The date of this year's Lit Crawl was announced on Facebook this week. It will happen the evening of Thursday, October 19th and it will feature more than 35 events spread over more than 15 venues. If you already have plans for the evening of the 19th, you should cancel them. You can expect to be busy from 5 pm until bedtime.
Some smartass on Twitter pointed out that the Trump presidency is the first one where the American people, and not the president, will age twenty years over a single term of office. Time is flowing in an incredibly weird way these days. Days sometimes feel like minutes, but weeks feel like months. And months feel like decades.
So I want you to cast your memory waaaaaaaaaayyyyyy back to the distant past of February 2017. I know it’s hard to recall anything that happened in July, let alone the first week of February, but it’s important. Here, to jog your memory, is a visual cue — the cover of the issue of Time magazine that hit the stands on Groundhog Day of this year:
Specifically, do you remember how scared everyone was of Steve Bannon? For most Americans, Bannon had risen from obscurity to the national spotlight overnight. Mainstream Americans don’t follow the hyperconservative media outlet Breitbart News, which Bannon led. They don’t watch his awful documentaries. They had no familiarity with the man.
So when President Trump assigned Bannon to a high-profile advisory position, people got curious. And the more they read about Bannon, the more terrifying he became. Specifically, this passage from an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, of all media organizations, terrified liberals on Twitter:
"Darkness is good," says Bannon, who amid the suits surrounding him at Trump Tower, looks like a graduate student in his T-shirt, open button-down and tatty blue blazer — albeit a 62-year-old graduate student. "Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they" — I believe by "they" he means liberals and the media, already promoting calls for his ouster — "get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."
None of us had ever seen an American political figure publicly identify with Darth Vader and Satan before. We assumed that Bannon was so brazen because he had a plan. This assumption eventually codified as a cliché: Bannon, everyone on the left believed, was playing fifth dimensional chess. Bannon was out-thinking us on every level, and he had a devious plan that was executing perfectly. He was the Puppet Master. The Man with The Plan. The Power Behind the Throne. He scared the ever-loving shit out of us.
Today, of course, Bannon is a little less intimidating. The news that he’s been fired is the nadir of a long descent into irrelevance for Bannon as a political figure. The anti-refugee policies that Bannon encouraged turned out to be so poorly crafted that they caused a national act of revulsion that was almost unprecedented in its strength as Americans spontaneously flooded airports en masse. After the Time cover from above hit the stands, rumors circulated that Trump was offended by Bannon’s prominence, and so he started ignoring his advisor out of spite.
And in fact, Trump is reportedly offended by the fact that Bannon gets top billing in the subtitle of Bloomberg Businessweek journalist Joshua Green’s excellent and insightful book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. Trump would probably be even less happy if he (uncharacteristically) bothered to open the book and skim its contents.
The Bannon that Green portrays in Devil’s Bargain is not a master of fifth-dimensional chess. He’s more like someone who brags frequently about his skills at checkers but never actually agrees to play a game with witnesses around. He’s an oafish man, the kind of boor who uses phrases like “Dude, it’s going to be epic” in casual conversation. The fact that Bannon keeps a portrait of himself “dressed as Napoleon in his study at the Tuileries, done in the style of Jacques-Louis David’s famous Neoclassical painting” in his office says more about the man’s ego than it does about his brain power.
Bannon likes to talk about philosophers and the canonical classics that used to make up your standard whitebread Ivy League education in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but in practice he seems to be another self-promoting mediocre white man who repeatedly fails upward. Against his better judgment, for instance, Bannon got involved in a deal with a Hollywood production company. One of the ancillary properties in this deal was a little show called Seinfeld. Green explains:
At the time, the show hadn’t cracked the Nielsen Top Thirty. A year later, it became a hit. “We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” said Bannon. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
Bannon also tried to get involved in the world of virtual World of Warcraft gold mining — an exploitative process through which young and impoverished gamers in poor nations around the world are paid pennies to collect treasure in the game, which Bannon and his compatriots would then sell to wealthy American gamers who possessed neither the time nor the inclination to earn the gold themselves. But Warcraft clamped down on the inhumane practice, and so the bottom fell out before Bannon’s campaign could even get started.
