Monthly Archives: May 2013

Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

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Suttree is a dark book. At times it will make you outright smile. It was dragged out of the Knoxville swamps drenched with whisky, blood, spattered with semen. A catfish was said to have been dragged out with it. I followed the trail of broken tears, it lead me to this book. Shortly after we became drunk. A pool cue smashed my teeth. I woke up with a whore that was insane, and she gave me money. There was the smell of suicide on this scorching hot day. I will never eat that man’s watermelons again.

This book is largely devoid of plot. The long paragraphs of description may become a toil for some. At those times my eyes often ached with the long, beautiful labor. Yet, I kept taking and taking from this book and it was like the sea. I’m glad to have read it.

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Howard Zinn On War by Howard Zinn

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The collection of essays by WWII veteran turned peace activist and history professor, Howard Zinn, in Howard Zinn On War is indispensable to any person seeking to understand the vulgar reality of war. What makes his essays powerful is his reinterpretation of a history we’ve all been brought up to believe. The spirit of Zinn’s writing is urged on by the same moral conviction that reinterpreted Christopher Columbus from a noble explorer to the more accurate description of a genocidal expansionist. Zinn applies this sense of historical integrity to the subject of war. The disgracing of nationally admired myths to their truthful representation is always painful, enlightening, and fiercely resisted. Zinn takes the highly unpopular stance that there is no such thing as a just war.

Zinn attacks the justification of atrocities committed under the guise of patriotic duty and self-deception. “When you plant a bomb in a discotheque, the death of bystanders is deliberate; when you drop bombs on a city, it’s accidental. We can ease our conscience that way, but only by lying to ourselves. Because, when you bomb a city from the air, you know, absolutely know, that innocent people will die.” His investigations reveal a history of unnecessary atrocities done to make political statements. Millions of people killed in various instances for the sake of making points vain as crude machismo. This is the inevitable outcome in all wars.

I would like to go into every point discussed in this book. Each essay slays another little “Christopher Columbus” regarding precision bombing, defense of democracy, terrorism, and our government’s claim to fighting tyranny. These reflections would be too lengthy for simple review. Zinn maintained a 45 year friendship with Noam Chomsky who referred to him as one of the great historian and activists of a generation. Zinn has a lifetime career as a fighter for civil rights and anti-war through non-violent protest and civil disobedience. I highly recommend a documentary of his life entitled You Can’t Remain Neutral on Moving Train (it is available in its entirety on youtube). His life will serve as an example for people everywhere in the struggle for a more peaceful world.

 

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American Fascists: The Christian Right and The War on America by Chris Hedges

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American Fascists: The Christian Right and The War on America by Chris Hedges, graduate from seminary at Harvard Divinity School and two decade war correspondent, points out the elephant in the room. Much of the country is aware of the extreme Christian Right’s agenda for dominating our government, education, private life, and foreign policy. In short, their aim is to turn the US into a Christian theocracy and thereby enforce a Christian global rule. Their buffoonish rhetoric would be laughable if it wasn’t for the significant influence they’ve seized. Hedges gives an in depth look into the inner working of the Christian Right. He attends conversion seminars, conventions, and interviews current and past members. His main argument is that the figureheads of the Christian Right are purposely distorting Christianity to serve their grab for raw power and institutionalize a Christo-fascist state.

The acceptance of Islamophobia, creationism as a viable science, and blurring definition between church and state are real victories of the Christian Right’s attacks on rational argument and a free society. The real importance of this book is that Hedges addresses the idea of tolerance. How tolerant should a free society be towards intolerance? The question is paradoxical. On one hand if we fully tolerate groups with a fascist agenda we risk having them ending our open society. Yet if we are intolerant and oppress their freedom of speech, then we will have ultimately lost.

