Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 30, 2012

     It was 1957 I was manager of Eighth Street Bookshop. I was 20, a senior at Columbia, living in Spanish Harlem. I'd take the # 5 Fifth Avenue Bus; it had a serpentine route, began at Washington Square in Greenwich Village and went to Columbia on 116th Street & Broadway. So it passed by where I lived, and it took me a long ways to college,then it took me all the way downtown to the Village, where I'd sit in coffeeshops and browse at Eighth Street Bookshop. I was sure lucky to get the job there. The year before I had become manager of Gotham Book Mart, so the Wilentz Brothers, who owned Eighth Street (it had a lending library in those days), were impressed with me. Especially as I got along really well with Frances Steloff, whom everyone adored . . . but3 from afar, because she was such a harradan. Mellowed out as she approached 100, but in '56, '57, she was still the tough old Frances.
     I was getting pretty fed up with Columbia. But I had a fascinating course at Barnard called "The Art of India Asia." And The Bollingen Series had just brought out a two-volume boxed set, edited by Heinrich Zimmer, called "Art of India Asia." I've never coveted a book so bad. But it cost $100, a fortune in those pre-Vietnam War non-inflationary days. The Wilentz Brothers were nice enough to set it aside for me, and I'd pay ten bucks on it every week. So we got to know each other. And when I finally quit Columbia (with two months to go to graduate), they hired me as manager of the most popular bookshop in New York! Boy I learned a lot (which wasn't happening in college). After all, the year before Miss Steloff had enticed me into G.B.M. by saying, "You'll learn more in this bookshop in 6 months then you'd learn in Columbia in 6 years." True.
     Oh, I was a serious young fellow in those days. Today I'm a happy-go-lucky 77 year-old. In those days, my nickname was "Red Head," because my face was always red in anger and effort. I was so ambitious. Should I be the greatest artist who ever lived or the greatest poet? I had already been publishing since '53, my freshman year in college. And my best friend was in high school, Robert Smithson, who would become the most influential artist in American history in a very short time (Spiral Jetty, etc.). In '56 I had brought out another "little mag" with Smithson, and we published Leonard Cohen's first poems (he was a freshman at McGill) and Daryl Hine and James Wright and the first poems Samuel Menashe ever had in print, and Tim Reynolds and Michael Benedikt, a huge anthology of contemporary Canadian Poetry. Smithson and I also began a Park Avenue Art Gallery, and I gave Bob his first one-man show. I was still a teenager! Bob was a junior in high school (Clifton, N.J.), coming into the city to go to The Art Students League twice a week. So, although 20, I was really like a man twice that age. Twelve months later, I married a woman who was 50.

     This morning, the covenant fellowship to which I belong (I'm on the Board of Directors), we're Unitarian Universalists, is providing a free breakfast for the Glenwood neighborhood. We used to do this at the day care center for people who are homeless, but the city closed them down on the weekends. So we began offering our free breakfast–it's no big deal, only once a month–here at Glenwood Coffee & Books. Because we hold our Worship Service here, do you see. Attendance at the breakfast has been growing slowly, as this poor neighborhood learns to trust us. Individuals have begun bringing their families. We're up to about 40 breakfasts served. The United Methodist Church on the corner used to serve one breakfast a week, but they stopped last year. I asked Rev. Jolly, their minister about that. He said the Methodists were hoping some of the free breakfasteers would join their church, but no one ever did–one meal a week for four years. So they stopped serving. Well, that ain't the Unitarian spirit; we're not looking for people to join necessarily. It's hard times as we all know, depression going on for five years now. Greensboro, I read, is the fourth worse off city in the U. S. We lost all our denim and cotton mills in the 1990s and, this decade came the banking Wall Street deep recession (for everyone except bankers and stock brokers). Yeah, how about that? Those buggers caused this whole thing, and they're the only ones still employed and makin' hay! As the Occupiers like to chant, "They got bailed out, we got sold out."
     It's 7 a.m., and my fellow congregants will start arriving at 9:30 or 10:00. Breakfast is at 10:30 a.m. in case you're hungry. Pancakes and I make the turkey sausage–that's my job–and coffee and fruit cocktail, corn syrup, butter. All you can eat. Yummy. I'm on food stamps, so the Unitarians usually leave the leftover pancakes and sausage and butter and stuff . . . for me!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 26, 2012
Today's entry from: JOURNAL OUT: December 26, 2012

It is eleven o'clock, Wednesday, the day after Christmas. I've been up since 6:00, sewed my five (5) books as I do every day. Worked two hours on the Joyce/Pound section of this Out Journal, ending with inserting a photograph of William Butler Yeats (previous page). Right now, I'm printing the third signature of the Occupy Journal. And having a breakfast of a cup of coffee and a piece of "Tea Cake." Families have interesting traditions, rituals, mostly to do with food, around this time of year. Last night, I went out to Lauren Goans' family for Christmas Dinner (spiral ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, an unusual and interesting salad beautifully served as was all these delights, wine, dessert with decaf coffee. Opening presents; even I was included. Daniel and Lauren had previously presented me with one of the few small 4-song albums of Christmas Music they created as gifts: exciting arrangements of familiar songs. The "Tea Cake" I mention I'm having for breakfast is a precious gift from Lauren's mother, whose own mother invented this very beautiful pastry for Christmas. That makes this treat extra special! It was really nice to be included in such a healthy, warm family gathering. Lauren's cousin was there with her husband; they recently moved to Raleigh from the Midwest, so the cousin can devote her accounting skills to the Caterpillar Corporation. Glenwood the Cat is crazy about this "Tea Cake." He's stolen it twice already, and is now trying to literally pull it out of my mouth. Well, it is delicious.
     How nice to see a father and mother so fine and so warm toward sweet
Lauren. Daniel's parents are just the same. There are so many good people! At the dining table, Daniel asked all of us to share our favorite Christmas moment or just a story from our personal Christmastimes. I shared my experience, in the Bay Area (1995–1999), as a Department Store Santa Claus. Complete with elf to take pictures of children on my lap. This led dear Lauren to go into her mother's room and return with a dozen annual photographs of her, age 1–9, sitting on Santa's lap, mostly in High Point and other places they've lived (Boise, Idaho for example). Lauren's been fortunate enough to have lived in the same house we were in from 3rd grade until now, or until she went to college. For all her new profession of singing in clubs and bars and homes and everywhere with Daniel, Lauren is an introvert personality; she seems to have led a rather lonely life up until now. She always has a sweet wide on her face, seems to love to have fun, is a very seriously ethical and spiritual young woman (24), and an extremely talented creative personality. If you met her, you wouldn't have any idea how

deeply and independently she thinks, because she is a Southern belle, which means smiles and quiet, let others talk, never disagree or be disagreeable. Nevertheless, when you get to know her, she will suddenly almost shock you by sharing a very strong opinion about large issues. For example, she has her own ideas about the jimcracks surrounding Christmas, the mishegas, the chotzskas. And, if you're lucky, you might hear what she has to say about college education itself. It is always a surprise when one of these beautiful, dainty Southern people voices a strong opinion. I'd love to hear what Lauren really thinks about our political system for example, but I doubt I ever shall, no matter how close we become. I am very fortunate that my crush on Lauren and Daniel seems to be returned. Lauren invited me to Thanksgiving Dinner with her folks, and now Christmas Dinner. (I spent Thanksgiving Dinner with Dr. Rita Laqyson's family–and also Christmas Eve Dinner with them and with my good friends, Craig and Lyn Mankoff.)
     Well, Glenwood's finally settled down. He's lying down, with his paws tucked in, on top of the futon beside which I type on my old desktop computer, right into Microsoft Publisher. The 100 copies I'm printing of Occupy Journal has completed its current run (I print four pages at one time). As soon as I complete this page of Out Journal, I will probably import it to my Blog (, then sew a few more books, then glue some other books, then back to the computer for more journaling. I haven't typed anything into Gardening Journal for over a month–few people garden this time of year . . . I don't.
     I suppose technically we're open today at Glenwood Coffee & Books? You never know. We seem to be closed more than we're open. The loss of income's become a bit of a stressful problem. I suppose I should make some coffee. We're low on coffee, but I think Mo ordered 25 lbs or so from Larry's Beans. UPS should be delivering today. And the Post Office–I have orders for 50 different books that a local school library ordered through Mrs. Reed, Dave's mother and a librarian; about 40 of the books have already arrived via AbeBooks.Com. Purchasing these books has swelled my credit card debt; so has the Larry Beans $150 order. But in a few months, we should receive $500 or so from their sale, and I can pay off most of the credit card debt and stop this usurious loan sharp interest rate charge from (ugh) Chase Bank. But I have $750 in debt from publishers' invoices, too, and I have no idea how those are to be paid. We just aren't bringing in enough money. Mo is hoping this huge reorganization, when completed, will bring in some cash. But I expect things to get worse before they get better. Fortunately, there's my social security pension that exactly matches the Glenwood rent. Then there's $300 or so monthly to (ugh ugh) Duke (ugh) Energy (ugh). Hate them. Now it's 11:30, and I'm
hungry. Raining, so I can't get to the market.



Thursday, December 13, 2012

December 13, 2012

Here's today's entry in volume two of my Occupy Journal:

o c c u p y : d e c e m b e r    12,   2 0 1 2

Publishing, which is what I know most about next to books and intellectual history, has never been mentioned in my two volumes and 300 pages about OCCUPY. When I decided to found a press and began publishing books (my first was 1953,then 1956, 1957, but I began full-time only in 1965),  publishing was already part of a superficial and increasingly gross world of Capitalism. In the 50 years since, it has disintegrated just like everything else, becoming more and more commercial, commodified, and more and more divorced from the lives and needs of ordinary people.  Like all the arts, it is just another entertainment industry, dumbed down and bottom-lined.
     I'd like to look, first, at the language publishers (that is, editors) use, when they talk about their profession.  Publishers Weekly interviewed eleven publishers, editors, authors, and agents about African-American publishing and quoted those interviewed in their December 10, 2012 issue which arrived today. Eleven different firms were represented, a cross-section of this commercial world.
     Here are some of the ways these professionals refer to that world:
"issue-driven books;" biting off big ideas;" shortlisted;" "writer-platforms;" "debut novel;" "debut Haitian authors;" "projects" [that is, books]; "the celebrity books was big;" "reality TV;" "romantica" [by which she means the combination of romance and erotica, or, as she says, "steamy romance with erotica"]; "what used to work is not working anymore;" "hot categories;" "chick/lit sisterfriends;" "sexy stuff;" "Vampire-Huntress series." Listen to these people. These are African-American highly educated, serious professionals, in a world of millions of Black men in prison (The New Jim Crow world), hunger, disease, war. It's the same in whitey land of course. Here's some more of this twenty-first century literary sensibility: "Any trend that's hot eventually levels out;" "how to position [books];" "strategize;"
"pull together talent;" "teen lit;" "street lit;" "what will sell;"
"We don't publish Toni Morrison here;" "teen fiction rising star;"
"sun rights sale;" "book-a-year authors;" "I acquire middle-grade fiction;" "go-to figures;" "Christian fiction;" "commercial women's fiction;" "waves and trends;" "breakout books;" "top 100 authors."

Yes, there were one or two sentences in three pages that reflected something approaching idealism, but you get the picture. Literature this is not. It's the same in all the arts, when professional parasites get hold of us.
     Forever, artists, authors, creative talented people in every century have been taken for granted and treated to the kind of commercialism and philistinism that is represented by the language the publishers and editors and agents use. Topicality, celebrity worship, searching for what they call "blockbusters." I would say such people are no more reliable than the politicians and leaders they select, and we know that less than 10% of the public trust those. Who in the world of commerce today is trusted? Why should be trust any of them? Those of you who work in the Business World know first-hand the lying and stealing, the short cuts and shoddiness that goes on in your firm; why should it be any different elsewhere in america? Or the Western World in general? Meanwhile, the West has so fucked up the rest of the world, there is only violence and reaction to Western so-called "cultural norms." These "cultural norms" are not normal; they're toxic and disgusting, anti-human and alienating. How can so many people work against people? Do they think they are immune? It's like the period of forthcoming nuclear war, when the welthy built underground shelters and the politicians incited nuclear holocaust. Did they think they would survive? And survive in what kind of world? We need a strike. A world-wide strike of people. Just saying, "We won't do it any more." What's the ":it?" All of it.
     I think I'll make a sign right now and put it up in the bookshop, or wear it around my neck. It will simply say, "ALL OF IT."

Monday, December 10, 2012

December 10, 2012

How you think is almost as important as what you think. When I write poetry, I warm up by reading . . . Plato. It reminds me of my brother-in-law, Morris. Morris is an engineer. And he loves to work on cars. But he hates to get his hands dirty (he takes three showers a day, every day).
He solves this dilemma as follows: when he goes into his garage to work on a car engine, first thing he does is dunk his hands. up to the elbows, in a bucket of crankcase oil.  Now Morris is ready to work on cars! Plato is my crankcase oil for poetry.
     For prose, for the journals especially (for I wrote a novel along with the ten journals in 2012), I read the most dense, scholarly essay I can find. I read it and think about it, usually tear it apart in my mind. That's how I warm up for the journals.
     This morning I'm reading an essay by a psychologist. A feminist psychologist. So here's what I think about psychologists and about feminist psychologists.
     When the few women who were psychologists found Woman's Liberation exploding around their ears in the 1960s, they saw a great chance to advance in their profession. They began to develope a feminist psychology. But it was the same problem as happened in feminist art and feminist everything. The landlords were all men.  The heads of departments were all men, all the Deans, all the Chancellors, all the grant-givers, all the tenure-givers, all the donors whose names adorned the library and the Psychology Building, all the psychologists, all men! All men. All the editors of all the psych journals.
     So, little by little the feminist psychologists became claiming their piece of the pie.
     It's like Ed Whitfield said one day in our Tuesday morning "Democracy Char" that F4DC began years ago. Ed told us, "They say if they give you a fish, you eat for a day. But if they teach you how to fish–or rather, if you go into debt in college and learn how to fish–you'll eat forever. What they don't tell you is they own all the fishing holes."
     And another thing. Lucy Lippard, the first and best feminist art critic, says "We wanted a piece of the pie. But the pie was poisonous." Because women artists ran into the same problem women psychologists were running into. The Museums and the Art Galleries were all run by men, or by women playing by the men's rules. So the artists and psychologists and the fisherwomen, too, I guess, began slowly pecking away at the pecking order. Entering into the patriarchal hierarchy.
     And they were successful, at least the over-educated white women were. But it was still a hierarchy. Only they were in the middle of the muddle, not at the butt-end anymore.
     The rules stayed the same. That was the problem as the '60s and 70's became the '80s and '90s. Women psychologists thought they would be the ones to redefine gender in feminist terms. But every time they tried to bring politics or society or values or history into the equation, they got flummoxed and stymied. The male rules of Academia allowed no mention of Native American Indian genocide nor no Native Americans, no mention of Slavery nor African Americans. So the women, to get ahead, played the game within the confines of the Academic/Military/Industrial/Captalist Complex.J. G. Morawski concludes, for example:

The study of gender remains embedded in conventional interpretive frameworks that view human action as corresponding to some stable, identifiable, and internal state thqt is to some extent unalterable by some of the same dilemmas that feminists faced earlier in the century . . .
     Thus is explained the entire intellectual history of Feminism in our time. It began creatively and dynamically. Then it began to be institutionalized, as everything is in Capitalism, for gain. As ideas become institutionaized they lose their elasticity and become moribund, as did feminist activism. Of course, no one blames themselves; everyone justifies. So when feminism became too hard to sustain and activists got tired out, they said it’s the backlash, we’d still be commited to social justice but for the big bad backlash. Academia is especially good, shallow ground for the grounding of high fliers. Moreover, the roosters still ruled the roost, although the hens were getting a few bucks and caps and gowns now for laying eggs. What was needed in Art as in Psychology, in the Sciences as in the workplace, was a feminist politics, a feminist value system, a feminist society, the inclusion of people of color, immigrants, and different sexual preferences. Gender and Sex itself had to be newly defined and deconstructed. The fishing holes had to be occupied

As you know, two blogs ago I began selecting new entries from my ten journals to include in my blogs, hoefully with lots of illustrations. What I'm most interested in the past couple of days is Sex & Gender (excerpts from my Sex Journal). There's a collection in the bookshop called Sex & Gender, a couple of dozen essays, neither terribly interesting or terribly boring--but provocative. That's what I've been riffing off these first three blogs (December 8-9-10). But now, I've got a treat for you, although it will take some tough love and tough mindfulness. bell hooks. A book came in today, by bell hooks, Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics (Boston: South End Press, 1990). I'm reading the chapter entitled, "Reflections on Race and Sex," pages 57--64.
     But, first, I have a story for you, first published in my "Bookshop Journal." Kind of about bell hooks. Really about Chelsea, but every time Chelsea came into the bookshop, she bought a book by bell hooks.
     One day she came in with her father. It was a Sunday and only a few hours before, ol' Chels had graduated from . . . Guilford College! (I've never met a Guilford College student, and I've met dozens and dozens, that didn't love Guilford.) Yep, the Graduation Ceremony had just taken place, and Chelsea was feelin' good! Her Dad is a rich doctor from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Costs a pretty penny to go to good old Guilford.
     They browsed through the books, there's some 5,000 in the store, hundreds of strong feminist Women and Gender Studies for Chelsea to pour through. Not so many 50-cent novels for the Dad. But he found something, came up to the cash register to pay, grabbed Chelsea's book out of her hands, and triumphantly handed them to me as if to say, "I'll -- take -- care -- of -- all -- this!"
Big smile, full wallet.
     That'll be 50 cents for your book, sir," I said, "and $35 for the bell hooks."
     "What!!!" The doctor began thumbing through the rather slender bell hook collection of essays, as if to discover why it was so expensive. He read the Table of Contents.
     "It's only a paperback!" he complained.
     "Yes, but published by Routledge in London. They're the most expensive Woman and Gender publisher in the world." 
     Dr. Man siddled up to his daughter. Remember, now, she had just graduated from college that morning. She was standing there like a statue, as if she wasn't even in the room. He whispered to her, so I wouldn't hear, "You''ll pay half?" Chelsea nodded her head, looking straight ahead.
     All smiles again! Doctor Dad back to the register. Here comes  the black wallet. Paid for everything. Last of the Big Spenders. And they left. As she walked out the door, Chelsea finally came to life. Looking sharply at me, she hissed, "It's bell hooks on sex, Al!" she said.
So here comes bell hooks.

She begins by saying that the bodies of Black women were the "playing fields" where racism and sexuality converged. "Rape as both rite and right." Rape, too, was what the White Man from America and Europe were doing to Africa and the "colonial" world.
     As for gender, providing a metaphor for colonization. Domination. Served to remind the oppressed who they were, and they couldn't do anything about it! "Fucked and fucked over by the dominating victorious male group."
     bell hooks says there is no adequate history of what the white man did to black women, no "psychosexual" history. Sexual voyeurism. Even if a white man got romantically involved with his black slave, he was simply declared insane. Couldn't upset the dominant paradigm of oppression. Instead of a true story, she explains, the white man invented a lie, that black men were after their pure white women, to violate those bodies. Revenge the motive.The sexual metaphors have been accepted, she feels, political domination equated with sexual domination. She reminds us of Eldridge Cleaver claiming that raping black women he did was merely practice for the eventual raping white women (Soul on Ice), "to redeem my conquered manhood."
     Sexual exploitation of black women was used by slave-owning whites to dominate and humiliate white women, phallocentric dominance within the family. Freedom = manhood for both black and white men. Men bond across class, race, and nationality, using rape. Does male commitment to maintaining patriarchy erase difference?
     Racism and sexism are interlocking systems of domination,
upholding, sustaining one another.

     bell hooks can't see any separation between racism and sexism. But she fears white women see spending time on racism as taking time from sexism. Yet they are interlocked! Yet this separation supports the belief that black males wish to use sexuality to assert
dominance and manhood. Not good.
     ""The stereotype that all black men are rapists is re-inscribed and reinforced." Yet statistically, men rape women of the same color as themselves. Black male lust--white woman sexuality . . . popular in music videos. The real issue is white supremacy as genocide. The media motive for perpetuating the lies is political of course. Black women are not listened to when theuy condemn black male sexism; instead, they are seen as "bashing" black males. Raciscm and sexism are interlocking forms of dominance. The whole society is racist/sexist. All women's bodies are devalued, but black bodies hold less value than white. She sees why young, black men are nihilistic and despairing. Not valuing their own lives, how can they value the lives of others? Black people, particularly black men, are just scapegoats.
     We must engage in anti-racist, anti-sexist work.  New identities have to be built. Malesness is not Black Liberation. There is a collective plight. There is no degree of difference in a black man harming a black woman or a black man harming a white woman.. It is the same harm, it is not racism.
     bell hooks is a critic of quick judgements on black authors by white women in the women and gender field. She feels there is a superficial judgement being enacted in the name of boycotting misogyny and sexism; she devlopes this theme in another essay,  "Feminism and Black Masculinity," but we will say s'long to bell hooks for today, and move on..