The Strange Case of “The Surrender of Washington Hansen”

[or: “I Wouldn’t Give a Hoot in Hell for My Journey Now” (Cash)]

[UPDATE: Part Two of this thing is here.]

In a break from my usual topics, this is the strange history of the one novel I’ve written, The Surrender of Washington Hansen. At some point soon I intend to find an interesting way to publish it. Probably for reading on a digital device and/or using the Espresso process for print on demand. Given that I publish books with actual publishers, given the time that’s elapsed since I wrote the novel, and given the novel’s progress through a Hollywood film-rights process, without yet seeing screen or page, this post might be seen as one of those things that get hyped on book reissues this way: “with a new introduction by the author!” — But in this case it’s for a book that few people have read.

But I think the book’s progress, or lack of same, makes a bleakly interesting saga of the ups and down of the writing game. Also, the novel’s themes (or whatever), which developed well before I ever thought I’d write or publish any real American history, or write or publish any nonfiction at all, connect with and reflect on my current history themes (or whatever) in ways I never could have perceived when I started writing history, but are pretty glaring to me now.

If I self-publish the novel, some readers of The Whiskey Rebellion, Declaration, and Founding Finance may agree. Or not. Continue reading

Woody Guthrie and the Role of Aesthetics in a Radical Critique of Radicalism

WOO HOO! I could almost be a Ph.D. candidate with that title (or: “Queering the Folk”). I’m promoting a comment and response from my last post to a post of its own, because the comment helped me — as many comments do — develop my understanding of what I’m trying to say:

The comment, from Arevalo:
Good blogging, although I’m not sure vocal quality (or aesthetics) have a direct bearing on the “protest” value of a given song, by Woody Guthrie or anyone of his acolytes. I also think that there is a correlation between “lite-political”, that is, revolution and protest as quaint cultural artifacts from the 60s, and their eventual incorporation into the national mythology.

Ultimately, the failures of social movements are not because Woody or Pete sang them, with or without their “fellow travellers”, or with dry or melifluous voices, but because the struggle was defused by Capitalism (see the recent NYTimes article about Oakland’s “radicalism”).

My response:
Thanks. No, I was by no means saying a social movement failed because of how things were sung and who did the singing. I was saying that under certain, to me, bogus circumstances, the music can fail — for me — as anything: music, poetry, protest, whatever.

Although now the idea is starting to intrigue me, as I think about it here. Yes: I do think the “aesthetics,” in this case, reflect something deeper and more important politically than whether some music might be liked or disliked. Continue reading