Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Catastrophism, a PM Press Book Launch


On Tuesday November 13th Moe’s will host a book launch for Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of  Collapse and Rebirth. Contributors Sasha Lilly, James Davis and Eddie Yuen will be at the store to discuss this important book. For more information got to the events page.

The following excerpt is by David McNally.

Catastrophist anxieties have remarkable reach across the cultural space of late capitalism. More than merely the nightmare scenarios of apocalyptic preachers and prognosticators, predictions of impending doom are also found in the writings of thoughtful social commentators and critics. But nowhere do catastrophe and apocalypse loom larger than in film and fiction, particularly in the horror genre, where zombies and vampires fill theaters and fly off bookstore shelves. Zombies are a particular rage these days, having made so indelible a mark on mass culture during the global economic crisis of 2008–2009 that Time magazine declared them “the official monster of the recession.”

The cultural omnipresence of zombies and other monsters offers a clue as to the mysteries of everyday life in capitalist society. For nearly two hundred years, specific imageries of horror—dissection, body-snatching, dismemberment, and bloodsucking—have haunted the popular imagination, hinting at a profound sense of corporeal vulnerability intrinsic to modern life. And today, in the context of a global economic slump, persistent wars, and worsening environmental crises, many of these imageries have taken on an apocalyptic hue.

But it is the mundane rather than the apocalyptic figures of monstrosity that most concern me here. In many ways, the world’s most obvious horrors—genocides, mass displacements, famines, wars, and ecological calamities—are easily identified, even if the dominant ideology works overtime to distort and mystify them, refusing to disclose their connection to capitalist structures of power. But beyond these overwhelming public atrocities, our culture also seethes with anxiety about the largely prosaic and unacknowledged catastrophes of everyday life. And this is where the proliferation of zombies and vampires across the cultural landscape can become significant: as registers in which these banal horrors are recorded, albeit in partial and distorted form. As much as these monsters are frequently absorbed by the
ritualized formulas of the culture industry, they contain an unabsorbed “surplus”of meaning that speaks to deeper truths. For lurking within these commercialized images is the eerie sense that monstrosity lies very close to home indeed, in the most ordinary practices of everyday life—in other words, that there are strange and chilling things happening right around us, to us. The very everydayness of grotesque images is a warning that ominous forces are not just “out there,” in regions of the strange and the horrifying, but in here, in the very spaces through which we move, invading our bodies and minds.

David McNally is Professor of Political Science at York University, Toronto. He is the author of six previous books, including Against the Market; Another World is Possible: Globalization and Anti-Capitalism; and Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From The Author Of Any Day Now

Like many others, I was washed in the rain of the 1960s, but I have always resisted the idea of writing about it.
Everybody knows how things turned out.  Why not write science fiction (excuse me, speculative fiction) instead?
 That kept me busy for thirty some-odd years.
 Then one day I thought, why not change how things turned out? What's a novelist anyway but a little god in pajamas?
 That kicked open a door.
 I was always surprised that Philip Roth (The Plot Against America) didn't seem to realize that he was writing
in an old and established sub-genre of SF, the alternate history. He seemed to think he'd invented it!
 So I needn't apologize for stealing a scene from him.
 Turn-about is fair play and ours is just one universe among many.

Terry Bisson

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Titles From the Cutting Room Floor: Jonathan Lethem

"Here's a weird little exclusive for you: I was searching my computer and found an old speculative "Table of Contents" for The Ecstasy of Influence, loading with titles for essays I wanted to write to fill out the book. There were versions of essays I'd gone ahead and written, of course, either under the title I'd guessed at, or something similar (and, I hope, better). But mixed among them were these nine titles for essays I'd never even begun trying to write -- they're stuck in some alternate reality version of the book, which must be about a hundred and fifty pages longer than the one I'm publishing in this universe. In some cases I can pretty well visualize the essay that might have been written, but wasn't; in others they look completely opaque to me now. In either case, though, these seem to me completely unlikely ever to exist, now that the vehicle that was intended to bear them has moved on without them. Here, then, are the essays from the nonexistent "director's cut" of The Ecstasy of Influence:

Thomas Pynchon versus Muriel Spark


Memoir of Omega The Unknown/Steve Gerber

Writing for Criterion, and other Liner Notes

Mailer’s Graffiti

Unthinking The Thinkable

Against Mary McCarthy’s “The Fact In Fiction”

My Drugs

Writing Is Triage

Jonathan Lethem will be at Moe's November 22nd, 7:30  to discuss the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. To pre-order a signed copy of The Ecstasy of  Influence go to

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Interview with Michael Rothenberg, organizer of 100,000 Poets for Change

This interview with Michael Rothenberg is reprinted from the  excellent Author Amok blog We thank Laura Shovan for giving us permission to publish

it here.  Go back to the events page to see the line up for the Moe's contribution to this worldwide



As poets, we are in the business of change. Every time a child reads and responds to a poem we have written, he or she is changed -- even a little -- by the experience.

