Frank Norris in his great novel The Octopus depicted a scene of a swanky party of rich people in San Francisco raising money for poor people in India; gorging themselves with drink and feast while a sick homeless woman outside the party perishes on the streets.
In 100 years little has changed, this never more evident than in today's literary world where the darlings of hipness and wisdom pour forth their sympathy over the horrors of the world-- just as long as it's not about anything happening in their own backyard! Just as long as their concern won't affect the structure and corruption of their own society.
The summer issue of Bookforum prints poetry from prisoners at Guantanamo. Given not all of the prisoners are true jihadists who stand against everything Bookforum represents-- but surely some of them are. Paeans to Allah run through the poems: "And Islam will prevail in all corners of the earth."
What misplaced sympathy! Bookforum celebrates a few hundred individuals who may be prisoners-of-war. At the same time, over one million individuals sit ignored in jails and prisons throughout America, in conditions more horrendous than those in Guantanamo; a large percentage of these people-- as many as half-- in for non-violent drug law violations.
Does anyone care about them? Is their existence acknowledged? Why isn't Bookforum publishing their poetry-- or the poetry of downtrodden people throughout this vast nation? Would this run too close to home?
Does Bookforum show concern only when it's safely chic; for those a safe enough distance away to have no meaning? (Manhattan is ringed with brutal jails and prisons full of warehoused souls; locked up in part to preserve the pristine conditon of the Imperial City's golden class, those who circulate at the top of the city's vast multi-colored hierarchy, including the city's privileged literati regularly lauded in Bookforum's pages. "The Clean and the Saved.")
How about a story, Bookforum, not about jihadists, but about zeen writer Cassidy Wheeler? (See Bill Blackolive's 10/10/05 Monday Report, "Letter from a Chained Man," at www.literaryrevolution.com about Wheeler's situation.) Or why not publish poetry from prisoners whose work is circulated by Anthony Rayson's South Chicago ABC Zine Distro (covered on this blog on 1/5/05 in "Zeen Review Extravaganza")?
Come on, Bookforum. Push yourselves away from your wine bars, buffet tables, and chi-chi p.c. campaigns. Wake up to the awful happenings in your own country.