Jessica Hoffmann

Reading in Print, How Queer

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | July 12, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Ali Smith, Daniel Burton-Rose, Dean Spade, independent media, Inheritance by Steven Reigns, print media, Soil Not Oil, the George Jackson Brigade, Tikkun, Vandana Shiva

Although (or maybe because) it seems very much to be true that the Internet is changing how those of us who are frequently on it read and think, and although every time I mention independent bookstores or publishers someone immediately starts talking about Kindles and iPads, and although at the print-media caucus at this year's Allied Media Conference half the group seemed primarily concerned with their print project's website and I felt kinda tired saying the same thing I've said in that space for the last three years (that I do believe we read differently in print and online, and that we can see print projects as essential and unique parts of a larger and interrelated media whole of which online media projects are also parts rather than feeling -- so individualistically! -- that each media project needs to function in every media realm, be its own little supercompetitive media empire), and although the pile of books and magazines I intend to read is an overwhelming abundance of piles toppling over in multiple locations while I feel like I don't have time to read them yet manage to speed-read a bit from my Google Reader and Facebook home page at least a few times a day, well....

In spite of all that, I'm still passionate about print. And here's some of what I've been holding in my hands to read, slowly, contemplatively, lately:

9780307454850.jpgThe First Person and Other Stories by Ali Smith: My friend Tessa and I have an ongoing conversation about how bewildered we are that hardly anyone in the U.S. seems to read the queer and political and brilliant and moving Scottish writer Ali Smith. "People you'd think would," we always say, meaning queer women who are into contemporary literary fiction, and even particularly into the legacy of Virginia Woolf's modernist intervention.

If you are one of these people and have not yet read Ali Smith, I wouldn't start with this latest collection, which is not her best, I don't think, but with Hotel World (especially if it's the post-Woolf formal stuff that will get you) or Like (for emotional impact), or, if you can find a copy, Other Stories and Other Stories, which seems slight at first and then all of a sudden you realize you're enchanted.

guerrusa.jpgGuerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s by Daniel Burton-Rose -- I just started this last night, so can't write too much about it yet. Among other things, the GJB is interesting for being a majority gay/bi-identified radical-underground group focused on resisting capitalism and prisons in the US.

soil not oil.jpgSoil Not Oil by Vandana Shiva: This slim volume contains a remarkable amount of substance. Basically, Shiva argues, we need completely different paradigms from those of global capitalist patriarchy to solve the world's most urgent crises: climate change, peak oil, and food insecurity. For a glimpse of the power of this small but crucial book, see Shiva on Democracy Now! a few days ago.

Inheritance by Steven Reigns: These poems about relationships -- mostly relationships with lovers and with family of origin -- are vulnerable and honest, revealing a white, urban gay man with a history of family abuse as he yearns to connect, struggles, looks back, and believes in love enough to keep at it.

"It's So Queer to Give Away Money" by Dean Spade, from Tikkun: Okay, so I did read this online, but it's from a print magazine. I hope you will read it in some form or other.

Up very soon: Octavia Butler's Patternist series, especially in the wake of incredible conversations about her work at the Allied Media Conference.

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I'm one of those people. I'll check out Ali Smith.

I'm curious to hear what you think! Also curious to hear your thoughts on Steven Reigns' book, which I think you might like ...

Jessica, it seems you've come from the James Joyce line of commentators, what with the wordy (I gave up counting) first sentence; and should I mention the parenthetical remark that absorbed an astounding 61 words...WOW!

Given all that, it's hard to believe that people read at all.

Have you taken a breath yet?