Indulge a moment of shameless self-promotion:
So, in his Clark Kent life, the Rude Pundit is a tenured radical. And Cornell University Press just put out his first book. It's called Staged Action, and it's a collection of ass-kicking, pro-union plays from the 1920s and 1930s, when theater was used to recruit workers to unions and to cheer on strikers.
Some of the plays are violent and brutal. In plays that take place in a North Carolina mill town and in the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, strikers are gunned down by the owners and the National Guard. In Upton Sinclair's Singing Jailbirds (from which the cool cover photo comes), a union organizer is put into solitary confinement for months on end, until it drives him insane. And there's Hollywood Ten rebel John Howard Lawson, whose Processional is a mad combination of jazz music, KKK meetings, and bombers (and has a scary bit of dialogue predicting the first black president). All of the writers in the volume, well-known and unknown, walked the walk, and they were rude in the best sense of the word.
The Rude Pundit is the good scholar throughout, providing introductions and context. It's history, it's literature, it's drama, and it's a reminder of how distant we've gotten from our predecessors who literally fought and died trying to get union members a fair break in a time of economic insanity.
And, hey, look, acclaimed British film director Ken Loach liked it: "These plays are not only an important part of our theater history but also will have a lot to say to us today. The war between employers and those they employ, the exploiters and the exploited, will last as long as economies are dominated by private capital. But the stories are personal, humane and heroic, the essence of good drama. As our economic difficulties increase, what are the chances of a new wave of writers defining today’s struggles?"
In last month's American Prospect magazine, Richard Byrne wrote, "Staged Action may not contain many practical lessons for the playwrights and writers of today, but it does rescue a valuable part of the cultural history of the left. It suggests that when our writers and artists with a popular audience do wake once again -- after this three-decade slumber -- to the dramas of labor and its struggles to organize in the face of powerful force, there are resources from which they may draw inspiration." (Byrne continued his discussion on his blog.)
The Rude Pundit will be appearing in various places over the next few months to lead readings of some of the works, including San Francisco on July 26. More details on that soon.
So grab a copy (and if Amazon runs out, just order the damn book 'cause they'll get more. Or get it from Barnes and Noble).
Update: Damn, rude readers, look at what you've done already on Amazon:
Amazon.com Sales Rank:
|Books > Literature & Fiction > Drama > Anthologies|
|Books > Nonfiction > Politics > Labor & Industrial Relations|
|Books > Arts & Photography > Performing Arts > Theater > Stagecraft|
Not to mention a leap of a million and a half in the overall book rankings. That kicks all kinds of ass. Just a little push more and the Rude Pundit'll have a book hit #1 on several narrow subcategories. (And Amazon's got more in stock.)
Later, back to your regular scheduled rudeness.