Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Thanks to wood s lot for alerting me to this Alan Sondheim review of last year's Spineless Books production, Mike McGuire's palindromic Drawn Inward. Which is an amazing little book, as you'll see from Sondheim's quotes; I think he's right to find a "classical" quality in their mixture of foregrounded rigor and playfulness.

Been reading Fredy Perlman's anarchist de-construction of world history—all of it—titled Against His-story, Against Leviathan!. You can read an excerpt here. It has the deliberate naivety of a children's book, and its narrative of the evolution of state power as an undead "worm" or Leviathan (a la Hobbes) persuades by accumulation. It was instructive to pick up a copy of Bruce Catton's Grant Takes Command—one of several handsome editions of Civil War histories owned by my father—after reading Perlman; Catton practices the same kind of personification that Perlman does when he ascribes thoughts and feelings to such Leviathanic entities as Washington, the Army of the Potomac, and Mississippi. The Civil War was suddenly revealed as one Leviathan eating another, suggesting this logic: if the South had slavery, the North had the South. That this reading effaces the immediate moral devastation of slavery shows that a history like Perlman's cannot replace existing empirical histories, but is an effective dialectical negation of them. I suspect the same effect is created by the people's histories of Howard Zinn, whom I've never read. But I'm gonna.

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