4.27.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Wednesday’s Files

factory labor worker

Naked Capitalism on Labor’s End =
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/globalization-end-labor-aristocracy-part-2.html

U.S. Empire’s Verging on Collapse –
http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=f6eb78f457b7b82887b643445&id=3deb78ce1e&e=798f08cf09

Marxism, Imperialism, Analysis –
http://rogerannis.com/imperialisms-cold-war-dividend/

War-on-Terror ‘Wonderland’ Disquisition – 
https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/17/through-the-war-on-terror-looking-glass/

Land & Rentier Economics

http://evonomics.com/josh-ryan-collins-land-economic-theory/
http://evonomics.com/mainstream-economics-become-celebration-wealthy-rentier-class/

Abrogating Mossadegh Declassification

https://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/2014/04/iran-frus/
https://fas.org/sgp/advisory/state/hac2016.html

Paris-Review & Two Other Paz Excerpts

https://myweb.rollins.edu/jsiry/MonkeyGrammarian.html
https://myweb.rollins.edu/jsiry/PazColonialism.html
https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2192/octavio-paz-the-art-of-poetry-no-42-octavio-paz

A Billie Holiday Pair

http://www.stampthewax.com/2013/10/03/a-short-history-of-billie-holiday-3/
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/01/drug-war-the-hunting-of-billie-holiday-114298?o=0

Latino Film Reviews –
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/04/06/sdl2-a06.html

Parry on Syria –
https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/05/another-dangerous-rush-to-judgment-in-syria/

An Essay on Paglia Now –
http://quillette.com/2017/04/06/camille-paglia-battle-sexes/

Ruling Classes Russia ‘Enemy’ Assessment –
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46699.htm

Pot ‘Research’ –
https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/drug-policy/marijuana-health-legal-weed-cbd-thc

Herbal Supplements ‘Research’ –
https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/public-health/herbal-viagra-dietary-supplement-weight-loss

Crime & Dixie: New Podcast –
https://psmag.com/is-s-town-a-guilty-pleasure-69e23f96074a

Deconstructing Illich’s Critique –
https://thebaffler.com/salvos/against-everything-scialabba

An Infrastructure Report’s Deconstruction –
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/04/05/asce-a05.html

Mediated ‘Truth’ Arbitration –
https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/04/mainstream-media-as-arbiters-of-truth/

Blame’s Ubiquity, Beyond Blame –
http://bostonreview.net/forum/barbara-fried-beyond-blame-moral-responsibility-philosophy-law
http://bostonreview.net/blog/why-people-blame-themselves

Szymborska on Not Knowing –
https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/03/27/wislawa-szymborska-nobel-speech/

