recent books

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Duke & Jill

book blurbs: 
From a review by Mike Lindgren: For years I have been clamoring for a book that collects all of the hard-to-find Duke and Jill stories of my friend and mentor, the downtown writer and poet Ron Kolm, and finally I have been obliged. Thanks to Bud Smith and his Unknown Press, these iconic tales of the East Village of yore are now snugly in place between two paperback covers.

Some background is in order. Ron Kolm is perhaps best known as one of the co-founders of the Unbearables, a loose literary collective of writers and poets who take their founding principles from a grab-bag of postmodernist dicta, including the literature of constraint and the concept of the temporary autonomous zone: a scruffy tribe of proudly low-rent situationists.

Kolm himself came to New York in 1970, worked at the Strand alongside Patti Smith and Richard Hell, and made a name for himself as a poet and editor in the downtown scene’s burgeoning literary underground. Along the way he started writing, almost as an afterthought, a series of comic riffs based on the misadventures of a pair of scruffy anonymous losers he had come to know in the bars and seedy squats around St. Mark’s Place, then a festering hub of the East Village’s proto-punk scene.

The resultant stories seeped out gradually by installments, appearing in such now-legendary periodicals as Between C and D and Public Illumination Magazine. Separately, they were amusing, ribald, scabrous slices of life on the margins in a city that has now vanished. Taken collectively, they represent not only a cultural document of major historical importance but a sharply fresh set of urban parables, a group of surreal micro-narratives whose gruff wit and anarchic energy remain strikingly appealing.

“Duke and Jill do drugs,” goes the now-famous opening of the first tale. “They live on the corner of Avenue A and 10th Street, in a mostly burnt-out building… Bad things keep happening to them.” The cunning parody of the sing-songy rhythms of a children’s primer establishes the tone of sardonic whimsy that will run through the tales collectively, as well as establishing a subtle irony. Duke and Jill really are children, as it turns out, not in the Rousseauvian countercultural utopian mode — hippie platitudes come in for constant mockery and contempt in these stories — but in a far harsher sense. Their lives are dominated by the child’s self-absorption, by an essential amorality and inability to postpone gratification. Duke sees the world around him not through the child’s eyes of wonder and beauty, but as an alien terrain full of threats and menaces; he is no more able to plan or work or conceive of consequences and results than a toddler, and as a result his world is a whirling grotesquerie of drug-addled catastrophe.

The vitality of the book’s recording of a very specific time and place in the history of urban bohemia also transcends that of the mere historical. A central tenet of Kolmean aesthetic theory, which I intend to treat more fully in a series of future monographs, is the concept of witness, an idea that Kolm shares, however unlikely it may seem, with certain religious and spiritual traditions. The true writer, Kolm avers, writes not out of a desire to express himself, but rather in response to an uncentered but compelling sense of obligation, a duty to record the emotional contours of the narrative landscape in a kind of supra-categorical imperative. However sordid and unseemly Duke and Jill’s existence, it somehow still demands documentation — and that gives the stories their radical authority. Kolm is fond, in conversation, of praising a piece of vivid writing as having “the stink of reality” — a phrase he has borrowed from Ezra Pound, and a quality he bestows as a compliment. Duke and Jill have the stink of reality to spare.

And it is this authority, in turn, that establishes these stories as the truest reflection of their zeitgeist that we are likely to have. The deeper into the new millennium we get, the more the period these stories document — that is, the early 1980s — begins to sink into a hazy, sepia-toned reverie that is quite at odds with the reality of the time, with its violence and despair and fraud and paranoia. Even many of the participants or survivors of the era, one notices, are hard-put to resist romanticizing the period or speaking of it in nostalgic generalities. This is part of why the Duke and Jill stories remain so bracingly corrective and relevant. Duke and Jill are the farthest thing possible from rebels or revolutionaries; they are lazy, untalented, larcenous, petty thieves and criminals, and Kolm is ruthless, even gleeful, in documenting their greed and fecklessness. The stories have no redeeming morals, no pat endings — and despite the conclusion’s elegiac tone, which echoes Joyce’s “The Dead” as surely as the beginning references children’s literature — no future. That is their beauty, and their doom.

