Note from the Editor

Here is a summer edition made of some of the sixty-plus book reviews that we've published to date. With a few exceptions, we selected books of Arts & Culture as well as fiction, with a special section on Swans' most prolific book reviewer, Louis Proyect. No doubt, we could all use a nice long vacation to clear out the dead wood and do some serious reading...

Speaking of vacation and dead wood -- Mr. Bush, besieged by Cindy Sheehan, is hiding behind the bushes of his faith-based reality at the Texas White House, firmly believing in the noble cause of the sacred mission in Iraq. Mr. Kissinger warns in his cavernous voice that leaving Iraq would lead to a catastrophe in the Middle East and that we cannot let the public turn against this war as it did with Vietnam. Former Clinton employee William Cohen says that we must ignore the polls, move forward, and define the objectives clearly. Does he mean that we haven't defined objectives yet, more than two years into the war? More fuel for Mrs. Sheehan...but even Howard Dean agrees with Kissinger. Meanwhile, Frank Rich, back from vacation, suggests in "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over" (NYT, 14 August 2005) that "Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over."

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush does not read the newspapers -- one can't lead based on public opinion, remember -- and the elite on both sides of the aisle are circling the wagons while preparing for their re-election reinvention. How many more dead and maimed people shall we have to see on the charts before this folly comes to its end? And they are talking about nuking Iran! How far will they go? How long will we have to wait for America to join Cindy Sheehan?

We'll be back on August 29 to talk about these happenings, and more. Happy reading!

As always, please form your OWN opinion, and let your friends (and foes) know about Swans.


Summer Reading: Non Fiction

Charles Marowitz:  George Carlin's When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?

Review initially published on February 14, 2005.

A conglomeration of aperçus, sallies, quips, puns, ripostes, conceits, sermons, fables and abbreviated editorials.   More...


Jan Baughman:  Peter Singer's The President of Good & Evil

Review initially published on June 7, 2004.

Singer offers an exhaustive analysis of George W. Bush's ethics as applied to his domestic agenda, his stance on social matters, and his approach to foreign policy, providing a step-by-step deconstruction of the inconsistencies, or better stated, hypocrisies therein. It is a timely work in the context of a frayed US social infrastructure, troubled economy, environmental decay, the destruction of countries in the name of "war on terrorism," and the resulting demise of America in world opinion.   More...


Tim Keane:  Malise Ruthven's A Fury for God: The Islamist Attack on America

Review initially published on August 16, 2004.

In a reasoned and circumspect work, Ruthven fleshes out his narrative accounts of the forces that led to 9/11 by drawing on everything from obscure concepts such as Islamic orthopraxy and istishhad to global macroeconomics and FBI field reports.   More...


Gilles d'Aymery:  Julien Benda's The Treason of the Intellectuals

Review initially published on March 31, 2003.

"Unquestionably one of the greatest controversialists of our time, what M. Benda has to say concerning the subordination of this age of political ideas to political passions, and his particularizations upon this theme are arresting, revealing and disquieting in the extreme," wrote then William A. Drake in the New York Herald-Tribune. A book definitely worth discovering, or rediscovering in our modern times, as reason once again is subordinated to passion.   More...


Louis Proyect:  Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World

Review initially published on April 11, 2005.

The history of the Wobblies through the graphics of some of the most talented cartoonists of the underground. A fitting retrospective for the 100th anniversary of the creation of the IWW, edited by Paul Buhle & Nicole Schulman. A book not to be missed.   More...


Charles Marowitz:  Joel Berkowitz's Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage

Review initially published on January 31, 2005.

A critical review of Berkowitz's chronicle of the growth of Yiddish theatre and its connection with Shakespeare.   More...


Louis Proyect:  Paul Buhle's From the Lower East Side to Hollywood

Review initially published on June 21, 2004.

Comprehensive and excellent investigation of Jewish influence upon American popular culture; written by one of the foremost scholars of Jewish popular culture, with much wit and story-telling.   More...


Charles Marowitz:  Ray Monk's Bertrand Russell: The Ghost of Madness 1921-1970

Review initially published on January 3, 2005.

Bertrand Russell: a sad decline from icon of the mid 1960s to mildewed hero.   More...


Aleksandra Priestfield:  Sven Lindqvist's A History of Bombing

Review initially published on July 15, 2002.

The title says it all. There are always barbarians at the gate. The first bombs began to be used in warfare as far back as 1044. Since then it's been refined and improved, from catapults to cluster bombs... This book is a descent into the darkest of labyrinths -- the depths of depravity that one human being can sink to against another.   More...


Summer Reading: Fiction With Louis Proyect

Louis Proyect:  Robert Bolaño's By Night in Chile

Review initially published on May 10, 2004.

Story of an Opus Dei priest and member of the literary scene who attempts to justify his collaboration with the Pinochet regime. Not only is this work a devastating attack on the spinelessness of certain literati in the face of capitalist brutality, it is also a literary achievement that breaks new ground in Latin American fiction.

Larry Rohter (NY Times, August 9, 2005) writes that, "Even before his death two years ago at 50, Roberto Bolano was emerging as his generation's premier Latin American writer. But with the posthumous success of '2666,' an extravagantly encyclopedic 1,119-page novel that traverses two continents and eight decades, Bolano's reputation and legend are in meteoric ascent."   More...


Louis Proyect:  Chinua Achebe's Anthills of the Savannah

Review initially published on December 1, 2003.

Set in the fictional nation of Kangan, a thinly disguised version of Nigeria, the plot of the novel revolves around the fate of two prominent male intellectuals victimized in a military crackdown orchestrated by the nation's president-for-life who is a childhood friend.... by one of Africa's leading intellectuals and anti-imperialists.   More...


Louis Proyect:  Eric Ambler's A Coffin For Dimitrios

Review initially published on August 4, 2003.

A superb spy novel that beats in subtlety the like of Ian Fleming or Tom Clancy, based on greed and venality, seduction, extortion and, eventually, destruction.   More...


Louis Proyect:  Nikolai Bukharin's How it All Began

Review initially published on February 3, 2003. (This was Louis's very first contribution to Swans.)

Nikolai Bukharin, a leader of the Workers Revolution in Russia, wrote this autobiographical novel in the bowels of the Lubyanka Prison, until the very moment he was interrupted by the executioner's bullet on Stalin's order. Outstanding literature in the most unpropitious circumstances...   More...


Louis Proyect:  Alan Furst's Red Gold

Review initially published on January 5, 2004.

A master spy novelist in the tradition of Graham Greene and Eric Ambler, Furst offers an expertly plotted affair with riveting dialogue, set within the communist resistance in France during WWII.   More...


Louis Proyect:  B. Traven's The Jungle Novels

Review initially published on October 20, 2003.

Set in Chiapas, Mexico, these novels are filled with the same kind of passionate commitment to the oppressed found in a Subcommandante Zero speech while embodying the same sorts of contradictions that face the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) today.   More...


Louis Proyect:  John Sanford's The People From Heaven

Review initially published on June 9, 2003.

An unstinting attempt to root out the original sin of white racism, this novel is also a challenge to create a new radical culture to accompany revolutionary activism.   More...


Louis Proyect:  Herman Melville's Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life

Review initially published on October 18, 2004.

If you want to understand modern day colonialism, rush for this book. Written such a long time ago that it looks like yesterday. Melville was a genius of literature.   More...



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Created: August 20, 2005