Voltaire is quoted saying “I don’t agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Being that I have highly unpopular views, freedom of speech is a civil liberty I refuse to live without. For that reason I agree with Voltaire’s view of universal tolerance. But when a fascist group, be it the Christian Right or any leftist group, is actively trying to instill intolerance it will be our duty to never become passively tolerant. That is the reason I respect this book, it is a call for every anti-fascist person to realize there are fascist movements in this country and to stand up and denounce them for what they are, American Fascists.

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in an American flag and carrying a cross.”

– Sinclair Lewis

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Everything we had: An oral history of the vietnam war by Al Santoli

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A powerfully unapologetic book. It completely destroyed the Hollywood and Media fantasy notion of what war is. The stories by these Vietnam veterans are raw and make no attempt to come off as politically correct. They talk about their experiences in their own word without regard to being politically correct. The testimonies follow a chronological order that start from the beginning of the war, all the way to leaving Vietnam. What I like about this book is that you got to hear from a wide range of soldiers, everything from Marines, SEALS, medics, Navy, and POW’s. There’s even some photographs of the men and women in the book.

What I admired about this book was the brutal honesty. The soldiers speak about incompetent leaders, crazy soldiers, fear, courage, death, and a lot of other things that is usually overshadowed by an overtly patriotic message. This is one of those books people of this generation need so badly read. These voices from a not so distant past are trying to warn of us of the true nature of war. Some of the stories are enough to make you laugh out loud, such as the soldier who enlisted after a wild night of drinking then sobered up really fast. Other accounts by special forces who lived deep in enemy territory are grim and reveal the deep psychological scarring of what they did to survive and do their duty.

I’d like to close a review with a poem by Lee Byron “Lee Boy” Childress. He is a contributor in Everything We Had. Childress passed away on July 31, 1997 from lung cancer brought on by exposure to the chemical Agent Orange.

Alone

Old soldiers never die;
They just wish they could.

He’s your brother.
He’s your son.
He’s the one who humped your gun.
Now his mind has come undone
And you applaud it.

Through a ten-year war it seems
You were hatching all your dreams
So you couldn’t hear the screams
Your own son dying.

He’s back, put to bed,
Alone,
Sleeping with the dead,
Bloated on the lies you fed.

For he cannot stop the popping
Or the helicopter chopping down his brain.

He’s so hooked,
He’s so fried,
Blood
Screaming from his eyes.
Alone,
Psychomanglized.

More of this poetry is printed on http://www.ragbaby.com/magazine/19990321.htm

Al Stanoli

Al Stanoli

 

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Neuromancer by William Gibson

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How do I rate a book like Neuromancer? It reads like a freakish cross of Williams Burroughs’ Post Modernism, Walt Whitman’s metaphysical soul surfing, and Philip Dick’s future noir. Gibson was far ahead of his time, took an entire generation forward, blah blah blah, everything everyone else read on Wikipedia.

Ok, so what about the book itself? To be honest it was tough to get into (and I never fully did), but once I got into the groove it became a decent techno surrealist adventure. But then… the issues started popping up. The techno jargon, which was neat in the beginning, murdered the flow like speed bumps on a freeway. The unfolding plot was mega jerky. At times I just gave up trying to figure what the setting was, let alone the plot. I’m a huge noir fan, so I’m used to getting multiple plot twists, but this was a bit overkill.

The parts that were good, we’re awesome. I felt like I was exploring the matrix, seeing an incredible cyberspace landscape, and stretching the fabric of my imagination. This was definitely one of those books that has opened my third eye.

The story is a bit generic (gotta steal this to kill that). The characters were interesting, yet lacked in any real depth. There’s a bunch of Rastafarians for some reason (wft? ok cool whatever). The reality juggling between the real world, cyberspace, and other people’s eyes was prime sci-fi stuff.

The verdict.

The annoying confusion, jargon choppiness, and thin characters kept this book from being a 5 star read. There were some parts that were so convoluted that I literally fell asleep. Other parts were a straight up grind to get through. Still, this is one tripped out read. My brain is still sizzling from flying around in the matrix. I give this book 3 and half Keanu Reeves heads.

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