Bannon kept failing upwards, learning how to capitalize on his failures and his dumb luck. He eventually turned his eye to politics, and yet again his timing was perfect: the Republican party was also getting dumber and more unhinged. Green seems to greatly enjoy telling the story of Arthur Robinson, a Republican candidate who, according to Green...
...was consumed with extending the human life span and believed that the secret to staving off death and disease could be found in human urine. To that end, Robinson collected thousands upon thousands of urine samples, which he froze in vials and stored in massive refrigerators that stood among his wandering sheep. Robinson published a newsletter to share his findings and to periodically put out calls for more urine (“We need samples of your urine” read a typical house ad).
In many ways, Trump was the perfect vessel for Bannon: both men are failures in a system which rewards well-connected mediocrity with more money and infinite opportunities to restart their careers. Both men are parasitically bonded to the fringiest aspects of a political party that has trapped itself on the fringes. And both men are gifted at creating chaos and then profiting from it.
But Bannon does not have a wide array of strategies available to him. He’s not a fantastic and novel thinker. As a political leader, he basically stuck to one strategy and one strategy only. You can see it in Devil’s Bargain when he admits his campaign plan in the fight against Hillary Clinton: “My goal is that by November eight, when you hear her name, you’re gonna throw up.”
That’s it. As far as Green portrays it, that’s the “genius” of Steve Bannon. He’s great at making everyone hate the world, at inspiring feelings of hopelessness and despair. His gift is convincing other people to see the world exactly as he sees it: a doomed hellhole where evil is rewarded and aspirations are to be mocked. Everything that Bannon touches turns small and petty and mean, and it is a great relief that as of today he no longer has his hands on the levers of power.
But cockroaches like Bannon will never completely disappear. As long as he stays in power at Breitbart, Bannon will hold sway over a vocal and frightening constituency of armed white supremacists and other angry conservative factions. (And today’s news makes the continuing pressure on Amazon to stop advertising on Breitbart even more vital. Amazon is one of a handful of sponsors who still pay Breitbart for advertisements, and without their support the site would be starved for funds.)
Donald Trump should be alarmed by this thought: Bannon doesn’t have to be loyal to Trump anymore. And the truth is that Trump’s supporters are probably more loyal to Bannon than they are to Trump: Bannon, after all, doesn’t have to stand for anything. Whether he wants to or not, Trump represents the United States of America. Bannon represents only hate and chaos and fear. To a certain percent of the population, Bannon’s brand of nihilism is far more compelling than anything any institution can offer. The armies of hateful civilians that he commands would be willing to turn on Trump in an instant, if Bannon ordered it.
The thing about hate is that it always eats itself.
Do you need a book recommendation to send your worst cousin on her birthday? Is it okay to read erotica on public transit? Cienna Madrid can help. Send your Help Desk Questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m soooo tired of summer reading lists. What’s so special about summer? Can’t we all read in the winter too? In fact, isn’t winter better for reading, what with the incessant rain and all?
And what’s up with all the sweetness-and-light? When I’m sitting by the lake, what I really want is something meaty — something to distract me from giant ball of radioactive gas beating down and the razor-sharp grains of sand worked into the nap of my beach towel.
You’re the only one I trust. What should I put on my summer reading list that reflects the inevitable heat-driven doom that we’re pushing our planet toward?
Warmly (too warmly) yours,
My apologies for getting to your letter so late in the season – I volunteer with the Break a Wish Foundation and summer is our busiest time of the year. As you might have guessed from this column, I am devoted to helping the less fortunate – the clueless, the tasteless, the terminally ill – which includes telling little Bruno that no, Michael Jackson will not be the special guest at your final birthday party, but here, take this single Bedazzled rubber glove and a polaroid of a flawlessly circumcised penis instead.
You are correct — winter is the best time for reading, and many summer reading lists are as fatally flawed as marriage vows and little Bruno’s right atrium. Light fiction should be saved for January, when our will to wash ourselves is weakest and we spend hours idly contemplating where to dump our parents off to die with dignity once they are too old to amuse us.
