Monday, January 23, 2006

Ever fancy your own search engine? Well now you can design your own courtesy of eurekster's beta version SWICKI, which helps you to refine automatic searching firstly by selecting key search terms, and then secondly by learning from the searches made by its users.

50 UK Libraries to Close?
An article in today's Daily Telegraph reports that 50 public libraries in the UK currently face the axe - it is a well-researched article, but what it neglects to point out is that these closures take place after the closure of 3,000 public library service points over the last 10 years. In many cases the closures have taken place in spite of a slight increase in Library budgets during the last 8 years. Money from the closure of small rural libraries is being used to fund additional resources in the big glitzy new libraries.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Independent's "Long-list" for Foreign Fiction
Fiction in translation is hard to find or even find out about, so I welcome the publication of the "long-list" for the Independent's Foreign Fiction Prize. I just hope that the people who buy for public libraries, and stock bookshops read the Independent, and that some of the influential TV programmes like Newsnight Review and Richard & Judy might spare even a few minutes to introduce people to the books that the rest of the world is reading.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Practical Anarchy - Eleuthera

Elèuthera is an anarchist publishing co-operative
based in the heavily industrialised city of Milan, in
the North of Italy. It is operated by the same group
that organises the Centro Studi Libertari / Archivo
Giuseppe Pinelli, named after the anarchist railway
worker who was thrown from a Milan Police Station
window in 1969.

The co-operative developed from the activities of a
group of anarchist activists who came together in the
1960s. In the 70s they become increasingly convinced
that the political realm was becoming less and less
open to intervention and debate, so decided to
concentrate on the social sphere. The group was both
militant and articulate, and was able to engage with
wider intellectual currents beyond the anarchist

Elèuthera grew out of a need to promote anarchist
ideas outside the "ghetto" of the anarchist movement
so that anarchist ideas would start to circulate in
the wider culture of Italian society. Its members
were convinced that there was a widespread interest in
anarchism and they wanted to find a way to put these
ideas into circulation for serious debate.

From that starting point they took a calculated
decision that it was necessary get anarchist books
into the general bookstores rather than just see them
circulated within the anarchist milieu. When they
started Elèuthera in the late 80s and early 90s it was
comparatively easy to gain access to commercial
distribution networks, but it has gradually become
more and more difficult as the big publishers have
attempted to squeeze smaller publishers out of
business through their ability to offer larger
discounts and well-financed sales promotion.
Consequently the Elèuthera co-operative has to devote
an increasing amount of time and energy to
distribution. This has limited the level of other
activity at the Pinelli Centre. Nevertheless,
Elèuthera has managed to establish a distinctive
identity within Italian publishing. Their books are
frequently recommended on course reading lists and
attract the interest of the mainstream media.

Years of hard work, determination and effort have paid
off. The two original members of the co-operative
have increased to seven and there are now more than
150 titles in the Elèuthera catalogue including works
by Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Kirkpatrick Sale,
Colin Ward, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Claud Lefort,
Ursula LeGuin, and Kurt Vonnegut. Recent books
include Italian translations of Tim Jordan's Direct
Action, Sean Sheehan's Anarchism, and Colin Ward's
Water. Other new titles include a book on the
Zapatista rebellion, and Carlos Amorin's The Dirty War
Against Children - the story of Sara Mendez, a young
Uruguayan anarchist living clandestinely in Buenos
Aires, with her young son Simon. Captured by the
military she spent 5 years in prison. When she was
eventually released in 1981 Simon was, like many other
children, officially "disappeared" and forced to live
under a new identity.

The most popular books tends to be on architecture and
urbanism, and the application of anarchist ideas to
social organisation - the kind of topics pioneered by
Colin Ward in Britain - books which are not overtly
anarchist, but look at anarchist ideas in action. One
paradox that they have not been able to resolve is
that whereas big publishers are able to sell books on
anarchism in large quantities, the anarchist movement
finds that its books on anarchism sell in only limited
numbers, usually within the anarchist milieu.
Elèuthera's books that speak to a readership about
applying anarchist ideas to everyday life now and in
the future sell very well. Subjects range from art and
literature to sustainable cities, technology,
surveillance, and from social space to libertarian

Average print runs are often quite small - only 1,500
copies, but their best-selling title, by the French
sociologist Marc Augé, has sold more than 20,000
copies. Augé has identified a space within capitalism
that he defines as "no space" - impersonal, soulless
places such motorways, airports, shopping malls,
around which capitalism is increasingly organised and
within which people loose their identity and their
concept of space. People are only connected to these
spaces in a uniform and bureaucratic manner and
creative social life is not possible within them.

In addition to Elèuthera's publishing activities the
co-operative based around the Pinelli Centre also
produce a popular topical monthly magazine A Revista
Anarchica, which is sold throughout Italy (even in
many commercial newsagents as well as left-wing
bookshops) and Libertaria, a magazine with longer more
reflective, analytical articles. There is also a
regular bulletin, that narrates a "living anarchism",
related to the lives of ordinary anarchists, so that
it features biographies of ordinary activists, rather
than the great names of anarchism. In particular they
have been keen to publicise the activities of the
anarchist resistance to Italian fascism, which has
largely been written-out of the "official" histories.
So far 23 issues of the bulletin have been published,
and full pdf versions are available online.


Pinelli Centre

A-Rivista Anarchica


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Quote of the Week
OK - I know this quote isn't from this week, in fact it is from a 1998 article in the East Hampton Star, in which Sasha Watson interviews clown Dale Scott - but I read it this week, so its new to me.
"Being a librarian is like being an anarchist, people come looking for information and you help them to find it. The soul of a library is as a nonjudgmental resource."

Friday, January 06, 2006

Len Deighton: The Spy & I
Deighton's thrillers made Michael Caine a star, "setting the template for his celebrated working-class-hero act." In this interview in The Independent, the veteran writer tells Robert Dawson Scott what happened next:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

How to be Rich
The cartoonist Hunt Emerson, the foremost artist with Knockabout Comics, has always been a favourite of mine - his fluid detailed style breathing new life into D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and producing classic collections such as Aliens Ate My Trousers. Now he has teamed up with writer Kevin Jackson to produce a comic book version of Ruskin's essay collection Unto This Last and retitled it How to be Rich.
Its a pity that the How to be Rich website hasn't been completed yet, but there is an excellent profile of Hunt Emerson on Read Yourself Raw by way of compensation:

The Independent has published a lengthy feature article about the project:

and Robert Hewitson has written a shorter but lively account for the New Statesman:

Teachers in the North-west of the UK can obtain free copies:

The Myth of the Liberal Media
The first book from Media Lens has just been published, entitled Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media.

"The liberal media tell both sides of the story - kind of. They emphasise the state-corporate version of the truth, particularly in news reporting. This is then ‘balanced’ by commentary that presents superficial or trivial counter-arguments that do not seriously challenge the official view....
"This consistently has the effect of pacifying and neutralising the most concerned and motivated section of society - people drawn to progressive, liberal ideas. By contrast, the right-wing press preaches to the converted, people who are happy with the status quo and keen for it not to be challenged."

To find out more about the book read the most recent Media Lens

For synopsis, table of contents, details of price and how to buy a copy go to the Media Lens bookshop:

Monday, January 02, 2006

Harry Magdoff and George Gerbner
Over the Christmas and New Year period, marxist theorist Harry Magdoff, author of The Age of Imperialism and an editor of Monthly Review, and the media critic George Gerbner died. Interactivist Info Exchange has obituaries on both of them:

All That Glitters
An article on "Literature's global economy" from The New Yorker:

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Book Aid International
The Observer, which has made Book Aid its Christmas Charity this year, carries a feature article on Book Aid International:
"Book Aid International's work underpins lifelong literacy by supplying school libraries, public libraries and many others besides with books and other information resources that are relevant, interesting and informative. None of these libraries has enough money to buy books of their own, so they rely on us to help them build collections that can be used for many years to come.",6903,1676004,00.html

Book Aid

First Monday
The December issue of the online journal First Monday includes some fascinating articles, including Web of lies? Historical knowledge on the Internet (by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig) and From libraries to 'libratories' by Leo Waaijers. Don't be put off by the density of the language as there are always useful and sometimes challenging explorations of key ideas in First Monday.

World War I - Mutinies
First World War poets are taught in schools and are often cited in books and journals as a way of explaining the horror of war and to demonstrate that those engaged in the fighting recognised the real nature of the mass slaughter that took place - but it is always presented as a passive recognition - the private thoughts of individual soldiers. Yet there have been many occasions when soldiers and sailors have taken collective action, recognising that their shared common interest outweighed the ruling class myth of King and Country. Many years ago Dave Lamb wrote a marvellous pamphlet entitled Mutinies outlining some of the soldiers' rebellions that took place during World War I. The text has just been placed online on the Libcom website. Short but essential reading.