Kirkus Star


A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the American Left
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Rambling, revelatory story of two anarchists: one dead, the other very much alive and full of pizzazz, despite his protestations.

Journalist/poet Ross (Tonatiuh’s People, not reviewed, etc.) gets together with the buried remains of E.B. Schnaubelt, an anarcho-syndicalist gunned down by henchmen of a California timber baron, on the site of the latter’s cenotaph. The pair reflect and joust over revolutionary matters, fueled by dago red. In a voice that rolls like the tall grass prairie, swept by the breeze of doing right and saving grace, they talk of their respective roots in the Communes of 1848 and 1872, or as a young citizen of Greenwich Village’s Little Red Schoolhouse (“whose façade was painted the color of its politics”). Schnaubelt played a pivotal role in the Haymarket bombing of 1886, and many bombings would come in its wake as explosives became the furious tool of choice for insurrectionists from Wobblies to Weatherpeople. Schnaubelt speaks his mind, while Ross spills his beans. Of his ratty husband- and fatherhood, the (live) author remarks, “We ran off to Mexico and had kids, some of whom are still alive. She suffered me as an arrogant, blitzed young man wild to become the white Rimbaud (Bob Kaufman was already the black one).” As the book ebbs and flows, with “testimonies” from Emma Goldman, Bill Hayward, Sacco, and Vanzetti, a vivid picture emerges of Ross’s association with the left, nitty-gritty and unpretty but better than the prevailing political current. And Ross is still at it: after all the myriad screw-ups, the sad stint with the Progressive Labor Party, the halfway houses for addiction, he retained enough conviction to volunteer as a human shield in Baghdad, an abhorrence of Hussein be damned. True and dubious, colorful and carrying, Ross’s prose breaks like a wave, a great booming salute to radicalism that is, for all its missteps, still an inspiring force.

A candent, mordant tribute to left-wing America.

Pub Date: June 7th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56025-578-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Nation Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2004