the instruments to interact with atoms were expensive, almost everybody pondered where to get money and how to monetize the work.

The equipment that Soddy lovingly describes, coated with gold and utilizing chemicals of the most arcane complexity and routinely high cost, was only conceivable under the most advanced material and economic conditions. Truly, given what people have learned about Uranium’s transit through human culture, a Faustian bargain may have been in play, from the inception, when bankers and barons and industrialists watched over the scurrying laboratory wizards attempting to tame all that is.

Furthermore, Soddy and his cohorts were aware of this everyday intersection between their Faustian searches and their repeated mention of value and scarcity and the potential for unfathomable increase . That their efforts necessitated the concerted support of the highest levels of public and private wealth follows as ineluctably as light follows facing the sun.

In another interesting turn suggestive of confirmation of the core import of these fiscal matters, Frederick Soddy himself became a devotee of political economy after he won his Nobel Prize in 1921. The Role of Money is merely one of dozens of papers and monographs that Soddy produced in this area of thought during the 1920’s and ’30’s.

The University of Toronto’s Thaddeus Trenn introduces the student to this career component in his long article, “The Central Role of Energy in Frederick Soddy’s Economics.” Soddy thus not only produced multiple volumes of what contemporary thinkers call Ecological Political Economy or Energy Political Economy, but he has reached across the decades to garner some of today’s investigators as colleagues.

Trenn quotes Soddy, who sounds like a contemporary ‘Peak Oil’ proponent. “The fact remains that, if the supply of energy failed, modern civilization would come to an end as abruptly as does the music of an organ deprived of wind. [But] … the still unrecognized ‘energy problem’ . . . awaits the future.”

The lively Brit goes on to plug Uranium as the basis for human renovation, or, should one prefer, ‘renaissance.’ “[The human control of atomic energy could] virtually provide anyone who wanted it with a private sun of his own.”

That these promises have proved nonsensical is immaterial; that the risks have come to appear monstrous matters less than nothing; Soddy’s is the vision of the entrepreneur or venture capitalist at the pinnacle of the bourgeois order. As the clock continues to tick on the imposition of a ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ on all humankind, his remains the stubborn, and purportedly farsighted, folly of finance that predominates right this second in the Modern Nuclear Project.

On the basis of soda ash—both the industrial and the home products—Ernest Solvay’s paternal line had lined the pockets of many of Belgium’s wealthiest individuals. He was one of Europe’s richest men. Moreover, he viewed the chemical techniques that had created his fortune as a beckoning to unlock still deeper mysteries of matter.The Solvay Conferences grew out of this intersection of capital and inquiry. For over a century, every couple of years or so, Ernest Solvay’s drive in this arena has continued to create physics efforts and chemical insights. The International Solvay Institutes for Physics and Chemistry has impacted  scholarship and practical machinations of these fields at the same time.

While one might devote many volumes just to such important individual conferences as the 1927 Institute on Protons and Electrons, where the buzz was all about the potential for additional particles—the neutron waited in the wings, as it were—today’s materials will merely whet the reader’s interest about the process that this scion of plutocracy developed as an invitation-only gathering of nuclear cognoscenti. Einstein was a ubiquitous presence, as were Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and others.

The contents of the sessions at a Solvay event were not open to the public. The luminaries there have indicated subsequently that many aspects of the Modern Nuclear Project were under discussion at these closed door sessions.

Some who are wont to view the work of the world in these circumstances as conspiratorial are wont to concoct all manner of theories about such events.

Project Lightbulb started out as an experimentation with electrons and photons and how they can affect they way we perceive space and time. Some say Project Lightbulb was commissioned in highest secrecy during the Fifth Solvay Conference in 1927. Seventeen of the twenty-nine attendees were Noble Prize winners including Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Marie Curie, Erwin Schrödinger, and many others.”

Whatever the possible proofs or refutations of such views, that Solvay’s great wealth—and his strategic focus on bringing nuclear physicists and chemists together to talk shop privately on a regular basis—without a single doubt did contribute to such obvious ‘conspiracies’ as the Manhattan Engineering District, the development of thermonuclear weapons, the transfer of nuclear techniques to nations such as Britain and France and Israel and more.

These are not theories. And with more time and resources, the underlying events of Solvay’s work could stand as a multi-volume treatise about the political-economic, social, and imperial aspects of the Modern Nuclear Project generally.

