25 April 2007

New Heroes

I have a new hero.

When I lived in New York City in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, I belonged to the New York Marxist School, now called The Brecht Forum. I learned a great deal in my time there, taking classes from Michael Harrington and Stanley Aronowitz, and attending lectures from the likes of Stephen Jay Gould. These were my heady, most radical days our of which I have not moved consciously or intellectually far. Perhaps I was formed there more than I have yet acknowledged.

I was an English teacher in a wonderful suburban school district, and so classes offered at the Marxist School by Annette Rubenstein were of interest to me. She always took a radical slant on the literary canon and often presented work excluded from that canon. Though I don’t remember taking classes with her, and though I don’t remember ever actually seeing her, eventually, I wrote a dissertation and a book on the radical novel in America, and have long considered her an influence on my life.

I have since moved from New York, but once a year the Brecht Forum calls me even here in Wisconsin asking for a contribution, and for my monies I receive brochures of upcoming seminars and classes. In the one received just yesterday, I see that Dr. Annette Rubenstein is giving the “1st Annual Annette T. Rubenstein Lecture on Literature and Politics.” Her topic: “Radical Poets—Ignorant Biographers.” She will offer examples of radical poets excluded by "ignorant biographers” from the canons of literature.

The announcement continues: “Dr. Annette T. Rubenstein, author of American Literature: Root and Flower and The Great Tradition in English Literature: From Shakespeare to Shaw, has been teaching at the Brecht Forum/New York Marxist School since we first opened our doors in 1975. With this talk on the occasion of her 97th birthday (emphasis added), Annette is offering the lead lecture of an annual series on radical literature and politics that the Brecht Forum is launching in her honor.”

Ninety seven years old and still lecturing. Ninety seven. The Rabbis say that a town without school children is desolate. Annette Rubenstein enriches New York town.

Happy Birthday, Annette.

11 April 2007

Get Me Clean, Please!

I was in Chicago this weekend. Rather than attend conference sessions, I went to the movies to see Lassë Haalstrom’s The Hoax. The film is based on the events of the early 1970’s when Clifford Irving convinced McGraw Hill that he had, with Howard Hughes, co-written, the autobiography of this very rich, powerful, and unsteady recluse.

It was a movie abundant in sleaze. Not one character in the entire film possessed any trait that could be admired; rather, each was despicable in his/her own manner. When I left the film, I felt soiled. I went home and washed my hands and face, and went down to Oenology with dear friends and fine wine and atmosphere to reset my moral and intellectual compass.

Dan Imus is struggling to maintain his job (who cares, I ask, he makes $10,000,000.00 a year) after spewing disgusting garbage all over the airwaves insulting the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team with ugly, sexist and racist vituperative comment. The wonder in the press focuses on the revenue he generates. He is a shock-jock; Dan Imus gets paid to be offensive, insulting and repulsive. That was ten million dollars a year!

Michael Richards is in recovery from his racist outburst, and Mel Gibson is rehabilitating himself after making vicious anti-Semitic comments to a policeman who stopped him for driving under the influence.

The final season of The Sopranos began this week. Not one character in this series has any redeeming characteristics. Even Tony’s therapist is fascinated by this mob boss’s ruthless power.

I wonder what it is about our times that inspires such repulsive behavior, and what is it about our time that permits such behavior without consequence. I am sending my children out completely unprepared for this world. I have tried to teach them ethics and morals.