Commentaries - April 2010

Recently I listened again to my conversation with Ian (Sandy) Frazier, recorded in 2006. Now we've segmented this audio recording into topical segments. Go here here and listen to portions of the discussion on populism, Francis Parkman, the connection between democracy and the writing of lists, on the idea of an "open-hearted" American place.

“You know that’s flapping your fins for an audience. That’s letting dipshits define you by a number so other dipshits can compare you with other numbers so the other dipshits know who to pay to wear their sunglasses so that dipshits in the malls know which ones to buy."--Mitch Yost, John from Cincinnati, episode 3

From a column by I. F. Stone publisehd in the Nation magazine on November 8, 1947, at the time of the anticommunist HUAC/"Hollywood Ten" hearings:

If a Congressional committee can investigate ideas in the movies, it can investigate them in the press. The purpose is to terrorize all leftists, liberals, and intellectuals; to make them fearful in the film, the theater, the press, and any school of advanced ideas the Thomas committee can stigmatize as "red." ... [T]he committee is out to give the moguls of the industry no rest until they not only take from the screen what little liberal and social content it has, but turn to making films which would prepare the way for fascism at home and war abroad. There were two revealing moments in the producers' testimony. Jack Warner, explaining the "subtle" methods of "red" screen writers, said, "They have the routine of the Indians and the colored folks. That is always their setup." And when Louis B. Mayer said he was going to start making some "anti-Communist films promptly," Thomas leaned forward with a grin and asked, "These hearings haven't anything to do with the promptness, have they?"

Daisy Fried's review of Charles Bernstein's selected poems (All the Whiskey in Heaven) will be published in this weekend's New York Times Book Review. It's extremely positive. Millions will see it, maybe many thousands will read it. It might sell a few copies, a prospect that makes me glad. The photo at left is of the poet, reading just last night at the party we threw for him in honor of the publication of the book and his 60th birthday.

Here are some passages from Fried's review:

"[T]his calculating, improvisatory, essential poet won’t tell you the truth wrapped up in a neat little package. He might show it to you when you’re least expecting it."

"Bernstein is identified with the Language poets, who emerged in the 1970s. Interested in the materiality of language, they are politically left, theoretically grounded and deeply suspicious of the lyric “I” that speaks from the heart in traditional poems without examining its own existence in a sociopolitical power structure. Their work is often most subversive when both joining and satirizing that weary old, dreary old genre, poetry about poetry. Early Bernstein can be opaque, annoying those who see difficulty as elitist and who want poetry to be cuddly and educational. But everyone should love the later Bernstein, a writer who is accessible, enormously witty, often joyful — and even more evilly subversive."

It's time to check out the poets featured on ElectiveAffinitiesUSA, a blog managed by Carlos Soto-Roman.