“Waiting for a moment until another shellbark dropped, a blue-jay perched upon a bare twig and sang after its fashion. It was a short series of discordant notes; collectively, a harsh, rattling, corvine call, and yet it blended well with the gnarly branches and shaggy bark. Coarse, but honest to the core. There was nothing for mere appearance’s sake, such as gluts you in modern assemblages of men. The blue-jay is a bird murderer, but he does not care a whit who knows it. There is no stabbing in the back about him, and now that the spared nestlings of summer are all on the wing, and there is no lack of them, we forget the foul deeds, as we thought them, that so sorely vexed us in June, and take the jay for what he is to-day. No summer sky was ever a finer blue than is his plumage, and no jauntier crest ever reared its defiance. To whom does he call, I wonder, as he cries loudly, again and again, and then, hearing no answer at all, whips the idle air with impatient wings and is gone. The gentle summer shower, when every rain-drop falls as if saying, ‘By your leave,’ is all very well in its way, and so, too, the summer warblers, with their endless billing and cooing and languid love songs; but it cloys at last. Even if the lightning strikes near, the thunder gust is welcomed by a healthy man and the rasping cry and gruff, stringent intensity of purpose of a blue-jay find a welcome. Energy, not lassitude, is now uppermost, and better in November a blue-jay, fretful and in its way profane, than the amiable blue-bird, never of the earth, earthy.” (Charles Abbot, The Rambles of an Idler, 1906)
Well, it shouldn’t be as bad as all that, and we will have more to do with blackbirds around here, with those “birds of the coming storm” that feature so significantly in our shared histories, and with which many of us still fancy we have some kinship. But I expect to hit as many jarring notes as I make songbird melodies, as I engage in a rather wholesale exhumation of the radical past.
Corvus: face it, the easy “black” anarchist business names are pretty well used up, and as I live in a city where mere humans seem to go about their business by the leave of the seemingly omnipresent crows, well, things seemed to add up. And I wanted something a little messy and discordant, to go with the lovely cacophony of voices that I’ve been trying to arrange into a micropublishing catalog.
The Origin Story (short version): A couple of months ago, I started to realize that my corporate bookselling gig was going to drive me freakin’ nuts. Capitalism = Epic fail!!11! these days, and working in a struggling big-box gives you a front-row look at the embarrassing details. You cannot run anything like a market, let alone a free market, if it’s hedge fund managers who have the final say on policy questions, and my smidge over minimum wage was looking like a pretty low compensation for too few hours to live on of ignoring perfectly good market information by command. The business plan I came up with as an alternative was the equivalent of tearing up the bed sheets and knotting them together, but I think there’s something to be said, in the face of pervasive irrationality, for acting as if the worst has indeed happened and just assuming that one has to get out and get on with it. I quit a decent job, in a city with very few decent jobs, because I was being told consistently, despite 25+ years in the business, that I wasn’t doing the job. And then I got asked back for a seemingly endless series of “last” shifts and personal favors, and now I’ve really just cut my hours in half. Ah, well. My debtors can rest easier. But the time in between the break and the partial reconciliation gave me enough space to really work through the thing I had leapt at.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to immerse myself in the history of the anarchist movement, and in its various contexts. I’ve compiled, as a result, a fairly extension collection of texts in various forms. My heart will always be with independent booksellers, infoshops, tablers and the sort of people who frequent those businesses, and in my last stint in the infoshop world it had become clear to me that one of the needs there was a fairly steady flow of cheap, new material, the kind of stuff that might bring people back to a space, and which all concerned could afford to play with. Having, for the moment, run into some brick walls where my various other talents are concerned, it hasn’t seemed too unreasonable to roll the dice on my packrat propensities. Thus, Corvus…
I took a basic version of the new distro out to the Portland Anarchist Bookfair a month ago, and was pleased with the response. I also got to spend a little quality time with old friend/foe Aragorn!, get the skinny on the Anarchist Library project, talk to locals about the possibility of doing some community education around the Sellwood Firebrand, and gauging the interest in reprints of the sort of material I already have squirreled away. On the way out the door, I said to a friend that maybe I should try to do something like a pamphlet a day. I had done 25+ in a couple of weeks, before the bookfair, and just scratched the surface of the material I could easily access. The conviction grew on me after the fair, and it has stuck. I set myself a goal of having about two months worth of releases together before I took the project “live,” and I’ve pretty well achieved that.
Today’s share of that labor is a couple of pamphlets from the very beginning of the history of mutualism’s entry into the United States. (I’m treating Warren’s equitable commerce here as something different, if no less important.) Most of William B. Greene’s work is now available online, either through my earlier efforts or through the library-dredging of Google Books, but, honestly, my earlier pdf editions of these early works were much less than they deserved. These, while not perfect by any means, are a solid step forward in treating the foundation texts of Greene’s mutualism with the respect they deserve. Longtime readers may feel a little bit of the satisfaction I do at being able to see the 1849 Equality and 1850 Mutual Banking in print:
These two volumes are the beginning of my long-promised Blazing Star Library. Others are already almost ready to follow them, starting with two volumes of theological writings and period responses. For these, visit the Corvus Shop or download the free pdfs:
And tomorrow is another day, and another pamphlet. . .