One Year Anniversary

I have been at this blog for one year and it is a good time to recap and see how far I have come.

My goal was to write on one volume of the Library of America every week, devoting 4-7 posts per book depending on length and material, while also ensuring that each substantial work (the kind of thing you would italicize in a bibliography) received an individual treatment. More important then content is the approach. It is my belief that the anarchist tradition is integrated into American political culture and society in ways that can be exposed by looking at its canonical writings. There is a hideous trap here, involving the institutions (education and publishing) that define the canon. Nevertheless, I think the Library of America has done a pretty good job of defining the canon broadly and including many genres that may not have been considered “literature” a couple decades ago. I have tried to look at the themes of liberty, power, revolution, individualism, morality, gender equality, race, and tradition (see category cloud to the right).

It has also been a dramatic year for myself, having left my job in the United States and living in Taiwan. While here, I completed one research grant and worked for two months at a local English-language newspaper before realizing work is not quite for me. But mostly I have been writing, completing my book on Pacific labor history (due out next month) and starting a longer general interpretation of Philip K.Dick for the era of late capitalism. I am also working on various topics in Asia-Pacific history, finishing up one article on sailor imprisonment in China’s treaty ports, making progress on a history of exploration from the perspective of working people, and just starting research on prisons in colonial Malaysia. I am also trying to find some people to help me on some translation projects to increase the availability of anarchist writings in Taiwan. Which of these projects will pan out, I cannot say. Although I am sure the Philip K. Dick work will see the light of day within 2014. All in all, I think it has been a productive year. (And as if by magic, despite quitting my job my bank account is bigger than the year before for the first time in five years).

What volumes did I complete? Links take you to the first post in the series, you can use archives to find the rest of the posts on each volume.

American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels, 1953-1956

Thomas Paine, Collected Writings

The American Stage

Jack London: Novels and Social Writings

Jack London: Novels and Stories

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Collected Stories: Gimpel the Fool to The Letter Writer

Herman Melville: Typee, Omoo, Mardi

Herman Melville: Redburn, White-Jacket, Moby-Dick

Charles Chesnutt: Stories, Novels, and Essays

William James: Writings, 1876-1899

Henry Adams: Democracy, Esther, Mont Saint Michel and Chartes, the Education

American Science Fiction, 1956-1958

William Bartram, Travels and Other Writings

Harlem Renaissance: Four Novels of the 1930s

Francis Parkman: France and England in North America Volume 1

Francis Parkman: France and England in North American Volume 2

Lynd Ward: God’s Man, Madman’s Drum, Wild Pilgrimage

Lynd Ward: Prelude to a Million Years, Song without Words, Vertigo

Philip K. Dick, 3 Volumes* I looked at thirty Philip K. Dick novels, going beyond the 14 or so republished by the LOA.

Ambrose Bierce: The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales and Memoirs

Lafcadio Hearn: American Writings

Henry David Thoreau: Collected Essays and Poems

Eudora Welty: Complete Novels

James Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories

James Baldwin: Collected Essays

George Washington: Writings

William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs

Harlem Renaissance: Five Novels of the 1920s

Richard Henry Dana, Two Years Before the Mast and Other Writings

H. P. Lovecraft, Tales

A. J. Liebling, The Sweet Science and Other Writings

Isaac Bashevis Singer, Collected Stories: A Friend of Kafka to Passions
Incomplete, I still owe a report on Passions

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Other Writings

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Tales and Sketches
In Progress

Nathaniel Hawthorne, Collected Novels
In Progress

That gives us a little short of 37 volumes. Much less than the promised 52, but not insignificant progress. There are 182 posts, averaging 1000 words each.

That was a hard list to write. I read much of that at a playground watching my daughter joyfully explore life or during our “homeschooling” lessons. In hindsight I was probably neglecting my students at the time, but it was a great year in so many ways.

Note on supply. From my subscription I have enough volumes to last another 2 years at this pace. Libraries here can carry me another year or so. Importing books is expensive since I need to pay at least sticker price rather than the discounted subscription price I was paying in the US. I will worry about that later.

I hope you have been enjoying reading or visiting this blog. I know the quality has been mixed. Sometimes it was just a matter of how excited I could get about a text. My training is in history, not literature causing me to avoid poetry. I hope to fix that over the next year. I never invested much time in editing or revisions. I am more interested in getting my ideas out than turning any of this into formal arguments (Philip K. Dick excepted).

What am I planning for the future?

I will certainly spend two months taking on the 7 or 8 volumes of Mark Twain, probably in December and January. I want to attempt one book of poetry, finish the major nature writers with Audubon and Muir, do a series of Great Depression/New Deal writers, and finish some loose ends. I owe some Singer, Melville’s third volume, Thoreau’s other volume, Welty’s essays, Parkman’s book on the Oregon Trail, etc. In the future, I would like to stick with one writer until completion like I did with Baldwin, Dick, and London. If I have time, I will also include a series on black writing starting with the slave narratives and continuing with Douglass, Du Bois, Johnson, and Wright.

4 responses to “One Year Anniversary

  1. You might be interested in my book “Expansive Reality and Restricted Desire in Three Novels by Philip K. Dick.” I discuss Dick’s work in terms of late capitalism and the way it elicits consumer desires. Continued luck with your projects — both your blog and your work on Dick!

    • Sounds very interesting. In fact, I think I ran across it in a search, but did not get a chance to look at it yet.

      My book (“Philip K. Dick and the World We Live In”) keeps getting longer, now nearing 130,000 words of stuff, with no end in sight. I would love to share ideas.

      • Wow, a small world, indeed! I would love to see your introduction. You can e-mail me directly at Mine is a short little book, but I think it adds something to the discussion by bringing in research about postmodernism from both a Marxist and psychoanalytic perspective. I’d like to do more work on Dick after I complete my dissertation–on 20th century American poetry. In fact, I should be done in a couple of weeks (if all goes well). PKD’s work is so rich and fascinating.

    • I did my undergraduate work at University of Wisconsin, Marathon Center before finishing up at Eau Claire. I think that was a path for many working-class kids from Wausau. We actually graduated the same year.

      I checked out your BlogSpot site. Looks like great work. If you are interested in seeing my introduction let me know.

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