CHE on 'Radical Novel Reconsidered' series

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Jun 21 20:06:20 MDT 2000

>Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 12:41:07 -0400 (EDT)
>From: Grover Furr <FURRG at>
>Subject: CHE on 'Radical Novel Reconsidered' series and working class majority
>To: mlg-ics at
>This is in today's CHE on-line newsletter, and concerns the series
>that Alan contacted us about two weeks or so ago.
>     - Grover Furr
>     * * * * *
>_Academe Today_
>     From the issue dated June 23, 2000
>     HOT TYPE
>     Scholars Decry Imminent Demise of Series That Revived
>Out-of-Print Radical Novels; 2 Books Call Attention to America's
>Working-Class Majority
>     SAVING POLONSKY: So Abraham Polonsky was no Henry James -- does
>that mean his work should disappear?
>     In 1951, the late, blacklisted filmmaker published a little-known
>novel, The World Above. Long out of print, it was revived by a
>University of Illinois Press series, The Radical Novel Reconsidered.
>But now, Paul Buhle, an American-studies scholar at Brown University,
>worries that the series' imminent demise will leave the legacies of
>writers such as Polonsky, Grace Lumpkin, Anzia Yezierska, and others
>who were more influenced by regionalism and political concerns than
>the aesthetics of James untended and wrongly forgotten. "Used to be,
>intellectuals said radical novels weren't worth the paper they were
>written on," says Mr. Buhle. "But that's just a cold-war conceit."
>     Apparently, a post-cold-war one as well, laments Willis G.
>Regier, director of the press. Some of the first books in the series
>(which made its debut in 1995, after a proposal from Alan Wald, a
>University of Michigan English scholar) sold well, but more-recent
>releases have racked up sales not far beyond what Calvin Trillin once
>called "the high two figures."
>     Mr. Wald, who could not be reached for comment, recently posted a
>message to e-mail lists pleading with radical scholars to adopt the
>books for their courses. But Mr. Regier says interest in radical
>novels of the past reached a high point in 1989. Since then, he says,
>literature scholars have been more interested in ethnicity than in
>class -- perhaps even to the exclusion of class politics, he adds,
>noting that many of the novels in the series represent black and
>immigrant lives as well as communist or socialist politics. The
>failure of the series may be just a matter of crossed signals, he
>says. "The best ideas just don't find the right moment."
>     But the moment is now, says Mr. Buhle. Since last year's protests
>in Seattle, he says, "my students' interest in all subjects radical
>has perked up a lot. The kids need books like these. It's a problem of
>rediscovery, not disinterest."
>     If only there were something like TNT for the the radical novel,
>he says, speaking of Ted Turner's cable network. "They keep all those
>old movies by communist screenwriters alive."
>     Perhaps Mr. Turner would care to adopt a novel or two for the
>     * * *
>     Copyright © 2000 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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