Conversely, what people need during summer is not fluff; they need something to balance out the relentless optimism of the sun. Here are a few sometimes bleak, weird and gripping books I suggest for you: The Answers, by Catherine Lacey, 100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin, and The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Friday August 18th: The Pox Lover ReadingEveryone’s favorite interlocutor, Seattle’s own Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, interviews journalist Anne-Christine d’Adesky about her memoir of lesbian activism and global refugees. Sarah Schulman says the book is “Reminiscent of the luscious lesbian literature of the Parisian past but propelled into the era of AIDS, ACT UP, and the Lesbian Avengers.”
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
- Sherman Alexie's newest poem, "Hymn," was published yesterday at Early Bird Books. It addresses President Trump directly:
Hey, Caveman, when are you going to evolve?
Are you still baffled by the way the earth revolves
Around the sun and not the other way around?
Are you terrified by the ever-shifting ground?
- Corinne Manning has a new story over at Joyland this week, and it's weird and beautiful and full of greatness:
How does a wallaby play into this? Maybe you think I’d be excited to see a wallaby on a farm, because what could be normal about that? That’s not how I felt — but all of this will make more sense later.
Most modern superhero comics feel like action figure catalogs. Every story involves a new costume, or an alternate-reality version of a character, or a new character taking over the title temporarily. It just feels like the creators are stewards of an IP, adding value to the original concept by spinning a variant into existence that will one day be molded into plastic and sold.
The first issue of artist Greg Capullo and writer Scott Snyder's DC crossover comic Dark Nights: Metal is basically everything modern audiences want in superhero comics: wall-to-wall action, decorated with a bunch of Easter eggs that call back to decades of convoluted continuity. It opens with the Justice League in outer space, being forced into gladiatoral combat, and it expands into a secret society revealing the imminent invasion of a grave threat that might destroy the universe or whatever.
Snyder and Capullo create at least two sets of likely profitable action figures in the first ten pages of this book: Gladiator Justice League and Voltron Justice League. Later, we see silhouettes indicating yet another variant: Evil Alternate Universe Batman Justice League. Plus, Batman rides a dinosaur and he almost says the word "ass," both of which are sure to wind up in some listicle on some zombie comics news site as one of the Top 15 Most Awesome Moments In Comics This Year. (You can practically read the breathless copy now: "Four words: Batman. Riding. A. Dinosaur. 'Nuff said.")
There's an obvious high level of competency in the actual craft of the comic. Snyder is very good at getting information across in a very small space, and Capullo is better than most superhero comics artists at designing a page. They seem to work well together, and the book is technically very proficient.
But the last page involves a character who simply shouldn't be there. I won't spoil the big surprise, but let's just say it's akin to the revelation that DC Comics is incorporating Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen comics into mainstream DC continuity. It feels like another pointless violation of another barrier, and it cheapens a much-loved comics property by turning it into a plot point. But hey — at least it'll make a really cool action figure line one day.
Seattle poet (and the current poet in residence here at the Seattle Review of Books) Daemond Arrindell is the curator for the 2018 Jack Straw Writers program. That means Arrindell will choose the writers who take part in the program, and he'll take a leadership role as the writers learn how to share their work as spoken word and in recordings. Jack Straw is taking applications for the program through November 1st. You can apply right here.
Electric Literature reports on what one indie bookstore did when some fascists came in and tried to use their store as a marketing campaign for an alt-right douchebag's book.
Headline of the week: "I Bought a Book About the Internet From 1994 and None of the Links Worked." We think of the internet as lasting forever, but the truth is that this is a very fluid medium.
A Texas assistant principal was forced out of his job after self-publishing a children's book. It sounds truly awful — and by "it," I mean the book, not the fact that the guy lost his job:
The book features allusions that may go over some children’s heads. The setting is a farm called Wishington. The antagonist is a bearded alligator named “Alkah.” Astute readers will recognize Covfefe cliff. But perhaps the most inflammatory aspect is the smiling cartoon frog, which NBC News has called a “popular white nationalist symbol.” “Pede,” the name of the cartoon centipede that also graces the book’s cover, is also a term members of a Donald Trump-themed Reddit board use to refer to each other.
