Amiri Baraka has been getting in the groove again during the past year, though as he says to those who wonder why he’s “back on the music”, “I never did go nowhere. Somewhere just runned away from the boy…”
Benjamin DeMott began writing about American culture in the 50s and he was a quickening agent in it for 50 years until his death in 2005.
When Sharpe James pulled out of Newark’s Mayoral race, a lacerated Amiri Baraka offered up a rhymed response to the news.
Alan Johnson – editor of the online journal, Democratiya, conducted an interview with Kanan Makiya in December of 2005. Following on from two previous postings here at our website (See “What’s Going On” and “Inside the Whale”), this interview amounts to the next chapter in Makiya’s on-the-fly history of the Iraq “project.”
We’re honored to reprint this (slightly adapted) excerpt from Kate Millett’s Going to Iran (Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York 1982) — her inspiring, heartrending and newly relevant account of her time in Tehran witnessing women’s struggles against Islamist misogyny after the fall of the Shah.
One of the cartoons which my local newspaper has refused to print shows two veiled women, their staring round eyes, all that can be seen of their faces, expressing alarm, while a bearded man, apparently the Prophet, with a bar obscuring his eyes, his features otherwise visible, radiates a chilling and furious certainty. It is a pretty good cartoon: it raises the question of who is blinded, and to what, and who has been silenced, and how. It does this with remarkable economy, and with compassionate if mirthless wit. As economical if mirthless jokes go, it isn’t a patch on the one represented by the editors, academics and politicians who claim that reproducing that cartoon is a mistake more or less equivalent to threatening to murder whoever drew it.
Most times, the words, he’s got a gun, will redirect the conversation pretty effectively. Not this time, it appears.
First of the Month has asked a number of writers to comment on No Direction Home — Martin Scorcese’s recent documentary about Bob Dylan’s early years. Here’s John Leland’s thoughtful response to our call…
“Are we still alive?” That’s the line incarnating the unexpectedly avant-garde challenge in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
Last week Barack Obama spoke on Rosa Parks’ legacy in his weekly “podcast.” While Obama’s talk was relatively informal, his comments are still worth considering. Here’s a transcript of his remarks…
A 70’s piece on The Uses of James Baldwin by Benjamin DeMott takes on a new resonance after a viewing of No Direction Home. Baldwin figures in the Dylan documentary because he was a presence in Greenwich Village during the 50s and 60s, but these two bohemian culture heroes shared more than a social context as the opening lines of DeMott’s article suggest:
Pity spokesman: their lot is hard. The movement of their ideas is looked at differently, studied for clues and confirmations, seems unindividual – less a result of personal growth than of cultural upsurge.
DeMott defined a range of difficulties faced by any artist who went public in the 60s including one problem having “to do with expense of spirit”:
In the midst of A Matter of Opinion – Victor Navasky’s affable account of his professional life in journalism – The Nation‘s publisher tells a tale about a libel settlement that dishonors a smart set who have trashed efforts to mobilize resistance to the Muslim World’s Ku Klux Klan.
Lifeline, Iris DeMent, Flariella Records
The Way I Should, Iris DeMent, Warner Brothers
What’s the Matter with Kansas? , Thomas Frank, Metropolitan Books
Spirit and Flesh, James M Ault Jr, Knopf
American Jesus, Stephen Prothero, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux