About This Issue – ARB #2

Welcome to the second issue of the Anarchist Review of Books, produced by a collective based in Atlanta, Austin, Exarchia, Chicago, New York, Oakland and Seattle. ARB publishes subversive, non-academic, non–dogmatic writing with an anti-authoritarian perspective. We are dedicated to transforming society through literature and through open, incisive critique of the media, politics, history, art and writing that shape our world.

We bring you this issue at a time of polarization in American artistic and intellectual discourse. Nuanced dialog and open conversation have been replaced with factionalism and strident doctrinaire absurdities. People are calling to abolish the police, but everyone has forgotten how to kill the cop in their head.

This summer while pride flags fly over banks and federal buildings, while Black Lives Matter signs dot the manicured lawns of all-white neighborhoods, while the rich buy bunkers and islands and rocket ships, believing they can break free of the disasters they captained on stolen land, the full scope of our humanity, our logic, our reason, is on the line. 

Mikhail Bakunin, whose work influenced Kropotkin, Marcuse, A.S. Neil, and the labor and anti-globalization movements, wrote that we must spread our principles not with words but with deeds. Americans are living today with a reversal of these ideals, where oppressive institutions are decorated with signs of empty solidarity, where marginalized groups live under threat of essentialism and fragmentation. And where petitioning authorities has replaced dialog and direct action.

What do proclamations of inclusion really mean if inclusion reiterates the same tired stereotypes? ARB editor Yasmin Nair recently pointed out that the publishing world is unwilling to expand its idea of “writers of color.” As a result, most contemporary fiction involving non-white people requires protagonists to be stereotypical; Asians contending with unbending parents, Mexican Americans with pillowy, sad abuelas cooking fragrant pozole, and so on [insert relevant stock narrative here]. This sense that non-white experiences and perspectives can only be understood in particular ways has an effect on our political imagination. If we can’t create fiction that illuminates the world we’re living in, in all its complications failures and possibilities, how can we take action?
There is so much to discuss, debate, celebrate, desire, demand and build.

In this issue we feature new fiction by James Kelman; delight in the revolutionary art of Pope L, and N. Masani Landfair; listen to Elissa Washuta and Theresa Warburton discuss White Magic and violence in anarchist communities; celebrate Douglas Martin’s anti-true crime masterpiece Wolf; appreciate the life and work of Chinese American photographer Corky Lee; and talk to Jim Shepard, Patron Saint of the Maladapted, about the project of literature in precarious times. Ashlyn Mooney looks at radical publishing in Appalachia; Nick Mamatas takes on John Zerzan’s latest foray into the jungles of symbolic thought; and I talk with technologist James Yu, who is training artificial intelligence to write, read, and critique fiction. 

We invite you to open these pages to read, to dream, to debate, to see, to plot and ultimately to act.

All Power to the Imagination

Cara Hoffman
July 2021