Spoiler alerts ahead, but Pepe and his centipede sidekick Pede start the book ecstatic that the old farmer has left after eight years of oppression. But Alkah and his minions have entrenched themselves in a pond that very much resembles a swamp — and are threatening to spread throughout all of Wishington Farm. Pepe and Pede have one weapon to vanguish the gator: buds from the honesty tree.
Wednesday August 16th: Why Poetry ReadingMatthew Zapruder isn’t a Seattle poet, but he edits for Seattle-based Wave Books and he publishes with Port Townsend-based Copper Canyon Press. His newest book is a self-described “impassioned call for a return to reading poetry” titled Why Poetry. While generally demands that people should read poetry are like telling kids to eat broccoli, Zapruder is a brainy and passionate advocate. Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St., 622-6400, http://hotelsorrento.com. Free. 21 and over. 7 p.m.
Thursday August 17th: Darkansas ReadingSeattle writer Jarret Middleton’s first novel, An Dantomine Eerly, was a surrealistic book about the death of a poet. His second, Darkansas, is about a country singer who comes home to the Ozarks to attend his twin brother’s wedding. Meanwhile, his father’s ghost lingers over the proceedings and things get really creepy. Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Friday August 18th: The Pox Lover ReadingEveryone’s favorite interlocutor, Seattle’s own Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, interviews journalist Anne-Christine d’Adesky about her memoir of lesbian activism and global refugees. Sarah Schulman says the book is “Reminiscent of the luscious lesbian literature of the Parisian past but propelled into the era of AIDS, ACT UP, and the Lesbian Avengers.” Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com . Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 19th: Fun Home Book ClubNow that all the drama nerds are excited about Fun Home because of the musical that just came to town, it’s important to recall that Alison Bechdel’s first memoir is a complex and beautiful work of literature on its own. Come talk about one of the best comics of the last 20 years with a group of comics fans. Outsider Comics and Geek Boutique, 223 N. 36th St., 535-8886, http://outsidercomics.com/. Free. All ages. 5 p.m.
Sunday August 20th: Cephalopod Appreciation SocietySee our Event of the Week column for more details. Waterfront Space, 1400 Western Ave., https://www.facebook.com/
Monday August 21st: Booze and Lasers: All the Birds in the SkyWe tend to have fewer readings at this time of year, which means it’s time for you to visit some book clubs! This new boozy book discussion group is devoted to appreciating recent sci-fi gems by women and authors of color. Their most recent selection is Charlie Jane Anders’s sci-fi-and-fantasy mashup, All the Birds in the Sky. Third Place Books Seward Park, 5041 Wilson Ave S, 474-2200, http://thirdplacebooks.com. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Tuesday August 22nd: Found: A Life in Mountain Rescue ReadingBree Loewen is the leader of Seattle Mountain Rescue, a volunteer organization that saves the lives of people who get lost in the wilderness. Her memoir about those rescues — successful and not, famous and obscure — builds into a portrait of the region’s outdoor community. Read it while you’re still able to get out to the mountains for a few more weeks. King County Library, Redmond Branch, 15990 NE 85th St,, 425-885-1861, http://kcls.org. Free. All ages. 7 p.m.
Sierra Nelson loves cephalopods. Squids, octopuses, cuttlefish — you name it, if it’s a bilateral mollusk with a big-ass head, Nelson is positively gaga over it. Nelson is a Seattle-area poet, and you can understand how a poet might fall in love with betentacled sea creatures: they’re romantic figures, skulking in the ocean — a part of the great marine biosphere, but also remote from the whales and fish. Those articulate limbs and big brains set them apart from the rest, leaving them to skulk and mope fabulously. And they even produce their own ink! How could a poet not land on Team Cephalopod?
But Nelson is more science-minded than your average poet. She’s a co-founder of the Vis-á-Vis Society, which applies scientific rigor to crowd-sourced poems, often employing large crowds at parties to write, Mad Lib-style, a series of poems about love and longing. No other poets in town have likely dissected a poem into pie charts on a whiteboard while wearing a lab coat.
On her own, Nelson loves to tease out the poetry in science, finding resonance in the long and mysterious Latin words and phrases that we’ve used to name the world. One of my favorites of her poems is “The First Photograph,” which explains the process that created a blurry heliograph by the father of photography, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce:
Through the pinprick it all came to us,
how close we were, upside down,
several hours on the windowsill.
We were surfaces arranged to receive.
The poem concludes: “Yet I capture you. Close to the sun./I coated my longing in bitumen.” Much has been written about the way photographs capture a moment in time, but rarely is that desperate need so beautifully overt.
So yes, there’s whimsy in Nelson’s celebration of all things squid and squid-like. But there’s also serious investigation and a questing mind, fusing together science and art and seeing what happens. She’s been throwing Cephalopod Appreciation Societies every year since 2015.
The Cephalopod Appreciation Society is a multidisciplinary arts celebration with music, film, visual art, poetry, and speeches. Past participants have included musician Lori Goldson, biologist Stephanie Crofts, marine cinematographer Laura James, and novelist Kevin Emerson, and presentations have included stickers, classes on incorporating marine biology into creative writing, octopus-themed animation, and sea shanty singalongs.
This year’s Society is in a different setting: whereas past assemblies happened at the creative hub of the Hugo House, this year’s edition meets on Sunday, August 20 at the Waterfront Space, a gallery on Western Ave. Nelson encourages participants of all ages to come dressed as their favorite cephalopod, and she promises there will be a “mini-parade” to the waterfront, presumably where she will call on a giant squid to rise from the deep and cast a judgment on Seattle. Will we be destroyed by the mammoth monster from the briny depths? Or will our suction-cupped friend recognize the like-minded intelligence in our eyes and guide us to a happier future? Only our molluscular overlords know for sure.
It’s release day for Vampirella #5, the conclusion to my initial arc, where everything gets revealed and a lot of whys and hows about the dystopian future setting get sorted out. You can find it in your comic stores today, or digitally on ComiXology US and UK.
After this, new artist Andy Belanger and I will be delivering a two-parter, entitled ‘Gothic’, and solving a final couple of puzzles, before new writer Jeremy Whitley joins up with Andy from the last five pages of #7 onwards. They’ll be continuing in the same world. It’s been a great handover. I couldn’t wish for the title to be in better hands.
Right now, I’m writing 2000-3000 words of new novel a day. It’s felt good, with the world getting so hideous, to exercise my core skills on a regular basis once more.
One piece of other news: here’s the brilliant Adrian Tchaikovsky saying some very kind things about Chalk and several other books.
I must depart back to the word count. See you soon!
When I called my Dad to tell him I had less than $100 in my bank account, he was understandably frustrated. Here he was subsidizing his son’s second internship in Washington DC — an unpaid one at that. He never had to intern in the 1980s. He spent his summers working in the back of kitchens, graduated from college and then got a middle-class job. He most likely anticipated that I would follow a similar order. Rinse and repeat.
He told me to get a second job, but I was already working 9 to 5 and anyway, I told him, no one hires somebody who is in town for a month. Sensing a tinge of disappointment and a considerable amount of annoyance over the phone, I added, believe me, Dad, these internships are required to get ahead in today’s world. Ultimately, he trusted my instincts and, because he wanted his son to succeed, deposited $1,000 into my account.
In other words, I have privilege coming out of my eyeballs.
Actions like my father’s are a clear example of what Richard Reeves calls “opportunity hoarding” in his newest book, Dream Hoarders. Opportunity hoarding is defined as actions taken by upper middle class parents that aim to attain “valuable, finite opportunities” for their children “by unfair means”: unpaid internships, legacy preferences at universities, exclusionary zoning laws and schooling, and more. The author argues that these hoarding actions perpetuate income inequality that acts as a “wealth trap” — where Americans with wealthy parents never truly have to worry about falling down the economic ladder. In other words, we have our butts covered.
We Americans might like to think we live in an economy where hard work dictates success, but, Dream Hoarders emphatically replies, we’re deluding ourselves. We are living in a “hereditary meritocracy,” in a society where the lower rungs see an insurmountable climb to the top of the economic ladder.
