Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader
Texts Collected by Dark Star
Reviewed by Charlie Bertsch
Thursday, June 12 2003, 04:22 PM
There's something fundamentally disturbing about an era in which previously published texts seem more pertinent than new ones. Every day seems to bring the publication of another anthology treading a path worn smooth by worthy predecessors, a "new" reader in postmodernism, pop art, or political theory filled with the usual suspects. It's hard to muster up bad feeling towards any book that collects texts that you already know and love. So, just as fans of a band sometimes seek out a song they already have simply because it's on a motion-picture soundtrack or record-label sampler, my friends and I find ourselves buying collections replete with writings we have already acquired several times over. I must have at least twenty-five anthologies that include some portion of Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." They all make me happy. But few of them are truly useful.
Quiet Rumours is one of the exceptions, an anthology that I will surely turn to again and again even though I own most of the texts already. The writing is consistently inspiring, particularly the pieces by Peggy Kornegger, Cathy Levine, and "Joreen." But that's not enough to make the book worthwhile. Presentation is key. There are times when as subtle a difference as reading something in 18-point Verdana instead of 12-point Times Roman has made me perceive a text in a new light. The dual-column format and graceful sans-serif font of this collection works a little magic. Coupled with the judicious deployment of woodblock prints and a liberal use of white space, the layout in Quiet Rumours invites you to linger over texts that you otherwise might not read or might not read again.
Predictably, however, the book's appearance is the occasion for some defensive hand-wringing by the Dark Star collective. The introduction apologizes for taking the original pamphlets that comprised the Quiet Rumours series and making them pretty for the marketplace:
"All of the pamphlets reprinted in this anthology were once readily available in your 'local friendly radical bookshop' or widely available through mail order via radical publications, and had a wide circulation. Regrettably, with the decline of radical bookshops/spaces, one-off publications etc, and the increasing consolidation and money-driven commercial bookshops, these outlets are becoming fewer and fewer, and the chances of placing a book in the commercial domain are far higher than the chances of placing a pamphlet."
True enough. If you don't believe me, try to put copies of a 'free' publication on the shelves of an independent bookstore.
The nicer a book looks, the more respectable its price tag, the more likely that it will be displayed where customers will see it, want it, and buy it. Verso's republication of the Communist Manifesto as a cute boutique micro-hardback is a case in point. Many of the people who bought this indie bestseller could have purchased a newsprint Chinese edition for a buck or two. But they opted for the dusk-jacket and attractive sewn-in bookmark (in red, naturally). Is that a bad thing? It depends whether you believe in the possibility of a beauty that transcends politics. Personally, I fetishize the 1970s-era Xeroxed pamphlets from which Quiet Rumours and Dark Star's previous anthology Beneath the Paving Stones are drawn. As much as I love having them in the original, though, I'm a hell of a lot more likely to read something that's pleasing to the eye. Purity can give you a headache.
Quiet Rumors is available from AK Press