4.26.2017 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; three hundred six years ago, the baby boy opened his eyes on his way to becoming David Hume;  sixty-six 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; five years thereafter, in 1782, the baby boy entered our midst whose fate was to create the masterpieces of art and thought of John James Audubon; two decades forward in space and time, in 1802, Napoleon issued a general amnesty that permitted all but the most reactionary rejectors of the revolution to return to France, thereby guaranteeing a rapprochement with elements of the aristocracy and a cementing of his own position of power;  one thousand ninety-six days beyond that, in 1805, ‘the shores of Tripoli’ experienced an initial incursion by U.S. commercial war afghanistanadventurers under the auspices of military might when the U.S. marines captured a village in what is now Libya in the first Barbary War; a hundred ninety-five years ahead of today’s light and air, a male infant first cried out en route to a life as the architect and designer, Frederick Law Olmstead; forty-three years beyond that birthing interlude, in 1865, Union soldiers captured and killed Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth; one hundred nineteen years back, a baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the Spanish dramatist and poet who might merit Nobel Literary Laureates as Vicente Aleixandre; only a dozen years later, in 1910, one of the first recipients of that prize, Bjornstjerne Bjornson, lived out his final scene; four years subsequently, in 1914, a male child burst on the scene who would mature as the estimable and popular novelist and thinker, Bernard Malamud; ten additional years in the direction of now, in 1924, the United States Congress passed a resolution condemning child labor for those under eighteen years of age; nine years henceforth, in 1933, the German Government inaugurated a Gestapo, or secret state police force; fourteen hundred and sixty-one days further along the temporal road, in 1937, a related development unfolded in carnage and conflagration as German bombers laid waste to Guernica; a half decade farther along, in 1942, a grotesque ‘accident’ claimed the lives of well over 1,500 miners at a Chinese-operated facility in Manchukuo; an Easter uprising at Uppsala, Sweden began exactly three hundred sixty-five days yet later on, in 1943, as challenges to fascist rule and passivity to it intensified; yet one more year afterward, in 1944, Georgios Papandreou became head of the Greek government-in-exile in Cairo, and five thousand miles Northwest, Federal authorities seized control of the Montgomery Ward headquarters when that company refused to recognize a union that had won an election as bargaining agent; ten years subsequent to that passage in space and time, in 1954, a Geneva Conference began with the goal of bringing a peaceful resolution to conflicts in Korea and Indochina, and also Polio vaccine trials began; another half dozen years forward toward today, in 1960, South Korea’s ‘democratic dictator,’ Syngman Rhee, abdicated after massive pro-people demonstrations against his rule took place; three years additional toward the here and now, in 1963, a United Kingdom of Libya came into being with a female franchise and other indicia of progress toward democratic forms; a quarter turn of the planet to the East, six years nearer to now, in 1969, Morihei Ueshiba, the ancient master of martial arts and initiator of Aikido, drew a final breath; in the United States precisely one year even later, in 1970, the tell-all mistress, advisor, and creative communicator Gypsy Rose Lee had a final dance, and the World Intellectual Property Organization came into being; five years even closer to the current context, in 1975, citizens marched on Washington 60,000 strong to demand jobs for all, ‘a fat lot of good it did them;’ seven years farther down the pike, in 1982, half a world away in Korea, an enraged former Marine and current

"SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis"

“SIG Pro by Augustas Didzgalvis”

policeman went on a methodical killing rampage, in which he murdered fifty-three people before blowing himself and three hostages up with a grenade; four years after that horrifying day, in 1986, an even more horrific event evolved as the Chernobyl nuclear complex in Ukraine melted down and spread death and destruction across much of Northern Europe; an editorial in the People’s Daily three years thereafter, in 1989, led to an uprising among the criticized protesters that soon enough became the Tianmien Square imbroglio; sixteen years more proximate to the present pass, in 2005, Syria responded to diplomatic pressure and withdrew plus or minus 14,000 of its troops from Lebanon; another four years on the path to today, in 2009, the United Autoworkers acquired a fifty-five percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for their agreeing to concessions, which the union quickly turned into a trust fund to cover ongoing retirees’ costs that had not received adequate coverage; country music crooner and songsmith George Jones four years later, in 2013,exited life’s stage; one year still closer to now, in 2014, the accomplished son of the renowned singer and Communist, Paul Robeson, whose name added a “Junior” to his father’s moniker, died after a long life and a fruitful career as historian and archivist.

4.26.2017 Nearly Naked Links

From Tuesday’s Files

armenia, truck, military, war,

Bullshit ‘Progressives’ Who Foment War –
http://www.globalresearch.ca/when-americas-progressives-pay-lip-service-to-imperialism-the-anti-war-movement-is-dead/5584150

Discovering America From Cuba –
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176265/tomgram%3A_mattea_kramer%2C_road_rules%2C_or_rediscovering_my_country_from_cuban_soil/

Anthony Trollope Autobiography –
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5978/5978-h/5978-h.htm#cpref

Cather’s Non-Fiction & Short Stories –
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25586/25586-h/25586-h.htm#twain

Critically Reviewing A Proletarian Monograph –
http://www.spiked-online.com/review_of_books/article/a-one-eyed-view-of-the-working-class/15160

