Author: James Livingston

From Brooklyn to Beirut

Lionel Shriver is a bad writer who makes Ayn Rand sound like a good liberal.  Like her ideological antecedent–I can’t dignify this lineage with the word “intellectual”–Shriver writes lousy novels that attract critical attention and Hollywood options because they make no sense.  The more inexplicable the better, I suppose, because this lack of sense gives everybody all the more discretion in analyzing, producing, and consuming the available fictions.  Until now, when the future intrudes on our thinking like the stupid burglar who cased the wrong place, as Donald Trump has done in hijacking the USA. But there is no present like the one lived in dystopian science fiction, where the past stands in for the future precisely because what is to become of us can’t be known until it happens–until it’s written and remembered avant la lettre, before the fact, ahead of its time, as non-fiction or novels. Shriver notes this chronological perversity in The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2042, her last readable novel (2016).  The speaker is Lowell Mandible, a complacent Keynesian economist who has been furloughed from Georgetown as the US slides into chaos because the federal government has repudiated the national debt.  Lowell is eventually rescued from his intellectual and political lethargy by his nephew, Willing, who plays the part of the old Randian mole, burrowing beneath our silly beliefs in anything but self-reliance, and who, accordingly,...

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Bruce Andrews: A Change Is Gonna Come

Bruce Andrews is a New York City-based (since 1975) Poet, literary theorist & retired Political Science professor (tilted to the Left — for 5 minutes of entertainment, google his stand-off with Bill O’Reilly as ‘Outrage of the Week’). Musical Director for Sally Silvers & Dancers, he has created sound designs & live mixes of music & text for over two decades of performances. For a Symposium on his poetry (several dozen books & chapbooks worth) & web archive (interviews, performance texts, poetry, collaborations, & critical essays), check out: http://www.fordhamenglish.com/bruce-andrews.  3 books from U NewMexico Press are just out: a reprint of the full run of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, a collection of Letters related to it & to so-called Language Poetry, & the five-way collaboration, Legend. _______________   A  CHANGE  IS  GONNA  COME Bruce Andrews [#SIGNAGEs of the day,  New York City, 2020 — April May June]   “SORRY, WE’RE  DEAD” — [on the door of a Costume apparel store] “TITLE  OF  WORK” “Employees Must Carve SLAYER Into Forearm Before Returning to Work” “Why Are You Still Holding On?” “IMBLEACH  HIM” “Make the POTUS Great Again” “You’re a mess” “We  Are  Not  Convinced” “Pretend you like it” “You  Bet  Your  Ass” “Can  You  Imagine” “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake” “Post  No  Hate” — (wall outside Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1983-88 residence) “WISH  YOU  WERE . . . CLOSER” “Hello  My...

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Why David Palumbo-Liu is Wrong about THE LETTER

I once had some respect for David Palumbo-Liu.  Sure, we mixed it up at Facebook, but I never doubted his intelligence or his good intentions.  Now I have to question both because he’s written a response to THE LETTER that is stupid and malicious.  It’s pasted below. DP-L makes three moves.  Each carries equally ugly doses of malice and stupidity which are in turn amplified by his own pedantry.  First he says the signatories are “celebrities thoughtlessly piling on to sign a ridiculous, ill-conceived, attention-getting ‘Open Letter.’”  Thoughtless, ridiculous, ill-conceived, attention-getting.  Oh, and, like dumb jocks in pads and helmets, they’re “piling on.”  They’re not people on the other side of an intellectual divide, they’re brutes.  I went through the signatories, and didn’t recognize half the names. These are celebrities?   More to the point, they’re quite diverse by any measure, race and gender to be sure but also by their political positions. Second,  DP-L claims that the letter has no cause–there are no “real events” here, he announces, no “solid facts” that would allow for genuinely open debate on the cultural crisis the signatories cite as their motive in writing.  He says this immediately after quoting an entire paragraph of worrisome incidents that any reader of Harper’s–any sentient being who doesn’t rely on FOX News–would recognize, and might well have endured. Third, most maliciously and most stupidly, DP-L turns...

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Throwing Your Voice

I’ve felt the urge to play out recently, well, duh, precisely because I can’t.  I was trying to get into an online/virtual open mic up the street, at Lenox Coffee on 129th, but it kept postponing a reopening, so I complained to my brother Andy about it, and, in view of our recent cover of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” we decided I should convene an open mic via Zoom.  I invited him and an old friend of his, Johnny Omand; two old academic friends of mine who happen to be wonderful musicians, Charlie McGovern of William & Mary, Barry Shank of Ohio State; and two new friends from Facebook–never met ‘em in person–Anne Moriarty and Kerry Candaele. Three weeks ago we met for the first time, minus Kerry, but plus Shari Shank, who sings like an angel, and a good time was had by all.  A week ago, we met again with a depleted crew, but with the addition of Billy Knoblauch, of Finlandia University, another wonderful musician I know via academe.  The revelation of the evening was Charlie’s performance of “Everything is Free” by the Holmes Brothers–not just the excellent guitar, we’re all used to that, but the voice.  I had never heard him sing before, and I was just knocked out.  I wrote excitedly to my brother, saying “Wow, Charlie can sing!” Andy responded by saying...

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Showerman Gets the Blues

Fans of Showerman** know what he knows, that cleanliness is next to Godliness, and not as if He’s your next-door neighbor to be called upon when a shortage of flour is discovered mid-recipe, while cooking, nor when a shortage of intelligence is discovered mid-life, while listening to NPR as you run out of flour, no, cleanliness is, for Showerman, just about every goddamn thing, from Alpha to Omega 3, and all the good fats in between, some of which, he is told, can be squeezed from fish, cooked or cured. Now, Showerman believes in the blues as the place where the pentatonic scale, the root of African and Celtic music, met on the desolate soulscape of the American South, Faulkner’s home field, where enslaved Africans and Scots-Irish immigrants congregated and found common aural ground, inventing a music that, in time, became the soundtrack of liberation. But Showerman does not believe in the blues up his ass, which is what he recently discovered upon entering the temple, which, as fans, or, if you will, disciples, will know, is the bathroom, where the tools of cleanliness, personal hygiene as it is called in this narrow space, are stored, and where, most importantly, the ritual of the shower is performed. Showerman cannot describe this ritual in detail (see: Showerman, Season. 1, Episode 3), but he can explain how it was disrupted, detained,...

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