yes this is a day late, sorry about that friends! My mental health was a real roller coaster yesterday especially, so I took the day to try to rest and get back to functioning, so here I am a day late but still with a newsletter!
It is amazing to me how much more productive I feel when I leave the house. I came to the library Monday through Friday last week, and while I don’t know that I really was more productive, it did feel good to get up and do something, go somewhere. This morning I still was feeling a little off from this weekend, but I got up early enough that I felt like I could go to the library still, and doing my little commute in my car helped me feel more normal. I worry, sometimes, about doing it—about if I’m moving too fast toward “normal” when we’re still very much in a pandemic (though I do wear a mask the whole time I’m in the library, and I don’t like sit with strangers because I’m not a total weirdo,) but it’s helpful to me to feel like I’m getting somewhere and not just trapped in my home like I’ve been for the last year and a half.
the other fun thing I’ve been doing though is listening to baseball games! On Friday, Cleveland’s baseball team announced they’re moving from their incredibly racist mascot and team name to a far superior name and logo, the Guardians! I wasn’t ever really a Cleveland baseball fan (I grew up in a house that split our loyalties between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs) but I have family members who are, and also I grew up in Ohio where it was just absolutely normal to see the former logo everywhere. It was a real source of shame and anger for me, and I LOVE the new logo, I do not accept any jokes by racist on the internet about how bad the team name is, guardians of “what,” and any guardians of the galaxy jokes, because the name is so beautifully local and I will fight anyone about it.
However I am still only listening to Detroit Tigers games because they’re what my dad used to listen to and it’s Big Time Summer Vibes. Since I started listening, the Tigers have broken a 7 game winning streak, and lost every single game in their last series, but it’s about the vibes, not about winning! Anyway that’s what I’ve been up to so let’s move to
Books I Wrote About This Week
I think this book reveals for me a lot about the ways we consider labor history and its shortcomings. It’s theoretically a balanced portrayal of the Calumet copper mine strikes and the Italian Hall disaster of 1913—when, at a union holiday celebration in the midst of a failing strike, someone yelled “fire” and cased a panic that left seventy three people (including fifty-nine children) dead after being crushed in a stampede to get out of the building. But the ratio of main characters, whose points of view we take, is 2:1 against the strike, and the one character who is in support of the strike is the wife of a striking miner who treats her very badly (including sexually assaulting her multiple times in the book.)
This matters to me because like of course we have to talk about the way that organized workers are perceived in this country, and how much harm businesses do to workers—including workers who are organized!—and just get away with. I’m thinking here, of course, of the stories told by Frito-Lay workers in Topeka, KS who are on strike and calling for a boycott of all Frito-Lay and PepsiCo products, as well as Warrior MetCoal Strike ongoing right now, where coal miners in Alabama have walked off the job (if you’re in NYC right now, workers are traveling up there to strike in front of the offices of the mine owners there, so consider going to their rallies masked to show your support!)
In a review I saw someone note that “people were more interested in being RIGHT than being kind!” which to me completely undercuts the point of the strikes: at the time, people were dying in the mines (people still die in the mines, from explosions, from black lung (which is on the rise in this country, and the bar to get aid for it is getting higher so people are sick and unable to get help even though workers in the past worked REALLY HARD to get black lung recognized and get financial support for sufferers and their families!!!) And some of this is about how the miners themselves are perceived in the book: our look into their world is from the POV of a scab, so while we see the dangerous conditions of the mines themselves, we don’t see the organizing for safety or how that’s about benefitting workers. So much is made of the UMW’s socialism as if the popularity of socialism wasn’t at its peak of popularity (the Socialist Party candidate for president in 1912, a year before the disaster, got a whopping 6% of the popular vote, which is the highest amount it’s ever been in a presidential election and which accounts for nearly 1 million votes) and we never see what socialism actually meant to the workers in the union—it’s painted as a vague idea, one which the anti-strike narrators routinely blame out “outsiders” and claim that the workers themselves are too dumb to know they’re being manipulated. We see socialism in ACTION in the ways that the union distributed food, in the Christmas celebration. What does socialism look like from the perspective of the worker? And yes, I get that it’s not the job of this book to make socialism palatable to everyone, but it IS worth our time to investigate what these worker’s political concerns are, which yes includes their dreams of a socialist future as well as better working conditions. It means confronting redistribution of wealth, thinking about how they conceive of their relationship to their work and their ownership of the work.