If the Solvay family network in relation to nuclear issues would necessitate at least one big, fat volume, the same coverage of the clan that synthesizes oil and money and monopoly and empire would require a small library of dense monographs to cover the same ground. Wherever one looks in the nooks and crannies and foyers and common areas of The Modern Nuclear Project, individual Rockefeller’s show up; their foundations and other ‘non-profit’ arms span the globe; their employees and functionaries have a seat at every table that matters.This is true whether one is looking at Werner Heisenberg, Enrico Fermi, Glenn Seaborg, Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, Ernest Lawrence, Edward Teller, or half a thousand other ‘leading lights’ in atomic research. The oil family’s interests hypothetically stemmed from the potential to use radium in cancer therapy and like possibilities. But high energy physics had other offshoots that might captivate such actors as these.

The New York Times summarized this trend in an analytical article centering on Rockefeller’s beneficence to science. Its headline stands as a precis for the wider trend: “Scientific Giving Is Now Big American Business.” As well, the oil giant’s generosity was among the leading sources of early funding for decoding the meaning and possibilities of Uranium.

Such monographs as Ben Martin’s The Political Economy of Science, Technology, and Innovation make this point more generally. Additionally, one may turn to radical critics of scientism, who insist on a holistic accounting of science and its specific techniques, to expand and further deepen this contention about the interwoven strands of money, politics, and the understanding and exploitation of nature. Philip Murowski’s Science Bought and Sold: Essays in the Economics of Science is merely one of hundreds of examples of such interpretations.

As with most of what the Spindoctor manages to produce, more time and resources might garner results both more monumental and more pointedly revealing. More will show up in future installments, in any event.

Having seen a fair swath of the pies in which Alfred Loomis had his fingers in the OVERTURE, a tiny precis of what else an investigator might plumb shows up here. Just as with all of the above moneybags with an intense interest in the Modern Nuclear Project, so too with the estimable Mr. Loomis: further research would likely pay huge dividends.The National Archives fulfills the assertion that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ about this. It depicts merry hilarity among a special group of men: Meeting in the Radiation Laboratory on the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) campus to discuss the 184-inch cyclotron; left to right: Ernest O Lawrence, Arthur H Compton, Vannevar Bush, James B Conant, Karl T Compton, and Alfred Loomis, March 29, 1940.

Loomis’ heritage of cash, his vocation to study science, his proclivity to make investment coups in the electrical utilities industry, and his compulsion to be a part of the electromagnetic spectrum investigation mean that he is a man of the atom. He is a core member of the Modern Nuclear Project.

The final table of the hypothetical “World Series of Nuclear Poker” could easily include these five men. Truman’s constant use of a poker metaphor – that the Trinity Test and atomic bombs were an “ace in the hole” – in many ways is perfectly apt. Taking others’ things, controlling outcomes, ending up with all the money, are what empire and capital and the Modern Nuclear Project share in common with the game of poker.Alexander Sachs seamlessly fits in with this group. The Atomic Archive makes this point briefly. “On october 11, 1939, Alexander Sachs, Wall Street economist and longtime friend and unofficial adviser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, met with the President to discuss a letter written by Albert Einstein the previous August. Einstein had written to inform Roosevelt that recent research on chain reactions utilizing uranium made it probably that large amounts of power could be produced by a chain reaction and that, by harnessing this power, the construction of extremely powerful bombs was conceivable. Einstein believed the German government was actively supporting research in this area and urged the United States government to do likewise. Sachs read from a cover letter he had prepared and briefed Roosevelt on the main points contained in Einstein’s letter. Initially the President was noncommittal and expressed concern over locating the necessary funds, but at a second meeting over breakfast the next morning Roosevelt became convinced of the value of exploring atomic energy.”

As a savvy investor and member of capital’s inner circle, Sachs had a longstanding interest in fission and the atomic and subatomic realms.  This is typical of the upper reaches of the upper crust, then and now.  Further investigation, forthcoming in the next installment of this series, will show this much more extensively and powerfully than what has appeared thus far.

If a reader recalls Einstein’s observation that somewhere between a large and an overwhelming majority of scientists have very practical reasons for choosing their careers, the accomplishments and meaning of these five characters conceivably comes crisply into focus.  Plutocratic wealth was in play here.  Fascination with the workings of the natural world without a single doubt represented to some measurable degree among these men an interest of at least similar intensity with the forming of commodities, the making of money, the accouterments of power and empire, and other such indicia of upper class imprimatur and social entitlement and worldly success.

The Modern Nuclear Project, as Soddy’s integration of energy and political economy make especially transparent, summed up for this group of central actors in the fields of money and war and empire a mandatory turn.  Nature provided the potential for bombs that at one fell swoop might incinerate hundreds of thousands or even millions of victims.  Physical law underlay the capacity to boil water with the same energies that achieved these refinements in mass murder.  But the social, political, and economic selection of that particular direction flowed undeniably from the social and political and economic priorities that these titans brought to the fields of knowledge and the arenas of science.

That other options were available—and well-established and understood—is possible to demonstrate too.  The rare rebel points out that this assertion is true.  Just before he died, Thomas Edison spoke to a scoffing Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. ‘We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power!  I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.’

Whatever else he was, Mr. Edison was no dummy.  But he was also not a banker, nor did he particularly favor untrammeled control from such social sets.  This hegemony, then, may account for the paths that our sort have trod down a primrose path laden with Plutonium and plunder, plutocracy and inequality.”   Jim Hickey, “Financial and Social Imperatives: the Political Economy of the Nuclear Age;” The Southeast Review of Media, Culture, & Politics, 2015:

CC BY-SA by joelogon
CC BY-SA by joelogon
Numero Cuatro“For Dylann Roof, the next few days and weeks of his young life will prove his most memorable.  That’s saying something, considering his slaughter of 9 sweet souls in a Black Charleston church.
For, in the next few days and weeks, a jury will convene to decide whether he gets a death sentence or life.
As someone who lived a lifetime on Death Row, my opposition is unequivocal.  Even in a case such as this, my opposition to the State taking life doesn’t falter.  Even in this case, of a witless white supremacist, a killer of 9 Black Christian souls.
If I know anything, it’s Death Row.  I’ve seen it drive men stark, raving mad.
That said, my one opinion carries no real weight in this case, for unless I miss my guess, no juror will ever hear these words.  They will decide his fate after he delivers his own closing arguments, which will hardly endear him to his jurors.
A death verdict for Roof strengthens the repressive powers of the State, and gives it the false patina of ‘justice.’  If a death sentence fails it helps show the inherent injustice of the death penalty.  It would help all the men and women on Death Row.
My decision to oppose death for Roof wasn’t an easy one; but I believe it’s the right one.
No matter his beliefs, decades on Death Row, as well as in solitary, are mind-frying experiences.  Nothing he has experienced in his brief life can prepare him for such outcomes.
For life, in prison, is no picnic.”   Mumia Abu-Jamal, “For Dylann Roof, Life!” 2016

4.24.2017 Daily Links

              A Thought for the Day                  

Truly, spiritual death and psychic despair follow in the train of untrammeled privilege in similar fashion as massive wealth in realms of poverty and despair inherently and ineluctably leads to venality and treachery and hypocritical narcissism, conclusions of fact that must in turn elicit at the very minimum a critical attitude toward the class practices of exploitation and extraction that promulgate and accept such wretchedness and aggression against wage-earners and unemployed people and the poor, all of whom merely serve to exemplify the predatory plundering that capital visits on the undercapitalized as ‘surplus labor’ expands its presence, justifying schemes of mass murder, mass collective suicide, and, ultimately, human extinction in the name of profiteering bottom-lines and lives of luxury and leisure for the unworthy inheritors of fortune and fame who almost always have constituted the upper crust in every society that has ever existed.

                    This Day in History                  

In one of many celebrations of life now before us, today is Arbor Day in the U.S., as well as, much more bizarrely around the globe, World Laboratory Animal Day, while in Armenia April 24 is Genocide Remembrance Day; at least in traditional calendars, in the territory over which at least a half a dozen world class empires have since passed, three thousand two hundred and one years ago, the Trojan imperial center at Troy fell to the Greeks; three hundred and thirteen years ago, the first regular newspaper in British Colonial America, The Boston News-Letter, was published in Boston, Massachusetts; MORE HERE

                  Quote of the Day                       
  • At the risk of quoting Mephistopheles I repeat: Welcome to hell. A hell erected and maintained by human-governments, and blessed by black robed judges. A hell that allows you to see your loved ones, but not to touch them. A hell situated in America’s boondocks, hundreds of miles away from most families. A white, rural hell, where most of the captives are black and urban. It is an American way of death.”
    • All Things Censored (2001, Seven Stories Press), pp. 55-56  Mumia Abu Jamal
                   Doc of the Day                      
1. Willa Cather, 1895-1900.
2. Sigmund Freud, 1923.
3. Jim Hickey, 2015.
4. Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2016.
Numero UnoMark Twain
If there is anything which should make an American sick and disgusted at the literary taste of his country, and almost swerve his allegiance to his flag it is that controversy between Mark Twain and Max O’Rell, in which the Frenchman proves himself a wit and a gentleman and the American shows himself little short of a clown and an all around tough.  The squabble arose apropos of Paul Bourget’s new book on America, Outre Mer, a book which deals more fairly and generously with this country than any book yet written in a foreign tongue.  Mr. Clemens did not like the book, and like all men of his class, and limited mentality, he cannot criticise without becoming personal and insulting.  He cannot be scathing without being a blackguard.  He tried to demolish a serious and well considered work by publishing a scurrilous, slangy and loosely written article about it.  In this article Mr. Clemens proves very little against Mr. Bourget and a very great deal against himself.  He demonstrates clearly that he is neither a scholar, a reader or a man of letters and very little of a gentleman.  His ignorance of French literature is something appalling.  Why, in these days it is as necessary for a literary man to have a wide knowledge of the French masterpieces as it is for him to have read Shakespeare or the Bible.  What man who pretends to be an author can afford to neglect those models of style and composition.  George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, and Henry James excepted, the great living novelists are Frenchmen.

