Monthly Archives: June 2011

More from the Front.

The usual pleasant uproar at Exterminating Angel Press the last couple of months. The “Stop the Genocide Against Fairy Tales” tour, complete with activist teddy bears (why is it I’ve gotten so much less cynical the older I am? does it have anything to do with being less easy to embarrass? I suspect so, I very much suspect so…). Most recent stop was Gallery Bookshop, in the fairy tale headland of Mendocino. Ever been there? One of the most spectacular of settings, with the deep green and blue ocean all around, and the seaside gardens just bursting with spring flowers (how do they do that?). And the bookstore another one of those places that is really a center for ideas, not just (the way Borders seemed to think of bookselling) as a shop. You know? Books are different from paper clips, software, light bulbs, tortilla chips. Books aren’t just a commodity. Books are living things, and the ideas in them are what make them live, and the people that pass those ideas around, and add to them, aren’t just salespeople and customers, they’re colleagues in engagement. Definitely true about all the bookstores that hosted me and the bears (Bluestockings Books in NYC! Orca Books in Olympia! Books Inc in San Francisco! and always, always, Powell’s Books in Portland…among others). And Gallery Bookshop doesn’t just share out ideas, it shares out wine and cheese on author events nights. A highly civilized kind of hospitality, if you ask me. And a really informed crowd. The Dear Husband said it was fascinating to hear how much the Mendocino crowd really knew about fairy tales–they weren’t just messing around.

Meanwhile, back at the EAP ranch, getting THIS IS US: The New All-American Family, by David Marin, ready for the printer, and for its September release. I hadn’t really thought about how different a book for EAP THIS IS US looks to the casual eye, until Gerry Donaghy, at Powell’s, told me he never would have picked it up, let alone fallen in love with it,  if I hadn’t sent him an early copy. “It just looks like it’s going to be another one of those exercises in narcissism.” Which, come to think of it, is exactly what I thought when I first got the book over the virtual transom. Another white guy who thinks he’s saving the world. I hate those books, myself. (Without naming any names–why kick people when they’re down?–the most recent unfortunate example of this has particularly hurt his own cause…and I bet you know who I mean.) But Gerry felt the same way I felt, and the way I reckon most people will if they just give the first chapter a chance: this isn’t a story about a white guy saving the world; it’s the story of how a father loves his kids as much as a mother does. Which is what makes it an EAP book. Because it’s absolutely true that fathers can and do love their kids that way, and get just as much out of them as moms, but somehow men get encouraged to ignore that, and concentrate on, well, other things. There’s nothing wrong with other things, of course, but when you think how much joy there is in a happy family situation, and you think if the entire polity was made up of happy, healthy families then inevitably…inevitably, we wouldn’t be able to make as many destructive decisions as we do, alas, collectively make.  At least, that’s the way we hope it works. Because to make our own families happy and healthy is within our power; we don’t have to feel like there’s nothing to be done as the cultural train hurtles toward what looks like a great, big, solid, stone wall.

And as if that wasn’t enough, to add to the pleasantness AND the uproar,  we’re working away on next year’s books, the ones for 2012. I really have got to find a way to get across to people how important I think Brian Griffith‘s work is–he works patiently and thoroughly at proving there’s another way to look at history than the recent careerist/imperial cheerleader stuff (not naming names, of course…oh, the hell with it. Niall Ferguson). Who controls history? The powerful, in every case. The guys who dispense patronage and control the media channels. So it’s not a surprise that the powerful’s version of history doesn’t allow anything into the story except more of the same.  Brian says, looking at the history of China, you can see that the stories of its goddesses, a living line of tradition, kept alive in places ignored, and even scorned, those stories, he says, are the most profound and longest lived counter culture the world has ever known. THE FALL AND RISE OF CHINESE GODDESSES, which comes out in Spring 2012, traces that counter culture and shows how it’s kept the dream of equity and mutual aid, and a chance to cultivate a cultural Garden of Eden right here and now, alive for literally thousands of years. And how it’s keeping that dream alive now.

Later next year, autumn 2012, and we’ve got the poet David Budbill’s PARK SONGS or Little Acts of Kindness (thanks, Melissa! you know why!), and probably the title tells you why it’s an EAP book, even without my saying it’s a series of dialogues and monologues of the people who inhabit a depressed city’s park by day…and what they make of themselves and each other, which is anything but depressing. I  pulled out one of my favorite bits and put it up on this EAP issue, because I must admit, there are a lot of times where I find myself in complete, utter, total agreement with Mr C…

Also, for that same season, I have this funny feeling I should go have a look at the mountain lakes of Colorado. Maybe it’s reading all the Arthurian legends, like I’ve been doing in my (hah!) spare time, but there’s been a kind of dream like buzz in my head every night starring the Lady of the Lake, and I want to see if an arm will come out of some deep water holding, instead of a sword, something else, something more, I don’t know, alive…

The next few months are going to be fraught with interest. I’m looking forward to it all.

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