Essays

notes on the revolution: an ongoing ramble

Oh, the incorporate me.

 The ‘corporation’ as it has been recreated in modern business and law represents a large portion of our current problem and a significant cause thereof.

Oddly, interestingly, and contrarily, under our code of laws, you may not own a person. That is known as slavery. Yet you may own a corporation, or shares in a corporation, just as you may own a car or a house. However, a car is not currently entitled to vote. Nor a house. Nor a corporation, per se. A person is. A corporation is property. It can be sold. But according to the authorities, a corporation is a person . . . Got that. If you don’t it’s because you are not a sophisticated thinker—i.e., its your own fault. Most importantly, and included in this status as a human being, a corporation has limited liability. Now, if you run out of money, or are the cause of a misadventure, you are liable for your debts. If a corporation runs out of money, tough luck. You can read about this case law in many places, and this status has existed in our country for almost two centuries and has been upheld by no less than the Supreme Court of the United States in 1819 (Dartmouth College vs. Woodward), or here http://www.oyez.org/cases/1792-1850/1818/1818_0/. read more…

Of ‘Children and Fish’

I was just rereading the great Richard Mitchell essay, ‘Children and Fish,’ and thinking it was my favorite of all. It is a difficult choice to make, given my appreciation of the others, but certainly I have read it more often and find myself considering it anew with each reading. The subject of what we make of ourselves was the particular point that hooked my thoughts this time.

One measure of Mitchell’s depth and breadth is that he could read a turgid socialist polemic like Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and find something edifying. In this case, it was in the clear representation of a negative: Bellamy’s ruthless idea of human rights. Wading through the weeds of such thought, tiresome and full of poisonous ticks, had kept me from ever finishing the book, but Mitchell, always the good teacher and likely made immune to such foolishness by the annual inoculation of live virus in sophomoric term papers, has extracted the lie that is the very linchpin of the socialist state.

Remember now that Looking Backward was a stunning bestseller in its day. Stunning in all the senses of the word. How this came to be is another subject for another time, but it explains the mind of a certain intellectual strata of the late Nineteenth Century and how the thinking of people as diverse as Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey and Eugene V. Debs might have developed. It was a ‘can do’ age and the idea that people could be educated to be good—as in, to act in a socially acceptable manner—was afoot as well as in a lot of heads. Never mind asking what ‘good’ is.

read more…

The flea is with us

71Ew4KATtbLIn the foreword to his excellent and now near classic 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that it was Aldous Huxley and not George Orwell who recognized the greater danger to our modern society. “But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think . . . What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no reason to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.” I would accuse Postman of prescience, given the overwhelming onslaught of irrelevance in this age of the internet, if it were not already true, as he well documents, in those tamer times of television and the three major networks. Now, thirty years hence, I fear the damage is wholly done. The flea is with us.

read more…

Stewing on the ambiguities

The American dream may not be what it once was, but it is still there.

Entering small towns, from California to Maine, you may be struck by how similar they appear, displaying again and again the natural gallimaufry of a single culture that spans a continent. But this awareness is even greater when you stop and speak to the people themselves. Some of this continuity is frozen in the outward brass of the chain stores, of course, but it goes far deeper. The culture you can still find beyond the suburbs was not invented by Ray Crock and Sam Walton. Most of these people are conceived and raised to a behavior that is at once sweet and pleasantly sour, churned by the dash to butter as well as buttermilk. read more…

The Old Corner Bookstore

The matter is not that this place is now a Chipotle. The Old Corner Bookstore, as much as ‘Ye Olde Sweete Shoppe,’ was debauched generations ago and made to serve whatever interest was literally afoot at that moment in time. The iconic site, a beautiful vernacular Eighteenth Century brick building on a corner of Boston nearly across from the equally historic Old South Meeting House and about a block from where Benjamin Franklin was born, has long been shadowed on all sides by the assembled monstrosities of Nineteenth and Twentieth century architecture. The fact that a fairly decent chain of Mexican food restaurants has chosen to lease the physical space where Thoreau and Emerson and Longfellow once argued the particulars of the New England Renaissance is incidental in the greater scheme. After all, where are the bones of Paul Revere’s horse now?