And most importantly, it means confronting the fact that actual workers, rank and file, DO have these ideas, and articulate them to one another, and in their demands, and in dialogue with union leaders. This is where I plug once again Toni Gilpin’s The Long Deep Grudge which shows how Marxist readings of labor played out on the shop floor. It just seems like a loss to not show that part of the story, to imagine what that might be like for a union worker as well as their wives.
You know when you read a mystery and there are these interludes between the main characters solving the mystery where you get like Insight into the criminal (almost always a murderer)? I don’t like those parts, I realized while reading this book, which has several sequences. Not because they humanize the person doing the killing, which I’m fine with—though I feel like that humanization is almost never actually done well because it kind of always ends up painting a person as like irredeemable—the sections in this book were called like “the making of a monster” and like people who commit murders are people, not monsters, there’s nothing special about them that makes them less human that anyone else.
I just also think they’re like not great for telling a good story. I get that they raise tension or offer up red herrings for you as the reader also trying to solve the mystery; I just don’t think they do a great job, especially for all the Weird Vibes they offer a story. Again, it comes down to that double edged sword of making us understand how a Regular Person could be Driven To Kill, but in doing so it absolutely dehumanizes them (and also allows us to divorce that kind of violence from other kinds of state-sanctioned violence like war.) And I think in this case, they were an attempt to make the ending seem less TOTALLY BONKERS but frankly when it is as bonkers as it already is (and I won’t spoil the ending but trust me you’re like “oh what the fuck?” by the end) you should just lean into it. If you can’t cram the Clues into the main plot, what’s going on there? (And they DO have those clues in the main plot, so it makes that part make even less sense.)
And like yes a lot of this is about me refusing to like. Buy into the parts of murder mysteries in particular that are about creating an image of criminality that supports the larger narratives about the carceral state and the need for punishment. But I also don’t like it as a storytelling device because it takes me out of the mystery itself and forces me to confront how we perceive criminality to develop in a person. So maybe mysteries as a Genre aren’t truly For Me, but I keep returning to them! I keep trying!
The Reading Situation
100 books: At the time of this writing, I have finished 68 out of 100 books, putting me at twelve books ahead of schedule and pretty closer to 70 by the 7th month which is pretty fun. We’ll see if I can sneak in those last two books by early August, but I’m still doing a pretty good job of reading!
Author identity challenge: still sitting at 11/18 or 68%! We’ll see what I can make happen, but ooo boy I’ve read a lot of books by white people this year! (18, by my count.)
Currently reading: I’m worried about this book I started—Gardens of the Moon—because I’m not sure it’s the full book and if it IS the full book it’s like 700+ pages long, and if it’s NOT the full book it’s a WASTE OF MY TIME BECAUSE IT DOESN’T COUNT so we’ll see. So far it’s like a Lot but I’ll live. I’m also in the midst of Jamaica Kincaid’s collection At the Bottom of the River, and will probably finish that soon; I’m making pretty decent headway on Cavedweller by Dorothy Allison, trying to get back into Radical Sacrifice (and really enjoying it, but man I’m slow,) and moving slowly through What Doesn’t Kill You! Back to mostly a full rotation of five books, so that feels good!
And that’s it for this week! Thanks for bearing with me as I deal with the unpredictable ups and downs of health, and for uh just reading this monstrosity this week if you got this far! If you want to see me shoot off like four threads on twitter on the same topic in a 30 minute span because the caffeine from my one allotted cup of tea a day has just hit, you can follow me on twitter @fadesintointent; if you want to see me never ever post, you can follow me on instagram @sonofahurricane. Thank you again for reading. Take care of yourselves, and each other! <3