What’s novel about the book’s thesis is that unlike Thomas Piketty or Occupy Wall Street, Reeves does not spend his time critiquing “a small number of people, mostly business executives, who make huge amounts of money.” According to Reeves, our unequal era should forget this political trope and analyze the data — and the data’s clear: the “Great Divide” in opportunity and wealth lies between the top quintile of America and the rest of the nation. Even when you exclude the top 1 percent, the subsequent 19 percent still hold more than half of the nation’s wealth. It is then the top 20 percent of Americans (households making $112,000 or more), not just the top 1 percent, who are “pulling away from the rest of society.”
By scapegoating the top 1 percent, the upper middle class has been able to “convince ourselves we are in the same boat as the rest of America.” Dream Hoarders implores its wealthy readers to acknowledge their advantages, reflect, and see that they are, in fact, the beneficiaries of the current system. And if the upper echelons of society really are “serious about narrowing the gap between ‘the rich’ and everybody else,” then they need to accept a “broader conception of what it means to be rich.”
Here’s the problem: even if those in the top 20 percent recognize that their “opportunity hoarding” distorts the marketplace, parents will always want their kids to do well. And why shouldn’t they? Doing the best for your children is a basic human instinct that cannot and should not be legislated away. Reeves agrees. It’s neither practical nor right for the government to interfere and prevent upper middle class parents from doing all they can for their kids. Reeves even admits that “much of what the upper middle class does [for their children] ought to be emulated” by the bottom 80%, but also remains sensitive to the reality that lower-income individuals aren’t often given the means to “emulate.”
So upper middle class parents should keep doing the best for their children. Get tutors for English and purchase the best SAT online courses, of course, Reeves says. Be aware, though, that these actions, like my internship experience, distort competition. They are blatantly uncompetitive and unfair and act as incredibly effective ways of perpetuating family status and wealth.
Reeves’ solution to the unfair and non-meritocratic society is not anti-market at all, which will disappoint those readers hoping for a more radical response to capitalism. He instead believes we should ameliorate our inequality problem by equalizing “opportunities for developing merit.” Some of the policies he advocates are convincing, like improving access to birth control (which can allow young women to stay in school), but others are frustratingly parochial, like addressing legacy preferences at university. Is alleviating this unfair practice really one of the few best ways to equalize America? Clearly not. Yet Reeves obsesses over rich kids getting spots in Ivy League schools, instead of addressing far bigger contributors to inequality, like unequal access to health care — a focus that seems oddly subjective. Honest solutions demand objectivity.
Brilliantly, once Reeves gets the reader to admit that yes, we have a terribly big gap between the top 20 percent and the rest, he reminds us of a stubborn fact you might not have considered: If you really want a fairer society where rags-to-riches stories aren’t just Hollywood tropes, then that necessitates a riches-to-rags tale for some. What comes up must come down. That’s tough to stomach for a lot of wealthy parents, especially when there is such a large drop off between the haves and the have-nots.
So as inequality widens, there is more and more reason for those who benefit from the system to perpetuate it. Like quicksand, we have sunk into an ever-more-stratified society, where “the incentives of the upper middle class to keep themselves, and their children, up at the top have strengthened.” This analysis by Reeves is a wonderful piece of social imagination and unveils a strikingly obvious, yet ugly, reality.
Another telling insight from this book came from Reeves’ perspective on the rather lean nature of the American welfare system. He speculates that as inequality has worsened since the 1970s, the upper classes haven’t needed to worry as much about the welfare state. They believe their children will never need these government services, so they have little to no incentive to give their tax money away (yes, Americans really are that self-interested). From this view, inequality nourishes inequality.
While not the only explanation for the poverty of our welfare system, this way of looking at government services should challenge upper middle class Americans. Are you likely to support a policy if you know you or your loved ones will not be the ones benefitting? If yes, are you willing to give your money away to make that policy a reality?