A Disquisition on ‘Truth’ –
http://www.spiked-online.com/spiked-review/article/truth-and-freedom/19610

LaForge on Hopeless Nukes –
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/04/14/nuclear-power-bums-bailouts-and-bankruptcy

John Harding Davis’ “The Spy” –
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1818/1818-h/1818-h.htm

Armageddon Agenda Ahead –
http://www.globalresearch.ca/what-would-a-us-european-russian-war-look-like-the-end-of-world-scenario-the-real-danger-of-nuclear-war/5585261

Another Counterpunch Nuclear Report –
http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/17/the-false-promise-of-nuclear-power/

Abortion Treachery and Distortion –
https://rewire.news/article/2017/03/20/worst-alternative-facts-abortion/

Transformational Academic Possibilities –
https://theconversation.com/academics-can-change-the-world-if-they-stop-talking-only-to-their-peers-55713

Whitehead Police State Advise –
http://mailchi.mp/rutherford/commentary-run-for-your-life-the-american-police-state-is-coming-to-get-you?e=798f08cf09

Another Scientists’ View on Marching –
http://thebulletin.org/let-science-be-science-again10668

Established,’ ‘Liberal’ Fake News Views –
http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/04/news-and-media-literacy-the-way-its-always-been-taught-may-not-be-the-right-response-to-fake-news-woes/

Protofascist Dixie Arising –
https://lawcha.org/wordpress/2017/04/14/the-south-has-risen-again/

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

Russian Revolution Lecture –
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/04/10/lect-a10.html

Marching For Science Interview –
http://harvardpolitics.com/online/marching-science-interview-rosalyn-lapier/

Stockholm Peace Conference –
https://imperialglobalexeter.com/2017/04/11/revisiting-the-1917-stockholm-peace-conference-indian-nationalism-international-socialism-and-anti-imperialism/

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 –
http://www.globalresearch.ca/when-americas-progressives-pay-lip-service-to-imperialism-the-anti-war-movement-is-dead/5584150

Discovering America From Cuba –
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176265/tomgram%3A_mattea_kramer%2C_road_rules%2C_or_rediscovering_my_country_from_cuban_soil/

Anthony Trollope Autobiography –
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5978/5978-h/5978-h.htm#cpref

MORE HERE

JOBSEVENTS

student writing arm

GRANT

DELAWARE INDIVIDUAL ARTIST OPPORTUNITY GRANTS

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.

OPPS/SUBS/CONTESTS

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

JOBS

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

ORGLINK

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.”

WRISS

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.”

GENMEDIP

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’.”

RECEV

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.

INTERVIEWER

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?

BERNARD MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

How early?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

What in particular?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Please go on about your life.

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Which means?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

Thirty-five years—

INTERVIEWER

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.

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Do you teach literature?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Can one, indeed, teach writing?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Experiment at the beginning?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Fidelman as a painter? The doubtful talent?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Do you teach your own writing?

MALAMUD

No, I teach what I know about writing.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

Write your heart out.

INTERVIEWER

Anything else?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Anything special to more experienced types?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

You live your life as best you can.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

What about yourself?

MALAMUD

I say the same thing in different worlds.

INTERVIEWER

Anything else to say to writers—basic stuff?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Humanity? Are you suggesting art is moral?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

It changes the world?

MALAMUD

It changes me. It affirms me.

INTERVIEWER

Really?

MALAMUD

(laughs) It helps.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.”

INTERVIEWER

Is The Assistant mythological?

MALAMUD

Some, I understand, find it so.

INTERVIEWER

Did you set it up as a mythology?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Is it a moral allegory?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

What is the source of The Assistant?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Not all your characters do.

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Are you a Jewish writer?

MALAMUD

What is the question asking?

INTERVIEWER

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.

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

I know a few. I love painting.

INTERVIEWER

Rembrandt and who else?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Chagall?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Some have called you a Chagallean writer.

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Did you use all the incidents you jotted down?

MALAMUD

No.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Fidelman is characterized by some critics as a schlemiel.