106 pp., paperbound, 5" x 8", $13.00

Class Wargames

book blurbs: 
Why should radicals be interested in playing wargames? Surely the Left can have no interest in such militarist fantasies? Yet, Guy Debord – the leader of the Situationist International – placed such importance on his invention of The Game of War that he called it his most significant accomplishment. Intrigued by this claim, a multinational group of artists, activists and academics formed Class Wargames to investigate the political and strategic lessons to be learnt from playing his ludic experiment. While the ideas of the Situationists continue to be highly influential in the development of subversive art and politics, relatively little attention has been paid to their strategic orientation. Determined to correct this deficiency, Class Wargames is committed to exploring how Debord used the metaphor of the Napoleonic battlefield to propagate a Situationist analysis of modern culture and politics.

The Essence of Jargon

book blurbs: 
A poet, translator, and co-editor (of the letters of her late husband, Situationist Guy Debord) who has written extensively on the etymology and history of European slang, Alice Becker-Ho examines argot as a form of self-defense from the State, a code for people who survived outside the law. “In slang, loan words are above all borrowings of one dangerous class from another; that these loan words, confirmed in different slangs, go back to common sources, themselves blended initially into a sort of melting pot before being redistributed via a host of different routes….”

In a Qu*A*re Time and Place

book blurbs: 
In this book Tim Stüttgen considers the paradigm of (post-)slavery as an important epistemological break within predominantely white Gender and Queer Studies, as well as within critical Film and Cultural Studies. Departing from what E. Patrick Johnson has proposed as a specifically intersectional »quAre«, instead of an »unmarked white queer perspective«, this book contrasts Deleuze’s cinema theory with Frantz Fanon, queer theories of color, the history of the African diaspora and utopian quAre futurisms to establish notions of a black locality, mobility and temporality in what Stüttgen calls the first emancipatory black cinema: Blaxploitation. Digging deeper in the imagery and temporalities of Blaxploitation film, his analysis deals with the sexualization of racism and mass media imagery of armed black liberation struggles, and shows the development of more and more complex spaces, main characters and representational constellations, including black revolutionary women (with guns) and also queer subtexts. Following the analysis of a specifically black movement-image, the book engages in a comprehensive intersectional reading of John Coney’s legendary 1974 Sun Ra film Space is the Place, crystallizing the concept of a »black time-image« that interconnects formal aesthetic concepts to afro-futurist queer utopias. By producing these sorts of »quAre assem- blages« Stüttgen ultimately aims at an epistemological renewal of the dominant discourses on race, class and gender, that helps to at least temporarily suspend reifying identity pat- terns at stake, and rethink them critically based on the principles of intersectionality and heterogeneity.

State in Time

book blurbs: 
Become a citizen of the first global state of the universe! The NSK State in Time emerged in 1992, evolving in the context of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the transformation Neue Slowenische Kunst. Existing both as artwork and social formation, a state that encompasses all time but holds no territory, the NSK State in Time has for two decades pushed the boundaries of artistic and political practice. This volume collects together for the first time analyses of the NSK State in Time, including its relationship with the changing context of Eastern Europe, the connection between aesthetics and the state, the rise of NSK folk art, and documents the First NSK Citizen’s Congress in 2010.

Lives of the Orange Men

book blurbs: 
Major Waldemar Fydrych In Communist Poland, Surrealism Paints You!!! Between 1981 and 1989 in Wroclaw Poland, in an atmosphere in which dissent was forbidden and martial law a reality, the Orange Alternative deployed the power of surrealist creativity to destabilise the Communist government. It worked. The militia were overwhelmed by thousands of unruly dwarves; celebrations of official festivals so disturbingly loyal that the Communist forces had to arrest anyone wearing red; walls covered in dialectical graffiti; new official festivals to assist the secret police with their duties; and a popular restaging of the storming of the Winter Palace using cardboard tanks and ships. Lives of the Orange Men tells for the first time the story of this activist-art movement and its protagonists that played a key role in the 1989 revolution in Poland. Written by its central figure and featuring an appendix of newly-translated key texts including the ‘Manifesto of Socialist Surrealism’, a timeline of every Orange Alternative happening and a new foreword from the Yes Men.

2015 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints

book blurbs: 
2015 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints
Radical Heroes for the New Millennium!
James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective

Autonomedia's Jubilee Saints Calendar for 2015! Our 23rd annual wall calendar, with artwork by James Koehnline, and text by the Autonomedia Collective.

Hundreds of radical cultural and political heroes are celebrated here, along with the animating ideas that continue to guide this project — a reprieve from the 500-year-long sentence to life-at-hard-labor that the European colonization of the "New World" and the ensuing devastations of the rest of the world has represented. It is increasingly clear — at the dawn of this new millennium — that the Planetary Work Machine will not rule forever!

Celebrate with this calendar on which every day is a holiday!

32 pages, 12 x 16 inches, saddle stitched

isbn 978-1-57027-299-8 : price $9.95 : 32 pages

Pay for two, and we will send a third calendar for free!

Afghanistan: From Herat to Balkh and Back Again

book blurbs: 

“Tom Savage wrote these poems during his travels through Afghanistan. He was twenty-three at the time but his words ring with unparalleled maturity. His journey took place before the Taliban came to power and had a chance to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas, a 20th century tragedy for all mankind. He describes their glory, giving us a guided tour of his spiritual and physical states while doing so. These are love poems: They are tender, witty and full of compassion, wisdom and insight. Savage says it plainly yet ever so deeply when he chants: ‘my book is my pillow / my fireplace is breath / my friends are my food / the tree-swept is singing.’ While reading these gems, which are not unlike their great eastern predecessors Rumi or Jami, you too might make this book your pillow, your breath and your food as you let these poems sing to you.” — Steve Dalachinsky, author of The Superintendent’s Eyes and The Final Nite & Other Poems: The Complete Notes from a Charles Gayle Notebook 1987–2006

“Tom Savage's new book of poems offers a rare glimpse of Buddha in His humanistic manifestations. Savage's observations and reflections remind me of Rabindranath Tagore, ‘The soil, in return for her service, keeps the tree tied to her; the sky asks nothing and leaves it free.’ Or as Savage puts it, ‘I cannot live with imagination. / I cannot live otherwise.’ a spiritual account of merging with the unknown with the doors of perception open and shut at the same time — immortality is seen through the cracks. When the doors are shut, his love seeks others. When the doors are open, nature comes alive. An amazing book.” — Hal Sirowitz, author of Mother Said: Poems, Stray Cat Blues and former Poet Laureate of Queens, NY

“Tom Savage takes us on a journey, his journey, we are his footsteps, we are his breath, to Afghanistan. He is alone and it is not the Now of US military, or recent past Russian military, the sad, modern history of Afghanistan, it is Then. It is to journey in time, before hippies discover the medieval hash temple ball camel dung Buddha beauty top of the world otherness Afghanistan. Tom Savage is poet tour guide internal, his words slide indelibly through eyes, leave impressions so simple, so shockingly different, yet true, pure and unadorned, that you find yourself transforming. This unusual book is that gentle companion. Leave it beside your bed, read before lights out. Then will dreams and poems join to take you there, footsteps and breath.” — Bob Holman, author of Picasso in Barcelona, Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Café and Director of the Bowery Poetry Club

“Written at a time and place when it was still possible to‘wait patiently for laughter’ this travelogue consisting of descriptive, lyrical and, in hindsight, elegiac poems by a twenty-three-year-old very far from home, exudes his love, longing, sadness and fascination, while moving among exotic particulars, many of which are now lost to us. One can’t read the stunning ‘Bamiyan Poems’ without being aware of the presence of ghosts.” — Larry Fagin, author of Nuclear Neighborhood and Complete Fragments

Precarious Communism

book blurbs: 

How does one demonstrate the enduring relevance of a sacred text but to help it speak to present times? This is what churches do with the Bible and what Marxists do with the writings of Marx. Richard Gilman-Opalsky offers a book-length détournement of The Communist Manifesto as a loving blasphemy, as a grateful revolt, both for and against the original text. Gilman-Opalsky detourns the 1848 manifesto as an exploration of its ongoing applicability, as well as its failures, in relation to capitalism and its evolving crises. Precarious Communism explores long-form détournement as a tool for critical theory. But most importantly, Gilman-Opalsky’s new book is a mutant manifesto of its own that makes the case for an autonomist and millennial Marxism, for the many movements of precarious communism.

“Precarious Communism offers a creative, convincing, and provocative rerouting of The Communist Manifesto, exploring the catastrophes of both statism and capitalism in a fresh new light. Gilman-Opalsky lays bare ideological specters of the past that continue to haunt the present. This book is a must read for anyone interested in what autonomy, dignity, and association mean today, and in understanding the insurrectionary hope of people everywhere.” – John Asimakopoulos, Director of the Transformative Studies Institute

Bio: Richard Gilman-Opalsky is Associate Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is the author of Spectacular Capitalism: Guy Debord and the Practice of Radical Philosophy (2011) and Unbounded Publics: Transgressive Public Spheres, Zapatismo, and Political Theory (2008).

Astral Botanica

book blurbs: 

“The esoteric and the exoteric co-exist in a B-Movie carnival of noir nocturnes where mortality is pondered and meaning is plumbed in wry and witty vignettes. Black humor laced with Victorian secrets, the clever conceits and cunning confessions of this Shakespearian steam-punk auteur will have you writhing with pleasure as he articulates his plight. Like Virgil, the venerable Carl Watson takes us on a mystical, mythical tour. Here, hope has been replaced by a sophisticated synthesis of emotions — of despair and delight — in what can only be called a triumph of style.’’—Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, author of Triple Crown: Three Crowns of Sonnets. Employment of the Apes and editor/publisher of Live Mag!

“Carl Watson is a Steampunk Baudelaire, his genius a Last Exit To Nowhere Existentialism of sinisterly exotic thoughts. Both behind and ahead of his time; a futuristic-classicist, Watson’s richly reposited and rescued English language butchers Corporate Clone-Speak , and reveals to us an Adamic namer-poet-seer of the cruelest nightmares slouching our way to be born .”—Alan Kaufman, author of the memoir Drunken Angel and editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

“In images of great beauty, and play within poetic form, Watson has written a passion play in what might be a meeting between Rimbaud and Donne in a final dream where ‘...sleep can offer both terror and escape’.” —Bonny Finberg, author of Kali’s Day.

“With Astral Botanica Watson goes straight to the heart of writing and the art of poetry giving us within the freedom and confines of that (he)art something few are capable /culpable/comparable of producing: a book that has redefined the parameters of poetic thought and writing. Watson’s poetry and prose share a similar blend of dense, dark, chaotic, surreal and dreamlike qualities and few are as able as he of blurring the lines between pros(e)/cons, poetry, reality and fantasy.’’ —Steve Dalachinsky, author of A Superintendent’s Eyes and The Final Night.

“The poems in Astral Botanica, Carl Watson’s new collection, are hybrid things indeed; like Fabergé eggs with shoe-bombs inside. To give you some idea of what we’re talking about here, imagine an Edgar Poe gene-spliced with J.R. Oppenheimer – the resultant being would be able to fill black holes with gothic musings on ancient sexuality and repressed modernity. Everything is grist for Watson’s mill: Anglo-Saxon epic notions surround Wasteland remnants. What he’s put on the page invites you to think, and in this age of non-thought, that’s art of a very high order.’’ —Ron Kolm, editor of The Evergreen Review and author of Divine Comedy.

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