Book Leaf Reports on FBI Surveillance

Great article about how the FBI surveilled (and influenced) Black writers from 1919 to 1972. I’ll bet it goes beyond ’72. Am I cynical or have I just been paying attention?

This just goes to show how political writers (literary works) are. Even the ones who don’t think they are: because to not engage with politics is a vote for how things are.

In light of this article, should writers seek out FBI personnel to critique their manuscripts? Retired FBI people could set themselves up a little critique business: writers send in their manuscripts to be assessed for political potency. The highest praise of a manuscript would be: “Likely to start revolution.” The lowest: “The government (or perhaps more accurately, the 1%) has nothing to worry about.”

Excerpt from the article, but recommend the whole thing:

… said Maxwell. “I knew Hoover was especially impressed and worried by the busy crossroads of black protest, leftwing politics, and literary potential. But I was surprised to learn that the FBI had read, monitored, and ‘filed’ nearly half of the nationally prominent African American authors working from 1919 (Hoover’s first year at the Bureau, and the first year of the Harlem Renaissance) to 1972 (the year of Hoover’s death and the peak of the nationalist Black Arts movement). In this, I realized, the FBI had outdone most every other major institution of US literary study, only fitfully concerned with black writing.”

Maxwell’s book about his discovery, FB Eyes: How J Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature, is out on 18 February from Princeton University Press. It argues that the FBI’s attention was fueled by Hoover’s “personal fascination with black culture”, that “the FBI is perhaps the most dedicated and influential forgotten critic of African American literature”, and that “African American literature is characterised by a deep awareness of FBI ghostreading”.

Princeton said that while it is well known that Hoover was hostile to Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, Maxwell’s forthcoming book is the first exposé of “the extent to which the FBI monitored and influenced African American writing” between 1919 and 1972.

… The academic told the Guardian that he believes the FBI monitoring stems from the fact that “from the beginning of his tenure at the FBI … Hoover was exercised by what he saw as an emerging alliance between black literacy and black radicalism”.

Highly recommended:

Richard Wright’s ditty is wonderful:
“every place I look, Lord / I find FB eyes / I’m getting sick and tired of gover’ment spies”


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Thoughts about

It seems like is always in the news.  Is Amazon the AntiChrist?  What is it doing today to/for writers and small publishers?

For a long time, I’ve been putting a note on my newsletter for readers and writers suggesting  alternative places to buy books  (the unionized Powell’s for example, and all the local brick-and-mortar book stores).

A while back,  Jonathan Greene, publisher of Gnomon Books, made the point that, on balance, Amazon has done more positive than negative for small presses. On her blog “ReadWriteRed,”  Shelley Ettinger has several posts offering thoughts on monopolies and Mom-‘n-Pop books stores from a left perspective: See  and  She also talks about the essential selfishness of many of the Big Writers , with more here.

And finally– only because it’s the most recent post chronologically– I have a post about why International Octopus is what you get under our politico-economic system, but at least Amazon carries my books.

Let us know what you think.






Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This hasn’t changed….

Cartoon yr kidding you still pay taxes

Leave a comment

by | January 27, 2015 · 8:56 am

Shelley Ettinger on George Saunders

Regretfully, I must demur from the general adoration of the short fiction of George Saunders. I try and I try, I read story after story, collection after collection, and what I find every time is a fiction of bleakness, hopelessness, and above all cynicism. Sure he knows there’s such a thing as social classes, sure he rues inequality, poverty, etc., but really, is that such a huge deal, am I supposed to be so impressed with what is after all a minimal accomplishment, acknowledging the ills of this so very ill society? These ills are obvious to one and all. If there is to be a fiction that delves deep down into them, rubs the ugly all over itself, the delve alone does not justify the fiction.

The fiction must by my lights redeem its own ugliness somehow, whether with a streak of hope even if subtle or a nod toward struggle or a kick in the reader’s teeth so hard it makes the reader get off her/his ass and do something about it all. Without any of this–and Tenth of December is indeed wholly without any of this–writer and reader merely wallow together. Well this is what so much contemporary fiction is all about, and I am just unmoved by some slight extra cleverness in the art of the wallow on Saunders’ part. The cleverness grates by the time we’re a couple stories in, and by the way does no one else find an ever heightening sameness to all the stories, a one-note bag of tricks and faux-funny tics to the cleverness, a dare I say juvenile look-at-me-Ma quality? All of which constitutes a fiction that strikes me as exceedingly cynical and pointless.

OK, I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I won’t be fooled again.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Conversation About Writing and Politics

From Bookchannel:  Check out this discussion between two young writers about fiction and activism: an unjust world”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Summer Reads in Political Fiction Recommended by DEMOCRATIC LEFT

I’ve read some of these, and look forward to the ones I haven’t yet:

The Green Corn Rebellion
William Cunningham
About 1917 rebellion by Oklahoma’s tenant farmers

Tell me a Riddle
Tillie Olsen

The Dispossessed
Ursula LeGuin
Political science fiction

Strumpet City
James Plunkett
Dublin working class 1907 – 1913

Sugaree Rising
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
1930’s South Carolina Gullah story

Jonathan Rabb
Serial killings: is one of the women Rosa Luxemburg

The Regeneration Trilogy
Pat Barker

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gabriel Garcia Marquez Presente!


Shelley Ettinger writes in her Blog Read Red ,  “I never say rest in peace because it’s silly, it’s not materialist, dead people don’t ‘rest,’ they simply cease to exist at least as living organisms. In the case of the great novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who died today [April 17, 2014] and is now being eulogized by folks across the class spectrum, it would be a shame to let his legacy swiftly settle into something mushy, malleable, palatable to oppressor as well as the oppressed with whom he stood for most of his life. So here, in images because who can dare try words in tribute to such a master, a few reminders of which side he was on.





“The first two [images], of course, are the writer with Fidel. The next one, very recent, shows him with current Cuban President Raul Castro. The last one is a young Garcia Marquez with Pablo Neruda, who would be assasinated by the U.S.-backed Chilean fascist coup regime in September 1973.

“Instead of wishing a dead person rest, we say to the living: Gabriel Garcia Marquez presente! Which reminds us that his accomplishments, his inspiration, his art, his class consciousness live on.”


For the New York Times Obit, click here;  and here for the Huffington Post.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized