Weekend Bookchat

February 21, 2009


“The more I see of America they less I think it is a land of laughs,” said Louis Adamic (above), one of the great forgotten American authors of the mid-20th century. In a way, Adamic was to Los Angeles what Studs Terkel was to Chicago — he watched its transformation under the hands of hucketers, oil men and land barons.  AK Press has just reissued his 1931 classic Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America, an epic which examined why so mmuch blood was spilled in the struggle to organize American workers. Adamic’s politics got him in trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee, and he died under what can only be called mysterious circumstances: he was found in his head in his burning New Jersey farmhouse, a bullet in his head that may or may not have been self-inflicted. Adamic’s other books are overdue for revival, but Dynamite is a terrific place to start. Here’s a fine writeup in the Los Angeles Times, and Wikipedia has a pretty decent entry.  

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Frederik Pohl is renowned as a master of science fiction, but recently he found himself living in a horror story when he discovered that he would be spending weeks on a South Seas cruise with nothing but FoxNoise for information.

Pohl, an intrepid man, found a way to rise above such adversity:

Along about the tenth day, I finally figured out that, if I tuned to that channel but turned the sound down to zero, I would never have to hear the crazy-making utterances of Hannity, O’Reilly, et al anymore but could get a rough idea of what was going on in the world from the news crawl at the bottom of the screen, which, relatively speaking, was only mildly toxic.

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It is usually the case with Washington scandals is that the real outrage is not the transgression, but the behavior that is considered normal. This is the subject of Robert G. Kaiser’s So Damn Much Money: The Triumph of Lobbying and the Corrosion of American Government, which focuses not so much on the spectacular excesses of the likes of Jack Abramoff  as the steady erosion of democracy by the need to find money for hugely expensive political campaigns and the eagerness of lobbyists to provide that money. Kaiser follows the rise and fall of Gerald Cassiday, who started out as a lawyer for migrant workers and an aide to George McGovern, then ended up as a high-rent shill who pioneered the use of earmarks. Here’s a podcast interview with Kaiser on The Bat Segundo Show, an NPR radio feature and a Book TV feature from C-SPAN 2.

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From the commanding heights to the bottom of the barrel — watch Milton Friedman’s legacy collapse. Calling all theorists — it’s time to read Cylons in America: Critical Studies in Battlestar Galatica. Or maybe not.

2 Responses to “Weekend Bookchat”

  1. Batocchio Says:

    Pohl can probably can get a good sci-fi story or two out of it. And thanks, I’ll have to check out that Adamic book.

  2. It’s about time for a Louis Adamic revival. Incredible how he dropped into obscurity. Even in my own family. I was only told relatively recently (and rather off-handedly) by my Slovenian American mother that he was her mother’s cousin.

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