Melville House @ City Lights
Thursday, April 9, 2020, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

 

Melville House Publishers is celebrated by City Lights!

Three authors with recently released books join us for an evening of spirited discussion

Malcolm Harris in conversation with Curtis White, moderated by Jenny Odell

Malcolm Harris celebrates the release of SHIT IS FUCKED UP AND BULLSHIT: History Since the End of History 

Curtis White celebrates the release of Living in a World that Can't Be Fixed: Reimagining Counterculture Today

Jenny Odell is the author of How to Do Nothing

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about Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit: History Since The End Of History

Our economic situation, political discourse, and future prospects have gotten much worse since a guy brought a sign that said "Shit is Fucked Up and Bullshit" to the Occupy Wall Street protests. We all knew what he meant then . . . but where are we now? And how has so much happened since the so-called end of history?

Malcolm Harris, one of our sharpest and most versatile critics, tackles these questions in over 30 new and selected pieces, examining everything from the lowering of wages to the rise of fascism–and the maddening cultural landscape in between. Along the way, he cops to being the guy who tricked protestors into thinking Radiohead was playing Occupy Wall Street; investigates why the robots that will replace us so often look like sex objects; and, most comfortingly, assures us that Marx saw the necessity of a crisis moment just like the one we're in.

Rarely does a writer come along who can turn our world so thoroughly upside-down that we can finally understand it for what it really is, but Harris's wry and biting essays do just that, and help us laugh at what we see.

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about Living In A World That Can't Be Fixed

So begins Curtis White's thrilling call for the revitalization of counterculture today.

The problem, White argues, is twofold: first, most of us think of counterculture as a phenomenon stuck in the 1960s, and, second, what passes as counterculture today … simply isn’t. Nevertheless, a reimagined counterculture is our best hope to save the planet, bypass social antagonisms, and create the world we actually want to live in. Now.

White—"the most inspiringly wicked social critic of the moment" (Will Blythe, Elle)—shows how the products of our so-called resistance, from Ken Burns to Black Panther, rarely offer a meaningful challenge to power, and how our loyalty to the "American Lifestyle" is self-defeating and keeps us from making any real social change.

The result is an inspiring case for practicing civil disobedience as a way of life, and a clear vision for a better world—full of play, caring, and human connection.

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about How To Do Nothing

Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.

So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it). Odell sees our attention as the most precious—and overdrawn—resource we have. Once we can start paying a new kind of attention, she writes, we can undertake bolder forms of political action, reimagine humankind’s role in the environment, and arrive at more meaningful understandings of happiness and progress.

Far from the simple anti-technology screed, or the back-to-nature meditation we read so often, How to do Nothing is an action plan for thinking outside of capitalist narratives of efficiency and techno-determinism. Provocative, timely, and utterly persuasive, this book is a four-course meal in the age of Soylent.

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Malcolm Harris is a freelance writer and an editor at The New Inquiry. His work has appeared in the New RepublicBookforum, the Village Voicen+1, and the New York Times Magazine. His first book was Kids These Days: The Making of Millennials. He lives in Philadelphia.

Jenny Odell is an artist and writer who teaches at Stanford, has been an artist-in-residence at places like the San Francisco dump, Facebook, the Internet Archive, and the San Francisco Planning Department, and has exhibited her art all over the world. She lives in Oakland.

Curtis White is a novelist and social critic whose works include Memories of My Father Watching TVThe Middle Mind, and, most recently, The Science DelusionWe, Robots, and Lacking Character. He is the founder (with Ronald Sukenick) of FC2, a publisher of innovative fiction run collectively by its authors. He lives in Port Townsend, WA.

Melville House is an independent publisher located in Brooklyn, New York. It was founded in 2001 by sculptor Valerie Merians and fiction writer/journalist Dennis Johnson, in order to publish Poetry After 9/11, a book of material culled from Johnson’s groundbreaking MobyLives book blog. The material consisted of things sent in to the blog by writers and poets in response to the 9/11 attacks, and Johnson and Merians felt it better represented the spirit of New York than the call to war of the Bush administration. Melville House is also well-known for its fiction, with two Nobel Prize winners on its list: Imre Kertesz and Heinrich Boll. In particular, the company has developed a world-wide reputation for its rediscovery of forgotten international writers — its translation of a forgotten work by Hans Fallada, Every Man Dies Alone, launched a world-wide phenomenon. The company also takes pride in its discovery of many first-time writers — such as Lars Iyer (Spurious), Tao Lin (Shoplifting from American Apparel), Jeremy Bushnell (The Weirdness) and Christopher Boucher (How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive) — all of whom have gone on to greater success.