update from disneyworld
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 1998 04:28:54 -1000
From: daniel bouchard <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: [log in to unmask]
To: [log in to unmask], [log in to unmask]
Subject: no coke, pepsi
PLEASE read this whole article when you have a chance. I think it's a real
part of issues we've hashed over here in the recent past. It makes me think
of Jeff Derksen's poetry; the Silliman/Derksen dialogue. What kind of a
world is our poetry engaging with if it's engaging at all? Are we all just a
bunch of silly-billies because the though of busting our ass for 60K is
revolting, while busting it for a small book of poems that few people will
read is not?
Of course, this is connected to the boy who got suspended for wearing a
Pepsi shirt on Coke day, but is it also connected to the pre-teen boys who
gunned down their classmate and teacher over being "jilted?"
Did anyone hear the news this morning? Clinton made the usual friendly
remarks in South Africa, but then Nelson Mandela sizzled his ass on Cuba and
Libya and said "America should sit down with its enemies and talk" and not
starve them to death thru sanctions, etc. "America should set an example."
Clinton, I'm sure, "felt his pain."
But, below, I can't help thinking that poetry's role in the history's "stage
of farce" is, at best, very little. I don't mean to ask "what's the fucking
point?" I guess, to put a more pro-active spin on it, can we [or, can
"I"--maybe you're not interested] be going about it better?
Ugh, this is not articulated well. Help me out, people. [Douglas, if you
want to reply I will forward it to Subpo]
Manifesto destiny - a slick '90s look for Marx's book
By Fred Kaplan, Globe Staff, 03/27/98
NEW YORK - Somebody should go check out Karl Marx's grave in Highgate
Cemetery, North London, because the occupant may have been spinning in it
History's most potent critic of capitalism - the father of communism, the
bearded radical whose writings inspired a century of revolutions and
rebellions - now lies reduced to a chic boy toy of the bourgeoisie.
The emblems of ''commie kitsch'' have become commonplace. Two fashionable
Manhattan bars are called Pravda and KGB. On a huge mural in SoHo, the image
of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Marx's most successful disciple, adorns a vodka ad.
And coming this May Day is a new hardcover, 150th-anniversary edition of
Marx's most influential work, ''The Communist Manifesto,'' which its
publisher, Verso Inc., plans to market as an ''upscale'' product in fancy
furniture and clothing stores.
For a while, the creative director at Barney's, New York, was going to
feature the thin volume in a window display, with mannequins in bright red
lipstick and red dresses toting it rather than Prada purses. (Management has
nixed the notion.)
Borders bookstore at the World Trade Center, the epicenter of global
capitalism, will display the book prominently - perhaps even surround it
with red banners - figuring that its lunch-hour horde of bond-traders might
buy it as a gag gift for fellow exploiters of the proletariat.
Colin Robinson, head of Verso, one of the most respectable leftist
publishing houses, makes no bones about this marketeering drive. ''I've sent
a letter to the Royalton Hotel,'' he said. ''They have these bellhops who
look like Maoist guards from the Cultural Revolution. I'm suggesting it
might be nice to put `The Communist Manifesto' in the bedside tables instead
of Gideon's Bible.''
His reasoning is properly dialectical. ''There are these supremely
confident people running the media - running the world, really - who feel
that it's quite good fun to incorporate icons of the left into what they're
doing,'' he said.''But that's not all bad. It creates a double-edged
situation for those of us interested in winning over someone.''
With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent ascent of
American-style capitalism, Marxism has lost its power to frighten. It has
become so safe that its most sacred symbols can be appropriated as tokens of
high camp. Che Guevara's face decorates wristwatches like some hip, grown-up
Mickey Mouse. The commercialization of Marx and his followers, in general,
stands as Exhibit A in the case for capitalism's ultimate triumph.
''One thing Marx was right about was how capitalism converts everything into
a commodity,'' said Todd Gitlin, professor of sociology at New York
University. The commodification of Marx himself shows ''that if even the
baddest of bad boys can be converted to commercial use, then anything can.''
But for others, the believers, the situation opens up a possibility that
Marx -now stripped of his Cold War associations - might once again be read
as a trenchant social critic and a utopian visionary.
''There suddenly is space for leftist books that did not exist before,''
Robinson said. ''And I'm absolutely determined to exploit it.
''I feel there might be an audience for this book among a middle class that,
despite the fact that the stock market is rising week after week, has a
distinct sense of unease that this can't go on forever. It's no surprise
that `Titanic' is the biggest hit of 1998. It's the perfect metaphor for the
mood we're in -spending gobs of money on champagne and caviar but
terrifyingly aware of the icy waters and not enough lifeboats just ahead.''
Some leftists are less sure. Alexander Cockburn, a self-described
''Marxish'' columnist who has written books for Verso, said he finds the
high style of the Manifesto's new edition ''a bit depressing ... You don't
get the impression that people are going to read this, and then go out and
''The old copy you could tuck in your pocket. This one, it's not even a
coffee-table book, it's an espresso-table book, or maybe a latte-table book.''
''It is a funny thing,'' he added. ''When there seems to be absolutely no
danger of revolution, people are wild to read `The Communist Manifesto.'
Then again,'' he said, mentioning the French historian,''maybe we can take
Braudel's line that the tastes of the upper classes eventually trickle down.
Style will become substance. You can look at it dialectically, I suppose.''
The artist Alexander Melamid, a Russian emigre, has a different take on the
situation. The book's cover - a rippling red flag set against a bold black
backdrop - is a reprint of a massive 6-by-9 foot painting that he and Vitaly
Komar created back in the USSR in the mid-'80s.
Komar and Melamid, who now live in New York, were scandalously funny figures
in the Soviet Union's dissident underground-art movement. ''Red Flag'' was
part of what they called their ''Nostalgic Socialist Realism series''-
paintings that punctured the pomposity of Stalin and the whole Soviet regime
but also captured the childlike awe that its rituals and imagery evoked.
''This, we didn't expect,'' Melamid said, with the giggle that engulfs
nearly all his sentences, when asked how he felt seeing his art on the cover
of communism's bible. ''But that's what - oh, not Marx, but the one before
him, Hegel, said: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce.
We're in the farce stage of history now. It's the better part of history.''
The MIT Press Journals
Five Cambridge Center
Cambridge, MA 02142
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