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MultiCultural Review Launched
In January 1992, Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., launched MultiCultural Review, "an interdisciplinary forum of multimedia citations, informative articles, and incisive critiques representing the full spectrum of American ethnic, racial and religious diversity. Educators, administrators, and librarians in school, public, and academic facilities will finally have a single, authoritative selection tool for outstanding work from the breadth of American cultural traditions."
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Randy Rowland Announces Real Heroes Poster Series
When the Gulf build-up began, we started a project to uphold, celebrate, and support military resisters to that war. This took the form of an art project of duotone mini-posters of various GI resisters.
I recently got a photo of Glen Mulholland from him, and have now released the newest poster in the series, #43. Glen is doing an 18-month sentence in the Camp LeJeune Brig for refusing to participate in the Gulf Slaughter. He was in the Marines for 11 years before that, serving in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. He saw a lot that he disagreed with and the Gulf War was the final straw for him. The photo of him on this poster shows him kissing his son.
Posters in the series are printed using a duotone laser print process which I developed for the project. Each poster features one GI resister to the Gulf war. Each mini-poster is 8.5x11"
The Real Heroes series is produced for *Collective Media a non-profit collective in Seattle. If you would like a copy of the new poster or of the entire series, email "rrowland" on PeaceNet, write to Collective Media, PO Box 20213, Seattle WA 98102, phone (206) 521-0327, or fax (206) 325-7794.
We have been asking for a donation of $2 per individual poster, or $40 plus postage for the entire set. (Payable to Collective Media)
I can make a set of the posters available on Macintosh disk to progressive publishers for $25 for the 10 disk set. These are Pagemaker files with accompanying tiff files of the resisters.
Reese & Co.
Another fine catalogue from the firm discussed on pp. 36-7 of VG 4:1-2. #109: Literature has an "Addenda: Vietnam Literature. Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry and Photojournalism." 138 items listed. I sorted through the stock at the firm's offices--the books are almost all bright and clear, in stunning condition. Other items of interest scattered through the main body of the catalogue. Write to Reese & Co. 409 Temple St, New Haven, CT 06511, 203-789-8081, FAX 203-865-7653.
Whoops. Here's another Reese catalogue in the mail. Catalogue 111: Poetry and Poets. Verse and Versifiers. Including Images Poets, Soldier Poets, New York Poets, Beat Poets, Academic Poets, Great Poets, Good Poets and Failed Poets. Part 1: A through Mc. A real keeper, this catalogue reminds me of my education in 19th and 20th century U.S. poetry, when I fingered through the stock at Hugh Miller's and Matthew and Sheila Jennet's warehouses, and took whole shelves of random books from the right part of the Sterling Memorial Library stacks over to a chair in the corner.
Here is Terry Halladay's note, from the back of the title page. "This the first of two catalogues devoted to listing a portion of our inventory of poetry and books by or about poets. It is neither a catalogue of highspots, nor a catalogue devoted to the standard field of collected or approved poets. To the contrary, it is a somewhat heterogeneous sampling of the field of the great, the good, and, in a few unspecified cases, the admittedly awful practitioners of the genre. Included herein are a few books which would never have seen the light of day in one of our regular catalogues, and their fate, if unsold from this venue, has yet to be finally decided. Without an open shop, we cannot seek relief in sidewalk bins or the dim corner of a bookbarn. However, these are in the minority, and the greatest portion of the items that follow are worthy at least of readers. some titles have sought dim corners on their own and have not appeared in one of our catalogues in years (the blessing and the curse of the computer is that such books are not irrevocably lost, simply overlooked, or ignored or misplaced). Apparent duplication of titles between the catalogue and our last literature catalogue (#109) is a consequence of multiple copies of both recent publications and older titles, or of simple accident. This catalogue and its successor are summer experiments on our part in presenting what amounts to about 65% of our inventory, for better or worse." Many, many war titles. I'm afraid that David Willson or I have already purchased all the items I would recommend to you, but there are lots more. See the write-up of this firm in the in last issue, and get your own catalogues.
Item one: "In private she called him 'lover' and she was one of those females who could simulate wild, runaway passion so skillfully that her husband fancied himself a sexual swordsman." Item two: "In honor of Beaupre who was acknowledged the resident swordsman." Italics mine. The first quote is from The President's Plane is Missing (Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, 1967, citation from p. 25), the second published novel of Robert J. Serling. The second is from David Halberstam's second published novel, One Very Hot Day (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1967, citation from p. 5, parts previously appeared in The Saturday Evening Post). I have never once in my whole life heard a man refer to another as a swordsman, in reference to what he does with his penis. I am foul-mouthed, and have spent as much time as anybody talking about sex with young apes and old boys. I never was a young professional man in the 1960s, still I do have an ear for dead jargon, and this sounds to me like it never was alive.
Is "swordsman" an Eagle Scout thing to say, something Halberstam used to convey the lifer ambiance he was not party to? It has a science-fiction nerd ring, like "Blast!" Who knows, maybe in New York and Washington in the 60s young reporters did keep track of who was getting any, and called him a "swordsman." In both novels, lean young straight-arrow authors are trying to evoke fat, tough men in middle age who frequently have had their faces shoved in the shit. Does the bogus word betray an anxiety about sex or age or class? What anxiety exactly?
I don't like printing questions but I have been thinking about this word for some time and it is a tough nut. Has anyone ever heard it used in conversation? Is it a Norman Mailer word? From Harvard, maybe? It is not a Hemingway word. Is it a Dan Wakefield word, some Midwest thing? We know from transcripts that Richard Nixon did not talk this way. Is it a defunct convention of brief fashion in literary publishing, like printing "loving" for the adjective "fucking?" Does "swordsman" stand in for "cocksman", another word I have never heard aloud? Why do two male journalists, contemporaries, both use it in a novel in 1967? Was there a reactionary emphasis on gender roles at work, minting dirty words and jokes to reinforce mythical verities? There is a lot of tittering in the Serling book about how newlywed husbands come to work late and leave early, and scenes of sexy talk from the ex-stewardess wife of the character who most closely resembles the author in career details. In his author's note, Halberstam tells the world he just married "after a tempest of red tape--the leading actress of the Polish theater," i.e. "I legally fuck a hot and professionally successful babe from a captive nation of the enemy." It's all icky, in a way that only prudes can achieve. I'm trying to take it seriously.
Robert J. Serling, by the way, is Rod's brother. The men collaborated on TV dramas, according to the dust jacket. Robert was UPI aviation news editor in DC. His first novel was The Left Seat, and two nonfiction books are The Electra Story and The Probable Cause. Halberstam's first novel was The Noblest Roman, and his brief on the war, The Making of a Quagmire (1965) preceded the war novel, which is set entirely among the US advisers to an ARVN company, with action that doesn't date precisely but seems pre-escalation. Serling's and Halberstam's novels both have the author photo on the back of the d.j. in the book club edition, with similar haircuts and very nearly the same glasses, dark tie, and button-down shirt. Halberstam hasn't got a jacket on, and Serling is jowly.
One Very Hot Day is a lean and deliberate novel from the man who later settled in to writing big fat chunks of bedtable reading. The characterization of the Vietnamese lieutenant Thuong is as reasonable as that of the three-war captain, Beaupre. The officers and ARVNs lend a different tone than you find in Hasford
et al. Halberstam takes you on a big military operation in Viet Nam, rather than a patrol in what Philip Melling calls the Puritan Imagination because dragging in poor old Cotton Mather is what Americanists do when they want people to think that what they write about is important. Serling clunks along the time-honored path to mediocrity in narrative, giving a thumbnail sketch for each character on first appearance. But his book is readable, if say for instance you can read Eugene O'Neil's stage directions, and the President of the title has a son dead in Viet Nam, where the alternate history of the novel posits that a Korea-like settlement has been reached. Both novels are "procedurals", to borrow a term from crime-novel crit, as concerned with the workings of an organ of social order as with individual character.