But Rhian Sasseen picked up the story for The Millions and there it is, photo and all,  and in some visceral way the image begs for our attention. At least it does for me.  The abscess of pain which is the cause of my frequent complaint about the death of the bookshop is instantly tapped. I could go on about the importance of the bookshop to our culture as the key to any sort of livable future as much as a touchstone to the past that has made us. But is that really the matter?

read more…

About the weather

A recent calculation of the ‘big picture’ in cosmic theory has the universe pulsing in an endless series of entropic expansions and contractions. When things reach a certain maximum (minimum?) of composition and the black holes go ‘pop,’ and disappear, it all starts over again. Nifty. Someone or ones will get a Nobel prize for physics and the world we can know (as opposed to the ones we can’t) will go on: governments will tax and pillage while people try to find some measure of happiness with the part of this universe that is theirs; thugs will rape and kill and wars will be fought over religions both political and metaphysical; and the weather will turn and twist over an Earth we pretend to understand, for reasons we have not yet fathomed.

read more…

Latest Blog Posts

The problem is . . .

The problem is that the two major political forces of our age, socialism and capitalism, are rotten to the core. Ostensibly, socialism is the ‘public’ ownership of property and capitalism is the private ownership of property. In practice, neither is true. Capitalism,...

Otto Biedermeier is dead.

My guess is that most of you did not even know he was sick. Sadly, the great filmmaker, Otto Biedermeier has died, and it is perhaps parody that killed him. And it is for that reason alone that his death is the subject of the sudden novel I have just completed. You...

An open letter to those who might be wondering.

The move from Abington, Massachusetts to Lee, New Hampshire has been better than feared, but perhaps ultimately worse for the simple demonstration of fact that I haven’t the energy, muscle mass, or psychological stamina I once had. There has been an attrition,...

Trifles taken from the alms-basket of words

(Oh yes, oh yes. Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)   By the bye, the category I have chosen for my work is ‘honorificabilitudinitatibus,’ as it is...

Consider Cleisthenes

(Oh yes, oh yes. Another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)   Consider Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy and thus a father to us all, dead and...

All slaves are equal but some get to live in the big house.

(Oh yes, oh yes. A new potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)   A novel is a flimsy currach indeed in which to set out on a journey such as this. The urgency to...

Unto an age of Romanticism, or On the Beach

(Perchance, a new potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.)   “You’ve never been in love with anyone else?” “Not that I knew. I’ve often had crushes on women from...

Beyond the age of reason

(Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) Has our Thirty Years’ War only just begun, or has it ended long since and the news simply not yet arrived via a slow...

In ancient mundane

(A new chapter two has been added (interpolated?) to my 'book in progress,' The Republic of Books, to be found elsewhere on this site. In ancient mundane, the beer was swell, the work was sweaty, and the women very very pretty. Here be a potable portion of that, you...

Mistakes have been made

(Yet another potable portion from a chapter, this one newly posted with A Republic of Books, the novel in progress to be found elsewhere on this site.) This then was the economic pressure that weighed on my conscience as I debated what should be done to maintain my...

Novels & Novellas Available for Purchase

I Am William McGuire

I Am William McGuire

It’s a bloody Cro-Magnon world.
What’s a Neanderthal to do?

 

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

A Slepyng Hound to Wake

Leaving well enough alone is not good enough at all—not if the reason for a death is to be found in the life that was lost.
Hound

Hound

Henry Sullivan has made a simpler life for himself, finding and selling books. There is little room in it for either love or murder.

 

About

I have been informed by trusted authority that the short quip which I have placed here for the last year or so, by way of biography, lacks gravitas. “Over-paid by others for hyphenated jobs such as lawn-work, snow-shoveling, house-painting, office-boy, dish-washer, warehouse-grunt, table-waiter and hotel night-clerk–I’ve since chosen to be a writer, editor, publisher, and for most of my life, a bookseller, and even managed to occasionally pay myself. Hound is my first published novel.” And so it does. It is hard to be serious about so unserious a subject as oneself. But herewith, and keeping the ‘nasty bits’ (Brit expressions are so brilliant) to myself, I offer then, this ongoing post begun as posts at Small Beer Press. If anyone is interested, from time to time I will add something at the end to bring the epic closer to the present moment.

read more...