Re: Sixties novels (multiple responses)

Judy Doyle &/or Alex Taylor (curbston@CONNIX.COM)
Sat, 25 Jan 1997 08:48:12 -0500 (EST)

Take a look at Agnes Bushell's _Local Deities_ for a novel that deals with
the Sixties & where the women are hardly "Barbie Dolls," or "lily pure," to
refer to other sixties discussion strings.

And it certainly deals with "political realities"--it's based on the Ray
Levassier (sp?) trial (he was accused of tryng to blow up the Washington
Monument, you remember). It's one of the few novels that handle radical
activity that is told from the viewpoint of women. The two central
characters are women. It received rave reviws in 1989 and 1990 in Lib.
Journal, The Nation, The Hungry Mind Review, and others, although (not
surprisingly) it was not widely reviewed (after all, The New York Times
Book Review has currently refused to review the new collection of Roque
Dalton's poetry, Small Hours of the Night, as they refused to review
Dalton's Miguel Marmol and nearly every other hard-edged political
literature ever published in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world for
that matter, unless it's literature from other than "client states," as
Hermann and Chomsky would put it. We did sell 3,000 copies of Local Deities
& went ito a second printing (of which there are still many left).

What about Marge Piercy's Dance the Eagle to Sleep? That would be a good
novel for use in courses. Harold Jaffe's Beasts examines issues of the time
in remarkably sensitive short fiction.

It takes Americans twenty years to look at themselves. Missing was
acceptable (with Jack Lemon even!) only after the passage of time & when
the U.S. had succeeded in destroying the Allende regime. Our fathers and
mothers may have been guilty, but we certainly are not. Graham Greene,
where are you now we really need you in Mexico, Haiti, Managua, etc. etc.

Maybe writers should try small independent presses or German publishers.
Gioconda Belli's The Inhabited Woman (La mujer habitada) sold only about
1500 copies in cloth here (I don't think Warner did much better with the
paperback), but it sold over a half-million copies in Germany in a mass
smarket edition.

I doubt very much that there is an "audience of millions" in the U.S. for
(at least a serious) novel on the sixties, though it is clear from my
conversations with younger people that there is a growing interest in what
the sixties were like. My guess is that there is an audience of 10,000 &
that is why major publishers are not interested. And, of course, a good
novel on the "sixties" will really be universal.

The problem is that the main stream critics think that anything political
is unworthy to be called literature. That's the sad state we're in. Carol
Bly has a wonderful essay on this somewhere.

Sorry if these thoughts are slightly depressssing. The good news is that
there are serious independent publishers like West End Press (early
publishers of Meridel), Feminist Press, South End Press, Common Courage,
White Pine Press, Dalky Archive, Milkweed, Graywolf & others which are run
by editorial vision rather than by marketing departments. I would like to
think we can count Curbstone among them.
Alex Taylor

Curbstone Press l
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"Poetry like bread / Is for everyone." -- Roque Dalton