[Marxism] Chávez, the New Oprah, Makes Another Bestseller

milongonsinga milongonsinga at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 20 12:02:46 MDT 2009

Never read "Open Veins", but, fresh out of the Army, I read these three: Genesis, Faces and Masks, and Century of the Wind. I strongly recommend them as an alternate and poetic way of understanding the history of the Americas.
 A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, "I am very discouraged. What should I do?" Soen replied, "Encourage others."

----- Original Message ----
From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: milongonsinga at yahoo.com
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 10:22:06 AM
Subject: [Marxism] Chávez, the New Oprah, Makes Another Bestseller

April 20, 2009, 12:35 pm
Chávez, the New Oprah, Makes Another Bestseller
By Robert Mackey

Demonstrating a heretofore unknown capacity for speed-reading, Americans 
rushed to Amazon.com over the weekend to post new reviews of the 
317-page book — Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America: Five 
Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” — President Hugo Chávez of 
Venezuela gave to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas on 
Saturday. As one of the readers engaged in the discussion of what is now 
the second most popular book on Amazon’s Web site noted:

Who would have believed that so many people could order the book, get it 
delivered, and read it overnight! Who says Americans have become a 
nation of illiterates?!?

Then again, as some other reviewers of the reviewers on Amazon have 
suggested, it just might be that some of the people flooding Amazon with 
negative evaluations of the book saved time by not actually reading it 
before speed-writing their responses to it. There is no doubt that 
people have been ordering the book from Amazon — the BBC reports on 
Monday that it was Amazon’s 54,295th most popular title on Friday but 
had shot up to number two on the company’s bestseller list by Monday 
morning — but, given that the online bookseller estimates that it takes 
one to three weeks after an order is placed for this book to be shipped, 
it seems unlikely that any of the newest reviews were based on careful 
evaluations of the arguments put forth by the Uruguayan author.

The book’s new popularity has even spawned a separate discussion thread 
on Amazon headlined: “What’s With All The New Reviews? Did A Bunch Of 
People Read It In The Past Couple Of Days??” One of the book’s haters 
responded there by arguing that it was unnecessary to read the book to 
form an opinion about it:

Basically, it sounds like another ‘All evil comes from 
European-descendant white people’ and Latin America would be a paradise 
if we’d never arrived (never mind the human sacrifices going on at the 
time of the Spanish arrival and the massive corruption that is currently 
ongoing in utopias like Venezuala). I haven’t read it, though; why read 
Karl Marx through another ethnic lens when I have the original source on 
the bookshelf, along with a few other filtered versions?

On the other side of the argument, a reader identified as one of 
Amazon’s top 500 reviewers wrote on Sunday that while he thinks “Chavez 
is a boor and a buffoon, and it could be taken as a gesture of supreme 
condescension that he gave the well-educated American president one of 
the standard texts of Latin American studies,” he still hopes that Mr. 
Obama will read an English translation of the book since “Even English 
readers who will dismiss his analysis as ‘economic determinism’ should 
be ready to meet Galeano, on his own terms, as a vivid example of the 
Latin American world-view.”

This is not the first time that an endorsement from Mr. Chávez has had 
this sort of effect on a book’s fortunes. In 2006, as Motoko Rich 
reported in The Times, days after Mr. Chávez held up a Spanish 
translation of Noam Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for 
Global Dominance,” during a speech to the United Nations General 
Assembly, the English version “hit No. 1 on Amazon’s best-seller list” 
in the United States.

North American readers may be less aware of the fact that Mr. Chávez 
apparently likes giving and getting books from other world leaders, and 
has also been photographed exchanging reading material with the 
presidents of Yemen, Russia, Cuba and Colombia in recent years.

While “The Open Veins of Latin America” itself is not available to read 
online, Isabel Allende’s introduction, which accompanies the English 
translation and was written in the 1990s, is on the Web, and that may 
give a better sense of what the book means to its proponents is about 
beyond the simple “anti-capitalist” handle that has been attached to it 
in the last few days.

You can also see and hear the Uruguayan writer speak for himself in a 
long interview with Mr. Galeano conducted by Amy Goodman and Juan 
Golnzalez in 2006, which is available in both video and audio versions 
on the Web site of the program “Democracy Now.”

Not having read it myself, I am unable to offer readers any better 
review of this work by Eduardo Galeano — although his book about the 
game that dominates many lives in Latin America, “Soccer in Sun and 
Shadow,” is a great read. Samples of that book’s English translation are 
available online, in Google Book Search. One version of a chapter of 
that book published in an academic journal gives a sense of how Mr. 
Galeano writes, and sees the world:

The history of soccer is a sad voyage from beauty to duty. When the 
sport became an industry, the beauty that blossoms from the joy of play 
got torn out by its very roots. In this fin-de-siecle world, 
professional soccer condemns all that is useless, and useless means not 
profitable. Nobody earns a thing from that crazy feeling that for a 
moment turns a man into a child playing with a balloon, like a cat with 
a ball of yarn, a ballet dancer who romps with a ball as light as a 
balloon or a ball of yarn, playing without even knowing he’s playing, 
with no purpose or clock or referee.

Play has become spectacle, with few protagonists and many spectators, 
soccer for watching. And that spectacle has become one of the most 
profitable businesses in the world, organized not for play but rather to 
impede it. The technocracy of professional sport has managed to impose a 
soccer of lightning speed and brute strength, a soccer that negates joy, 
kills fantasy and outlaws daring.

Luckily, on the field you can still see, even if only once in a long 
while, some insolent rascal who sets aside the script and commits the 
blunder of dribbling past the entire opposing side, the referee and the 
crowd in the stands, all for the carnal delight of embracing the 
forbidden adventure of freedom.

YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
Send list submissions to: Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu
Set your options at: http://lists.econ.utah.edu/mailman/options/marxism/milongonsinga%40yahoo.com

More information about the Marxism mailing list