Sunday, July 23, 2006

What's being read?

Trina suggested that we do an easy feature, "What Are You Reading?" To make sure it's easy, no links to the books. Big boys and girls know how to search the web.

Trina: We're staying with C.I. for the week and there were two books left in our room. My husband grabbed one and I'm reading Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair's Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and The Press which I'm trying to portion off and resist the strong urge to read straight though. It's a very involving book.

Trina's husband & Mike's father: Robert Scheer's Playing President. I saw that and just grabbed it. I remember the Jimmy Carter interview, I figure everyone my age does, but I wasn't familiar with the other interviews, Nixon, Clinton, Reagan, Bush I. So this is an interesting book.

Ty: I went to C.I.'s fiction shelves and pulled down Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse which is very different from anything I've read before. I've enjoyed it. "He no longer saw the face of his friend Siddhartha. Instead he saw other faces, many faces, a long series, a continuous stream of faces -- hundreds, thousands, which all came and disappeared and yet all seemed to be there at the same time, which all continually changed and renewed themselves and which were yet all Siddhartha." Page 121 and it probably helps to know what came before.

Betty: I was looking for something on trade after Greg Palast's wonderful Armed Madhouse and C.I. sent me John R. MacArthur's The Selling of "Free Trade" which I am loving. I've just gotten to the point where the triangulators selling NAFTA, Clinton White House, want to ridicule the opposition to the treaty so they set out to make Ross Perot the fact of the opposition and have him debate Al Gore even though some are worried about Gore's "stiffness." By the way, these are Gore people talking and when someone, you know who I mean, wants to write his 365th blog on Al Gore for his seventh or eighth year in a row, he might stop saying, "Where did the press get these looney ideas?" and note that the Gore people were planting the notion of Gore being stiff and other things with the press. There's also the fact that Al Gore could come off stiff. Still can. I know we're not supposed to mention that truth. Anyway, great book.

Mike: Che Guevara and the FBI which is edited by Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith. Ruth and C.I. both recommended it to me for the subject and because they know I like the Michaels, who host Law and Disorder on WBAI each Monday with Dalia Hashad and Heidi Boghosian. This is a collection of some of the US government documents produced while spying on Che Guervara. That's the CIA and the State Department and more. I just started the book and am up to a memo from the State Department in 1962 where they just obsess over an interview Guervara gave with London's Daily Woker. You start to wonder, "Don't these people have real jobs?" Pretty cool book.

Jess: From the amazing and endless bookcases of C.I., soon to be a children's novel, I'm joking, I pulled down Robert Meeropol's An Execution In The Family: One Son's Journey. I made the mistake of telling my dad I was reading it mid-week last week and, ever since, it's been a phone call or an e-mail or both, asking, "Did you finish it yet?" He's read the book, which isn't surprising to me now that I think about it, and he's dying to discuss it with me. I'm taking some classes out here, doing some activism and trying to have some fun so I'm averaging about two chapters a day. After we finish this week's edition, I'm heading out to the pool and I'll finish up the book.

Ty: Yeah, you need to point out that you're joking. Last week, before all the edition was up, we had e-mails asking, "When will the episode of 7th Heaven with Ava and C.I. in it air?" People took that seriously.

Elaine: I just finished reading, for the first time, William Golding's Lord of the Flies due to a patient using it as a reference point. I don't know if it's returning from vacation, or what, but the news is really depressing of late. So I packed, I'm staying at Mike's this weekend, by the way, not as a babysitter while Trina and his father are out of town, but, honestly, because I was feeling depressed. So, I packed Alice Walker's Sent By Earth which is more of a pamphlet than a book, it's a prose poem that's fifty-something pages and I've already finished rereading it. But I wanted something familiar that I knew would raise my spirits and that did the trick.

Jim: Edward W. Said's Humanism and Democratic Critisicm.

Dona: I enjoyed Katha Pollitt's Virginity or Death so when I was going through the essay sections of C.I.'s book collection and found Subject to Debate, I grabbed that. It's an earlier collection. I liked her humor in that collection. I know Jim's playing Mr. Tight Lipped --

Jim: I said what I was reading. I just started it.

Dona: Thanks. So I want to go into this and do so carefully. There is tremendous humor in Pollitt's Virginity or Death, along with the insights and the wisdoms and so much more. However, the humor in Subject to Debate, reflecting the time period it covers, 1994-2000, is a bit more relaxed. The threat to . . . everything. Choice, freedom -- real freedom, not the Bully Boy's faux freedoms, everything is under attack today. The humor in the new collection is edgier, as it should be, to reflect edgier times. Pollitt made us laugh with Virginity or Death and the last thing I want to do is to suggest it's not funny or not as funny. It's very funny. But the period that book covers and the period of Subject to Debate are completely different. "Of Toes and Men," for instance, is hilarious but in the raised stakes environment we live in, it's doubtful it could be written the same way today. Not due to any censorship, self or on the part of The Nation -- where Pollitt's columns appear, but because we are in some very sad times. So I'm enjoying this book both for the writing style and for the memories it pulls out of me of a calmer time. If you only read one, read the new book. You really do need to arm yourself with knowledge. If you have time for more than one, check out Subject to Debate.

Wally: A book I saw mentioned at The Common Ills awhile back, Phil Strongman and Alan Parker's John Lennon & The FBI Files. Last week, we did that thing on how The Independent of London was writing about the new documentary on Lennon and the FBI spying and I think I was the only one who didn't know that M15 spied on him as well. And that is M15, not M16, which may have as well. It's a very interesting book.

Ava: Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, which is set in the sixties, this is a novel, by the way, and a look at some interesting times . . . from inside. The characters have a wonderful fullness to them and, while I was reading it, I kept thinking, Elaine would love this book.

Elaine: Sounds intriguing. I'll put it down on my list. I only know her nonfiction.

Dona: Cedric and C.I. are left.

Cedric: Like Jim, I just started my book so I can't say much other than I'm enjoying it so far. It's Michael Parenti's Super Patriotism. I'll add that I didn't know anything about him until KPFA was playing a lecture he gave during their fundraising in May -- the lecture interested me and Rebecca had recommended this book when we'd talked about his lecture. I've been pretty busy and Friday night, like Mike does, we had a discussion group about Iraq. I woke up, looked at my apartment in shambles and just wanted to get out. So I went to the bookstore and when I saw this, I remembered I was planning on reading it. Earlier last week, I was re-reading Norman Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death which we already discussed here awhile back but it's a great book so I'll give it a shout out as well.

C.I.: I'm reading three papers that friends are about to present shortly -- one on Iraq, one on water rights and one on feminism and pop culture -- and a friend gave me William M. Kunstler's My Life As A Radical Lawyer Thursday -- so I haven't had time to finish it yet. But, if I can, I'd like to note one paragraph that's especially stood out so far, from page 339:

Throughout our history, we have had government-manufactured villians, such as Communists, terrorists, labor-union leaders, mobsters, black militants, Islamic fundamentalists, or whatever group was out of favor at the time. In order to support official terrorism, like the shooting down of union members and Black Panthers or the beating of antiwar or civil rights demonstrators, the government makes its enemies into monsters so that it can get away with murder and the public says no more than "What does it matter? They were only criminal syndicalists or union people or organized-crime figures or terrorists?"

Jim: What page?

C.I.: 339.

Jim: I'm just teasing. Let me add, in case we forget it as we hurry through the edition, we thank Dallas for hunting down links and that the core six -- me, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I. are all in California again this week -- and that we're joined by Mike's parents who were kind enough to participate in this feature, we thank them and thank Trina for thinking up this feature. Rebecca and Kat are on vacation. Betty's filling in for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and Mike, Cedric and C.I. are filling in for Kat at Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills).

Dona: And, as noted, Trina's out here. She's on vacation. No post at her site this weekend.
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