But what if we take that change outside of personal, private experience and into the community?

On September 24, 2011 a worldwide poetry event is happening: 100,000 Poets for Change. Visit the 100 TPC website for a list of the global cities where community poetry programs are being planned.

100 TPC is the brainchild of poet Michael Rothenberg, who is visiting with me this Poetry Friday.

Hi, Michael! Thanks for stopping by. Here are your five questions:

1. How did you get the idea for 100,000 Poets for Change?

I was talking to a friend on Facebook about how bad things looked around the world -- ecocide, war, poverty -- and that there ought to be 100 Thousand Poets for Change. I believe that poets have the power to speak across fences, to transform and heal the world, and I felt if all the poets got together we might be able to change things.

My friend said that it was a good idea. So, I created an event page on Facebook and invited my friends.

2. What are some of the most unusual events people are planning for September 24?

There are really too many great events to single out any one in particular. A peace reading in Afghanistan, the Baltimore Book Festival Flash mob [more on that later]. There are thirteen incredible events in Mexico City, which include poetry readings, film screenings, workshops about violence against women. A festival of music and poetry featuring hip hop battles in Tlahuac and more.

Along the Platte River near Omaha, Nebraska, poets will be demonstrating against TransCanada's planned Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. There will be a haiku walk in Nagoya, Japan. Vancouver, BC: poets and the community will clean up the banks of False Creek East. And other great thing is that North Carolina has over 18 events all around the state organized by teachers and poets to bring a focus to the need to support education funding in the state.

3. What were some of your favorite rhyming books or poems when you were a child?

The one book that always sticks in my mind was Suzi Starfish and Peter Porpoise (Mildred Woodall, 1955). That is the book I first remember trying to copy out by hand and add additional verses. I might have been eight years old.

4. People often think of poetry as an adult endeavor, but it's embedded in children's lives -- how they learn to speak, read and enjoy literature. How can event like 100 TPC benefit children?

First of all, there is the reality that poetry opens up the mind to seeing the world in fresh and new ways, it helps us develop our vocabulary and teaches us to think and express in imaginative and constructive ways.

An event like 100 TPC not only shows us the fun and beauty and depth of poetry, and the variety of poetry and poetic voices, but since 100 TPC explores political, social and environmental change issues, it shows how children can learn about their world from poetry, if they are given a good education, if there is funding for good education.

The whole education system issue comes into focus. If poets/teachers can talk about arts in the schools, then they have the capacity to use poetry to highlight the essentiality of education in a sustainable world. So the function is two-fold. We write poetry and share it and expand our minds and thinking capacity. We learn to articulate and process language in a way that can move us along in the world. But also, it is the subject of our poems and what poets can do as leaders in compelling our community and society to think more about children and their education, and the importance of arts in the schools. Poets have a big and important job!

5. What changes would you personally like to see in the lives of the world's children?

I would like to see children fed and clothed and protected from abuse. I would like to see them educated and reading and learning about the world, and communicating with hope. To see that their parents and guardians are protecting the world for them so they have a safe and nourishing future on planet earth.

Thank you, Michael. Congratulations on the event. I'm very excited to be an organizer in Baltimore.

Michael Rothenberg is a poet, songwriter, editor and publisher of the online magazine, Big Bridge. His poetry books include Favorite Songs, The Paris Journals, Monk Daddy, Unhurried Vision, Choose, and My Youth as a Train.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just My Type author Simon Garfield comments on our logo

Simon Garfield on the Moe's typeface:

JUST MY TYPE of Bookstore…

A font of typeface knowledge, author Simon Garfield shares his analysis of your favorite bookstore’s logo:

"The logo designer here really understands typography – the black and red pairing is classic 1920s, and the font (Goudy Oldstyle Bold) is very American. I think Goudy was being slightly ironic with those dimples on the serifs, a throwback to when everything was carved. The overall impression of Moe’s? Airy, distinguished and erudite." 

JUST MY TYPE is a delightful and inquisitive tour of the rich history and subtle power of type. Simon Garfield looks into the world of fonts, meets the designers behind the typefaces, and takes an in-depth look at the best and worst fonts through the ages.