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Do you read criticism of your work?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

Does it affect you?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

That narration, for instance, is dead or dying?

MALAMUD

It’ll be dead when the penis is.

INTERVIEWER

What about the death of the novel?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

How does that go?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

What set off The Tenants?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

Why the three endings?

MALAMUD

Because one wouldn’t do.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

What’s the path—theme?

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

You write them between novels?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

How many drafts do you usually do of a novel?

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

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.

INTERVIEWER

What does one write novels about nowadays?

MALAMUD

Whatever wants to be written.

INTERVIEWER

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

MALAMUD

No.

INTERVIEWER

For instance, what writing has meant to you?

MALAMUD

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, and the FBI’s first big case, that of the Osage murders, took place; 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; half a dozen years nearer to today, in 1989, James Richardson was exonerated after over 2 decades after he was wrongfully convicted for the murder of his children; a mere year 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; a mere year closer to now, in 2006, Jane Jacobs, journalist, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), and activist best known for her influence on urban studies, died; four 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 – 
http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/35642/1/confirmed-the-pill-can-fuck-up-your-mental-health

CASTRO’S Bay of Pigs Speech –
https://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1961/04/23.htm

Max on Sociology & Objectivity –
https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/weber.htm#s2

Arrogant Economic Bullshitters –
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/against-false-arrogance-of-economic-knowledge.html

Oklahoma Cop’s Dubious ‘Suicide’ –
http://www.activistpost.com/2017/04/never-forget-hero-cop-blew-whistle-okc-bombing-not-commit-suicide.html

Lyotard on Postmodern ‘Knowledge’ –
https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/lyotard.htm

Jesus and the Death Penalty –
http://dioscg.org/index.php/would-jesus-pull-the-switch/

Habermasian Schemes of International Democracy –
http://bostonreview.net/philosophy-religion/william-e-scheuerman-habermas-and-fate-democracy

Gorging on Wealth at the Top –
http://evonomics.com/no-wealth-isnt-created-top-devoured-rutger-bregman/

Adam Clayton Powell & Identity, Power –
https://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Racial+Identity+of+Adam+Clayton+Powell+Jr.%3A+A+Case+Study+in…-a0221086340

Two Short Bits by Peirce

https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/peirce.htm
https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/peirce1.htm

Early Pragmatism Dissertation –
https://www.gutenberg.org/files/37552/37552-h/37552-h.htm#chapter_1

Wyatt Earp As Police-State Exemplar –
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/wyatt-earp-dropped-from-wichita-police-force

Darwin & Wallace, 1858 –
http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/frameset?itemID=F1700&viewtype=text&pageseq=1

Castro’s May Day ’61 Speech –
https://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1961/05/01.htm

Even ‘Liberals’ Are Critiquing Bombing –
http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/04/10/syria-trump-strike-bomb-first/

An Interview About Armageddon’s Beckoning –
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/04/15/nucl-a15.html

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

‘Public’ Education & ‘Private’ Engagement –
https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/public-universities-get-an-education-in-private-industry/521379/

Student Debt Death Sentences –
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/student-debt-bubble-sucks-even-more-out-of-economy-and-ruins-lives-yet-officials-keep-inflating-it.html

Bullshit ‘Progressives’ Who Foment War –
http://www.globalresearch.ca/when-americas-progressives-pay-lip-service-to-imperialism-the-anti-war-movement-is-dead/5584150

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.

Meaning?
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

SEARCHDAY
"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 – 
http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/35642/1/confirmed-the-pill-can-fuck-up-your-mental-health

CASTRO’S Bay of Pigs Speech –
https://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/archive/castro/1961/04/23.htm

MORE HERE

JOBSEVENTS

student writing arm

CONTEST

THE PEN PARENTIS WRITING FELLOWSHIP FOR NEW PARENTS

$15 ENTRY FEE.
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.

OPPS/SUBS/CONTESTS

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

JOBS

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

ORGLINK

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.”

WRISS

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.”

GENMEDIP

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.”
RECEV

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