Harkening back to my DC internship, if I could have applied for food stamps or some sort of “unpaid internship grant” — I would have. While some would envision this as a waste of government spending, consider that if I went to the government instead of my Dad for financial aid, at least the former option would also be available to someone else. Such a “welfare” system would even the playing field, so that unpaid internships could be contested based on skills and genuine competition, not race or economic background. If the American government really desires economic mobility and free market competition, then it should be pouring time and resources into policies that nullify opportunity hoarding.
The questions Dream Hoarders provokes are its greatest strength. This book will will provide for one hell of a dinner-table conversation. The core argument is an insightful piece of political analysis laced with discomfort. As a result, upper middle class Americans may resist fully endorsing Dream Hoarders’ arguments. Nobody wants to think they didn’t earn their prosperity — it’s hard to admit that “success” in your life can be more accurately traced back to the luck of birth, rather than any special gumption.
The time for abdicating responsibility has passed, though. The election of Donald Trump should serve as a stern reminder of what can happen when the rich operate in their own realities and don’t appreciate the pain, suffering, and frustration of those around them. Dream Hoarders beseeches its readers to ditch the arrogant detachment from the rest of society and appreciate that the one percent cannot shoulder all of the blame for inequality. That responsibility should fall on the shoulders of all the beneficiaries of the current system. And if we’re being honest, that includes us.
Nazism is on the rise in America, even though the generation that fought Nazis is still alive. I can’t be the only person who’s wondered if humanity is destined to repeat this resurgence of racists and white nationalists every 60 to 80 years, when the memory of the last battle has grown sufficiently dim.
Nazism is a virus. It passes from one infected person to another. The Charlottesville rally on Saturday was especially dangerous because the white supremacists didn’t wear masks; they very likely activated hundreds of other white supremacists who have to date been too ashamed to speak out in public about their own racist views. This is how it spreads. We have to be careful to not give these people platforms, because they will share their sickness far and wide.
Just as we can defeat sicknesses through inoculation and education, I have to believe that things will get better eventually, that we’ll learn from our own mistakes and eventually figure out a way to end this toxic cycle of racism. We can't keep making the same disgusting mistakes over and over.
We have plenty of examples of racism-free futures to look to for inspiration. Star Trek presented a color-blind society that had elevated beyond the horrific self-destructive behavior we’re seeing in 2017. And while Neal Stephenson’s novel Seveneves has its own complicated relationship with race, there is a passage late in the book that suggests the racism of the old planet Earth had been successfully eliminated.
So there are plenty of science fiction novels that show us a future in which Nazism and white supremacy have been eliminated. But so far as I know, there is not a science fiction novel showing how Nazism and white supremacy are eliminated. Some author somewhere should write that story: explain in stirring, dramatic detail how humanity manages to rise above its most toxic impulses and come together as one.
Don’t just skip ahead to the future: do the hard work of telling us how it happens. Rather than giving us a destination, share a roadmap. Give us a story where decent humans finally crush Nazism into nothingness. This is the sci-fi story that we need right now.
After Natasha Marin’s Red Lineage
my name stumbles ups the stairs
climbing towards grace, an ascending arc of red and gold
my mother's name mends shards back to glass
melts them down with the heat of a thousand hearts,
an aged and forgiving red
my father's name lives in a spoonful of shadows
hungering for a cloud that will rain red
follow the seedlings and you will see
my name become a little kite dancing in the wind,
stand still under the cicadas’ summer song
and see my mother's name strut
to a living and slowly dying beat of red
breathe in the fire’s flicker and my father’s name
tending to the embers collapsing red.
I come from a people known for speaking without saying,
for spitting the shine on their boots & stomping blackness
into the heavens.
We've all dreamed about making the big leap: a new job, a new country, a new life. Molly McCord did all three, leaving a stable but unsatisfying career in Seattle to start over in Paris, a city she'd never seen. She shares the story in The Art of Trapeze — part memoir, part instruction manual for choosing a different path. As the title implies, trusting yourself as your feet leave the platform is the hardest and most necessary part. Read a sample chapter, provided just for Seattle Review of Books readers, and enjoy McCord's trademark blend of humor, honesty, and self-reflection. If you like it (and you will), the book is twenty percent off through August at her site.
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