"This is a smart, funny, accessible book that does for typography what Lynne Truss’s best-selling Eats, Shoots & Leaves did for punctuation: made it noticeable for people who had no idea they were interested in such things." – Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Do Empires Do?

by Michael Parenti

When I wrote my book Against Empire in 1995, as might be expected, some of my U.S. compatriots thought it was wrong of me to call the United States an empire. It was widely believed that U.S. rulers did not pursue empire; they intervened abroad only out of self-defense or for humanitarian rescue operations or to restore order in a troubled region or overthrow tyranny, fight terrorism, and propagate democracy.

But by the year 2000, everyone started talking about the United States as an empire and writing books with titles like Sorrows of Empire, Follies of Empire, Twilight of Empire, or Empire of Illusions—all referring to the United States when they spoke of empire.

Even conservatives started using the word. Amazing. One could hear right-wing pundits announcing on U.S. television, “We’re an empire, with all the responsibilities and opportunities of empire and we better get used to it”; and “We are the strongest nation in the world and have every right to act as such”—as if having the power gives U.S. leaders an inherent entitlement to exercise it upon others as they might wish.

What is going on here? I asked myself at the time. How is it that so many people feel free to talk about empire when they mean a United States empire? The ideological orthodoxy had always been that, unlike other countries, the USA did not indulge in colonization and conquest.

The answer, I realized, is that the word has been divested of its full meaning. “Empire” seems nowadays to mean simply dominion and control. Empire—for most of these late-coming critics—is concerned almost exclusively with power and prestige. What is usually missing from the public discourse is the process of empire and its politico-economic content. In other words, while we hear a lot about empire, we hear very little about imperialism.

Now that is strange, for imperialism is what empires are all about. Imperialism is what empires do. And by imperialism I do not mean the process of extending power and dominion without regard to material and financial interests. Indeed imperialism has been used by some authors in the same empty way that they use the word empire, to simply denote dominion and control with little attention given to political economic realities.

But I define imperialism as follows: the process whereby the dominant investor interests in one country bring to bear their economic and military power upon another nation or region in order to expropriate its land, labor, natural resources, capital, and markets in such a manner as to enrich the investor interests. In a word, empires do not just pursue power for power’s sake. There are real and enormous material interests at stake, fortunes to be made many times over.

So for centuries the ruling interests of Western Europe and later on North America and Japan went forth with their financiers—and when necessary their armies—to lay claim to most of planet Earth, including the labor of indigenous peoples (both as workers and slaves), their markets, their incomes (through colonial taxation or debt control or other means), and the abundant treasures of their lands: their gold, silver, diamonds, copper, rum, molasses, hemp, flax, ebony, timber, sugar, tobacco, ivory, iron, tin, nickel, coal, cotton, corn, and more recently: uranium, manganese, titanium, bauxite, oil, and—say it again—oil (hardly a complete listing).

Empires are enormously profitable for the dominant economic interests of the imperial nation but enormously costly to the people of the colonized country. In addition to suffering the pillage of their lands and natural resources, the people of these targeted countries are frequently killed in large numbers by the intruders.

This is another thing that empires do which too often goes unmentioned in the historical and political literature of countries like the United States, Britain, and France. Empires impoverish whole populations and kill lots and lots of innocent people. President Obama and the national security state for which he works are waging a number of wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and northern Pakistan), and leveling military threats against Yemen, Iran, and, on a slow day, North Korea. Instead of sending medical and rescue aid to Haiti, Our Bomber sent in the Marines, the same Marines who engaged in years of repression and killings in Haiti decades ago and supported more recent massacres by proxy forces.

The purpose of all this killing is to prevent alternative, independent, self-defining nations from emerging. So the empire uses its state power to gather private wealth for its investor class. And it uses its public wealth to shore up its state power and prevent other nations from self-developing.

Sooner or later this arrangement begins to wilt under the weight of its own contradictions. As the empire grows more menacing and more murderous toward others, it grows sick and impoverished within itself.

From ancient times to today, empires have always been involved in the bloody accumulation of wealth. If you don’t think this is true of the United States then stop calling it “Empire.” And when you write a book about how it wraps its arms around the planet, entitle it Global Bully or Bossy Busybody, but be aware that you’re not telling us much about imperialism.


Michael Parenti's recent books include: The Face of Imperialism, God and His Demons (Prometheus 2010); Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (City Lights); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism(City Lights), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press). For further information, visit his website: