I have agreed to work with Jon Hochschartner on a biography that I believe will be of interest to those who follow this blog. Jon has initiated a crowd funding page that will help him make this project possible since it will be a full-time job once it gets off the ground. I think that Jon is eminently qualified to take on such a project since he has written a number of articles for both mainstream and alternative publications that demonstrate a command of professional quality prose as well as having gone through a political journey comparable to my own.
You might be aware that I worked on a comic book memoir with Harvey Pekar that was slated for publication by Random House in 2010. After he died, Random House decided not to publish it and Harvey Pekar’s widow Joyce Brabner ordered me not to serialize it on my blog. Although I am proud of the work that I did with Harvey and the great art work done by Summer McClinton, such a format would necessarily be incapable of going into the depth that a more conventional approach could facilitate.
In the last couple of years, I have kicked around the idea of writing a memoir but abandoned it largely because it would take up too much of my time and prevent me from covering film, politics and other topics that this blog takes up on a consistent basis. But by teaming up with Jon, it will allow me to go into the kind of depth that a lifetime on the left requires.
Since this blog and my CounterPunch articles include a lot of autobiographical detail, you probably have a good idea of what distinguishes me—for better or for worse—from people in my generation who have written about the sixties radicalization. I came into it not as a red diaper baby or someone consumed by world politics from a young age. Like many who came of age in the twilight of the beat generation, my early interests were in Eastern religion, jazz, poetry, and existentialist philosophy. I would have continued in that vein if the war in Vietnam had not turned my world upside down. As attributed (inaccurately) to Leon Trotsky, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”
Although I gave myself completely to Marxist politics, and still do to this day, my earlier “outsider” sensibility remained with me throughout the 11 years I was in the Socialist Workers Party. This gave me an ability to think critically about the problems of building a revolutionary party in the USA but not with the clarity achieved through collaboration with Peter Camejo in the early 1980s.
My identity is Marxist but also Jewish in the sense of what Isaac Deutscher called “the non-Jewish Jew”. Growing up in what amounted to a shtetl in the Borscht Belt in the 1950s provided me with a comic sensibility absorbed from the comedians who used to perform in local hotels, from Rodney Dangerfield to Woody Allen. Although the book I did with Pekar was very much an attempt to do a kind of standup-comedy memoir, I feel confident that Jon Hochschartner will be able to capture my off-kilter take on politics and life in general,
I am looking forward to using Jon as my muse and strongly encourage you to visit his crowd funding site and contributing generously.