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CLR Book Club – Week 14 April 4, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Okay, I’m tempted to suggest we start again with this. Starkadder and myself enjoyed It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis but it never took much fire. So I’m wondering. Is there a work others would like to read?


1. Aengus Millen - April 4, 2017

I always meant to read it but I was always in the middle of something else. However I’m free now and could commit to reading something new. In terms of recommendations with a lefty bent I can’t think of much. I’ve always wanted to read The Grapes of Wrath. A few others I can think of are Ursula Le Guin’s the dispossessed, Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. In terms of nonfiction I’ve meant to read Homage to Catalonia and Nixonland.


Starkadder - April 5, 2017

“South Riding” by Winifred Holtby? It’s common in bookshops and libraries, it’s by a left-wing writer, and the BBC series of a few years ago seems to have re-awakened interest in Holtby.


CL - April 5, 2017

A.J. Liebling ‘The Earl of Louisiana’.
Involuntarily hospitalized in a mental asylum after cursing out the legislature and legally limited to two successive terms, Earl Long’s 1959 bid for a third term as Governor of Louisiana is in some trouble. A fascinating account. .


oconnorlysaght - April 5, 2017

Harnett T.Kane’s ‘Louisiana Hayride’ is good for the factual background to Lewis’ fiction.
However, it might be too repetitive too soon after that.


WorldbyStorm - April 5, 2017

They’re all great ideas.


2. GW - April 4, 2017

Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN 0195044797

Plenty to learn and argue about there.


3. yourcousin - April 4, 2017

This book is engaging folks better than the last one so I think we’re doing good. What I might suggest is that this thread also welcome general commentary on things we are reading besides ICHH.


WorldbyStorm - April 5, 2017

Yes, good idea, and I think we could do that on a weekly basis too. So Book Club and What Are We Reading combined.


4. alanmyler - April 6, 2017

I’ll kick off the What Are We Reading part so.

At the weekend I finished up “We Want Everything” by Nanni Balestrini. It’s very good. The style is very direct, half page paragraphs, self contained, raging against the machine that was proletarian life and work in industrial Italy around the time of the Hot Autumn in 1969. It’s written from the perspective of a southern Italian who was forced to migrate to Turin to work at FIAT. It’s ultra Left, very critical of the PCI. It does raise questions about work as such that I’ve tended to ignore in the past. I mean the narrator is totally and completely anti work. But most of us here do work. Maybe not at things we’d like to work at, given financial independence or luxury communism, but we work. Whereas this guy, he wants to lie on a beach. I mean so do I, but not all the time. No doubt if I worked on a FIAT assembly line in the 60s or in an Amazon warehouse or a Foxconn factory I’d feel the same way he did.

Also reading “Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and the Hidden Rivalries that Ignited the Space Age” by Matthew Brzezinski, which is a history of the early rocket programs in the US and USSR which were both born out of the WWII German rocket programs. A few years ago I read histories of the atomic and hydrogen bomb programs by an author that I can’t remember now, similarly interesting. Interesting as much from an engineering perspective as from the history and politics.

In the background I was also reading Ernst Mandel’s “Marxist Economic Theory – Vol I” which I found very well written and easy to read. But the two books above have diverted me from that for the past few weeks.

Actually it was the launch of Helena Sheehan’s “Syriza Wave” a few weeks ago that diverted me. That’s a really good one about the disappointment of Syriza, written mostly as a personal tale of interaction with both Greece at large and also characters from across the Greek Left that Helena had been involved with during the couple of years when Greece was a big question. After finishing her book I went back to “Syriza: Inside the Labyrinth” by Kevin Ovenden, about which I’ve now forgotten much of what it said! Those two books should probably be read in reverse order to how I read them, just to get the full effect of the build up of hope and then the complete collapse.

I’m not sure what’s up next. With the French presidential election coming up it might be a biography of DeGaulle. Or there’s always another book about Italian Communism on the pile. Or “Germinal” by Emile Zola which someone suggested to me. Or something else.


GW - April 6, 2017

Funny you should mention the Syriza Wave – just noticed in Monthly Review that Sheehan has a new book out. I must get it because I’ve always liked her writing about the subject. That would be well worth a collective read.

And I’m now at the stage where I feel less emotionally invested and can look at the whole thing more objectively.

If I remember rightly Monthly Review ebooks aren’t crippled by DRM.

Prof. Sheehan’s book can be bought here.


5. sonofstan - April 6, 2017

This week’s reading matter then:
I Dreamed I was a very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell – meant to read it when it came out but didn’t get round to it; found a copy in our library here when looking for something else, and read it in a evening. Head and shoulders above the normal run of punk-rock autobiography/ memoir, which is becoming a genre in its own right and interestingly probably better documented and better written about than other rock eras. Anyway, Hell’s book is, for the most part, very well-written, astute and, while he acknowledges how self-centred he was as a young man, avoids it here, and provides excellent portraits of other actors on the scene.

Otherwise: Lydia Goehr’s the Imaginary Museum of Musical Works which posits the historical contingency rather than ontological necessity of what she calls ‘the work-object’ the idea that music, to be worthy, must come packaged as a score/ a recording/ an object that can be copyrighted.
Just finished Left Wing Melancholia by Enzo Traverso – you might be interested, LATC? – good in parts, sometimes very good, but betraying its origns in lots of disparate occasional pieces.

Next up: The new Spirit of Capitalism by Chiapello and Boltanski

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