The President's Plane is Missing focuses on the wheels within wheels of national wire-service reporting. The story is set in the DC bureau against a background of nuclear brinksmanship and Cabinet antics, altogether a silly literary project that highlights the unlikeness of writing in praise of society's machinery in the U.S. in 1967. The President arranges to duck out of sight for a week to negotiate a mutual defense pact with the USSR against the PRC, only to precipitate a crisis when his stage double dies in a plane crash on Air Force One. The story plays on the memory of the Truman and LBJ successions, the JFK assassination, and the Cuban missile crisis, without offering any organizing vision except allegiance to authority and Amurrican values. One Very Hot Day, in contrast, looks I bet even better now than when it appeared. It follows a lieutenant and captain and their Vietnamese counterparts as they walk their company-sized element of a battalion operation into an ambush. The procedural form mutes Halberstam's shrill personal ambition and puts his fascination with established institutions to good effect. He explains the U.S. Army and ARVN as reasonable men doing bad things for clear reasons, a vision more soberly frightening than that of Catch-22 and so on. Okay, I've been responsible and given you a sense of the books. Now, my real question. What was going on among men like Halberstam and Serling in the 1960s that led them confidently to put before the public such a counterfeit word, with such a load of embarrassing baggage, as "swordsman?"
Journal of Urban and Cultural Studies
Ben Kiernan passed along a xerox of the TOC of Vol. 2, No. 1, 1991 of this journal, and of pp. 115-117, Laurie Sears' "Authoritative Voices and the Vietnam Experience: Teaching About Vietnam During the Gulf War." Sears teaches a course about "the Vietnam wars" in the history department at the University of Washington. Over two years, course titles have included "Colonial Backgrounds of the Vietnam War," "Introduction to Modern Southeast Asian History," "The Vietnam Wars," and, with Susan Jeffords of the English Department, "Images of the Vietnam War in History, Literature, and Film." Sears has also lectured to high school students and teachers. She has proposed a new course on war and society. Go, Dr. Sears. Her teaching sounds good, her interests are alive, and she quotes "novelist and Vietnam veteran David Willson." She doesn't give his titles and publisher, though (REMF Diary and REMF Returns, Black Heron Press; regular column, Vietnam Generation), and there must be a more authoritative source than David for the useful nugget that "90% of those who went to Vietnam in the various branches of the US military were not involved in combat." I don't know where that source is, but David could have told her. Picky, picky--it's a good essay, maybe we could reprint it. I see that the Journal reprinted George Lakoff's "Metaphor and War: the Metaphor System Used to Justify War in the Gulf" from PeaceNet, as we did (Vol. 3 No. 3). Other articles from this issue: "The Gulf Crisis" and "The New World Order" by Noam Chomsky. A section called "Theorizing Postmodern War" includes "Postmodern Wars: Phallomilitary Spectacles in the DTO"; "On Wimps" by Donna Haraway; "Nuclear War, the Gulf War, and the Disappearing Body" by Hugh Gusterson; "Bring the Tropes Home: (Academic) Life During Wartime" by Mark Driscoll; Lakoff's piece and "The Imperialist Subject" by Judith Butler. A section called "Teaching Postmodern Peace" includes: "Notes on the Gulf War, Racism, and African-American Social Thought: Ramifications for Teaching" by John Brown Childs; "Men in Suits" by Carol Becker; "Political Pedagogy and Democratic Discourse: Bringing War and Peace into the Classroom" by Greg Reinarman; "Countering the Disempowerment of War" by Giovanna Di Chiro and Marita Sturken; Sears' article; and "Peace Studies, the Gulf War, and Peace" by Carolyn M. Stephenson. My gut reaction to calling wars "postmodern" is that it's just more confusing words, that war should be referred to as bluntly as possible, but I suppose that is just a Modernist stance I assume when appropriate, an unmistakably postmodern procedure. Sigh. God knows, I don't have to get my life approved by any English Department, so I should keep my mouth shut and let the grownups do what they have to do to get over. Looks like a great issue of a good journal. Sorry, no contact information on the xerox Ben gave me.