NEWS THAT STAYED NEWS: Ten Years of CoEvolution Quarterly by Art and Steward Brand--Eds. Kleiner

NEWS THAT STAYED NEWS: Ten Years of CoEvolution Quarterly

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Ezra Pound defined literature as ""News that stays news""; and in its first issue, ecologist Paul Ehrlich defined ""co-evolution"" as the biological concept that species affect each other in their struggles to evolve. This collection of essays from the 10-year run of this hip, eclectic journal focuses frequently on both literary and the ecological issues. The emphasis on back-to-nature ""how to"" and environmental responsibility is what readers would expect from co-editor (and Whole Earth Catalog purveyor) Brand. At its weak points (such as Stephanie Mills' ""Salons and Their Keepers""), this merely showcases what passes for intellectual discourse among the hippy-dippy set. But the weak spots are few, and the laid-back interdisciplinary focus often yields up riches. Ursula LeGuin writes brilliantly on menopause, perversely arguing both for a return to the expression ""change of life"" and for the revival of that medieval institution, the old Crone. Ex-spouses Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead engage in heated debate on who said what during the 1930's (""For God's Sake, Margaret: A Conversation""). Robert Horvitz contributes an absolutely sinister essay on ""Some Mice"" (not for Disney aficionados). Ron Jones' extraordinary ""Winning"" is about an ill-assorted high-school basketball squad--and much more. A certain morbidity lurks in the mellowness. Aside from descriptions of Bateson's and Jed Kesey's deaths, one harrowing essay by Kleiner, ""How Not to Commit Suicide,"" describes the sufferings of would-be suicides who fail, concluding with notes (released by the coroner) left by ""successful"" suicides. One heartbreaker, from a 21-year-old hairdresser, describes waking up after his first attempt: ""I thought I was in heaven--[the free clinic I was in] looked like someplace in heaven for the misfits."" All in all, CoEvolution's willingness to approach all subjects (even sadomasochism and Earl Butz) meets its mentor Bateson's rigorous definition of informative writing: ""a difference that makes a difference."" If this collection of reprinted articles occasionally lapses into self-parody, perhaps the strongly defined nature of the journal itself made a few such moments inevitable.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1986
Publisher: North Point