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              TODAY’S HEART, SOUL, &                                  AWARENESS VIDEO                  

INFINITE RICHES, BURSTING BUBBLES, & COMMUNICATING INTELLIGIBLY arguments convince one of their truth, stories of their lifelikeness.  The one verifies by eventual appeal to procedures for establishing formal and empirical proof.  The other establishes not truth but verisimilitude.

                     Nearly Naked Links                  

From Friday’s and Saturday’s Files


student writing arm



We’re always working to discover new authors and new stories to publish alongside our regular contributors. The Newcomer Prize is part of this: It’s only open to authors who have not been previously published by The Fiction Desk, and who have not yet published a novel or collection of short stories on paper. This deadline for this year’s competition is midnight (UK time) on 31 May 2017. The first prize is £500, and there is a second prize of £250. The entry fee is £8. Stories should be between 1,000 and 7,000 words in length. The competition is judged by Rob Redman, editor of the anthology series and founder of The Fiction Desk.


Redivider aims to publish work that captivates readers while complicating their worldviews. Now seeking entries to the Beacon Street Prize in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

pascal maramis - flickr
pascal maramis – flickr


99designs is looking for a Blog Writer – remote

Are you a storyteller with a passion for design? Do you love helping entrepreneurs realize their goals? The 99designs blog is looking for new contributors. You will help educate and inspire our customers through articles that are informative, fun, shareable and search-engine friendly…

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Source: problogger


Critiquing Freud and Positing Something Else

An Aeon essay by a thoughful correspondent that contextualizes the long and eventful history of the study of the mind’s recesses: “Freud’s ghost might still haunt a small corner of the modern-day psychological laboratory, but the lexicon of censorship and repression has not retained its explanatory currency. Studies of waking and sleeping unconscious processes suggest that deception is not, and has never been, the second self’s true forte. As the mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead sagely observed in the early days of psychoanalysis, the unconscious is essentially an enabler, quietly rolling up its sleeves to expand ‘the number of important operations that we can perform without thinking of them’.”

WRISS The Submishmash Podcast is a new audio program focused on technology, creativity, diversity, and female-identified perspectives.


City Weeklies at Risk

A Columbia Journalist Review look at the way the current media climate can be deleterious to one of the most ubiquitous cultural bastions of urban areas: “Whether the magazine was in Seattle, Dallas, or New England, it was suddenly fighting for every penny. “When I was coming up in this business, you had the big fish—network affiliate TV and the newspapers—and then the rest of us—radio, us, free-rack pubs, burgeoning new websites—were all guppies,” says John Palumbo, owner and publisher of Rhode Island Monthly, who also writes an industry insider column for FOLIO:. “There were certain pieces of business that you wouldn’t think the big fish would look at. Now we’re all guppies. Everything is fair game.””

Linking Labor and Environmental Justice

A Process History analysis of the role that labor concerns play in regards to the formulation and resolution of environmental concerns: “The recent pipeline battle at Standing Rock, and the lead poisoning disaster in Flint, have once again thrust issues of environmental justice and environmental racism into the mainstream media spotlight (however briefly). In the aftermath of Trump’s election, casual observers might be forgiven for assuming that labor unions and environmental justice activists at Standing Rock and Flint have conflicting interests. Last month, in a familiar public relations tactic, President Trump surrounded himself with coal miners while signing an executive order to dismantle Obama’s Clean Power Plan. AFL-CIO leaders have supported the Dakota Access Pipeline, and criticized the Standing Rock protesters, largely due to pressure from building trades unions. However, numerous unions have opposed the pipeline and supported the protests, including the Communication Workers of America, the United Electrical Workers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, National Nurses United, and the Labor Coalition for Community Action. Similarly, dozens of labor unions have aided Flint residents with water filter and faucet installations and low-cost loans to replace lead pipes.”

GENISSPerry’s Estimate of Hillary’s Loss

A Clinton campaign post-mortem, from Consortium News: “An early insider account of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, entitled Shattered, reveals a paranoid presidential candidate who couldn’t articulate why she wanted to be President and who oversaw an overconfident and dysfunctional operation that failed to project a positive message or appeal to key voting groups.”