Author: James Livingston

Ain’t Called Jacobin for Nothin’: On the Constitution of Revolution

I The Left and the Right agree on too many things these days, but on nothing so much as the US Constitution.  Both sides treat it as a lifeless document that thwarts progress toward the expansion of human rights and the scope of democracy.   For so-called conservatives like Samuel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia, thwarting progress is a good thing—their reading of the document based on the founders’ “original intent, ”on the plain meaning of the words they used, would forbid gay marriage, women’s ownership of their own bodies, and affirmative action of any kind.  For radicals and liberals...

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This Prisoner

This Prisoner Words and music by James Livingston.  I wrote this “break-up poem” ten years ago as a song, as I was getting divorced.  Some of you have seen or heard it before.  I capo it at the 5th  or 6th fret because my voice works better there, but you can play it as you like.   D                       C                                     G These restless years have done their damage Em    ...

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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:  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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