Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: April, 2009

A Lifetime of Letters

The Letters of Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan (Da Capo Press, 2008)

I have a file titled “Noam Chomsky” that contains several letters from the linguist during the 1990s. I first began writing him while studying at the Maryknoll School, as I was doing research on his work on the Middle East. Back then, around 1990, word was that Chomsky spent twenty hours a week answering correspondence, which was in addition to his two full-time jobs as relentless critic of American power and influential linguist/philosopher.

While I don’t know how much time Allen Ginsberg spent writing letters, by quantity he must not be too far behind Chomsky.

Ginsberg archivist Bill Morgan’s task was to collect some representative fine letters out of the thousands Ginsberg wrote over many decades (the first is dated December 28, 1941 when he was fifteen years old). Read the rest of this entry »

Refuseniks

On Peretz Kidron, Refusenik! Israel’s Soldiers of Conscience (London and New York: Zed Books, 2004)

1.

General, your tank is a powerful vehicle
It tramples the forest, it crushes a hundred men.
But it has one flaw:
It requires a driver.
General, your bomber is strong.
It flies faster than the storm, it loads more than an elephant.
But it has one flaw:
It requires a mechanic.
General, man is very useful.
He knows how to fly, he knows how to murder.
But he has one flaw:
He knows how to think.

–Bertolt Brecht, German poet and playwright who left Germany after Hitler came to power

2.

Refusenik = Israeli Army reservists who report for duty when summoned but refuse morally objectionable assignments (notably serving in the West Bank and Gaza)

In Refusenik!, Peretz Kidron has done a great service in collecting the testimonies of and giving the historical background for the Israeli refusenik movement. It is a slim volume, less than120 pages but it shines a powerful light on the Jewish humanism at work in Israeli society. Read the rest of this entry »