May 20th, 2002


Random House Books

I spent most of yesterday inside, cleaning my room and enjoying the rain. My books have been piling up and taking over everything, so I decided they needed a good culling and re-ordering. I find that thought-provoking pairings always occur when you alphab etize your books, despite the theoretically intellectual randomness implied in organizing by letter rather than subject. I’ve always loved my "heavy hitters" section of Malatesta, Malcolm X, Mandela, and Mao. Unfortunately there’s a little fluff on both sides keeping Audre Lorde and Cherrie Moraga from joining the club.

But every time I rearrange and cull new combinations appear. I love that Proletarian Literature in the United States (put out by a Communist Party press in the ‘50s) sits next to Carol Queen, The Leather Daddy and the Femme. I think both Pat Califia and Raymond Chandler will feel awkward at first, but will then learn to appreciate each other’s no-nonsense style over time. The World Encyclopedia of Cheese appropriately sits next to the extremely cheesy Billy James Hargis who wrote The Real Extremists: The Far Left (a Red Scare classic -- They’re in the PTA!).

J. Edgar Hoover imprisoned between my bell hooks collection and The Prison Letters of George Jackson will make me avoid buying books by authors whose last names begin with "I". And I can’t really tell you why, but Advanced Master Handgunning by Charles Stephens seems to go well with either "Anarchism or Socialism" by Stalin (It’s been awhile, but I think he opted for "socialism"), or Passionate Mistakes . . . by Michelle Tea. I’m not sure about them as a trio, however.

Representing two sides of a thorny issue, Mordecai Siegel, in When Good Dogs Do Bad Things, argues, (according to the inscription by a dear friend) that it is "not the dog that is bad but the set of social relations in which the dog is enmeshed that reinforce certain qualities and tendencies". In Blowback, Christopher Simpson argues, just as convincingly, that the Nazi spy networks incorporated by the US immediately a fter World War II, did not, in fact, learn new tricks but continued working for Fascism in their new environments.

Not all the pairings are happy, of course. I’m sure that Paul Kivel, who’s Men’s Work: To Stop Male Violence is important but devoid of humor, wishes that Roadside America (by Doug Kirby) would disappear so that he could rest next to another feminist, Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz.

Most sadly there is a huge, and symbolic, gap between Covering Islam by Edward Said and a book on Israeli worker coops by Raymond Russell, despite their proximity in the alphabet.
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