the crabigail review: underground

sorry, i haven’t posted in a while. & sorry, by pointing that out, i am subscribing to capitalist ethics pertaining to the free labor of maintaining a blog, & displaying fucked up personal relationship with the concepts of “productivity” & “disability” (a recent theme for me).

i mailed off the last of the remaining paper trail distro orders a couple of days ago. the distro is officially closed, over, finito, & i have no more work left to do with it! to celebrate, jared & i went out for sandwiches. if you go out to a restaurant in lawrence, your only options are various kinds of sandwiches. there is nothing else to eat in the entire town. if you don’t feel like cooking at home, you have to ask yourself what kind of sandwich you want: chicken parm? turkey with cranberry relish? roasted chicken with tomatoes & goat cheese? roast beef au jus? locally-raised bacon cheeseburger? all of these are fine options, but you’re out of luck if you ever want anything that is not a sandwich. even tracking down a reasonably priced ceasar salad is near-impossible. mostly we eat at home. last night i made baked rigatoni & the night before that, jared made pork tenderloin braised with onions & wine & a side of mashed potatoes made with heavy cream. delicious.

since the distro is shut down & spring is approaching (kind of), i am getting excited about spring clothing. i really want these shoes:

but are they too fanciful for the dour woman-of-a-certain-vintage that i have become? i turn 31 this summer. i don’t want to dress like a 31-year-old who thinks she is seventeen. maybe it depends on how i wear them?

i’m also thinking about these: as a neutral heel, especially for when i am wearing pink (which happens a lot, which clashes with my wine-colored fluevog operettas), & these: as a practical, adorable, all-purpose flat. thoughts?

i was looking over some book reviews i have written in the last year, & i came across the review i wrote of mark rudd’s somewhat execrable weather underground memoir, underground: my life with SDS & the weathermen. i thought it would share it here because it cracked me up when i re-read it. in november, i attended a really bizarre “workshop” on “organizing your community” (whatever that means–i’m not sure it could be phrased in a more vague manner), “facilitated” by mark rudd. that meant that he was there, & he asked a lot of weird questions that no one knew how to answer. such as this exchange:
workshop attendee: “i’ve been pretty involved with a campaign to stop the new super-walmart they want to build on the edge of town. we’ve been collecting signatures for our petitions & attending city hall meetings about new construction.”
mark rudd: “so what is your strategy for stopping the walmart?”
attendee: “um…well, we’ve been putting together these petitions, & going to city hall meetings…”
mark rudd: “but those are tactics. what’s your strategy?”
attendee: “um…well…uh…”
a different attendee: “i, for one, am not really clear on the difference between ‘tactic’ & ‘strategy’. mark, can you share the definitions that you use?”
mark rudd: “i’ve been trying to figure that out for the last forty years! *guffaw*”
all attendees: *anxious tittering* *realizing they’re wasting a gorgeous sunny november afternoon with a loon*

or this:
mark rudd: “so, what’s your new dissertation about?”
PhD candidate friend: “well, i’m working on a history of the riot grrrl movement of the 90s. it was kind of like the third wave of feminism, kind of a cultural movement, & what i’m really focusing on is the mail networks that girls established, like with letters & zine distribution–”
mark rudd: “oh, i know about riot grrrl!”
PhD candadiate friend: “…you do?”
mark rudd: “sure! when riot grrrl was getting popular, people were all of the sudden really interested in, you know, ‘bad girls’ throughout history. because that’s what riot grrrls are, right? ‘bad girls’? like strippers & girls that get into fights & stuff? so the rutgers university press re-issued this memoir by susan stern, one of the women in weatherman with me. she was a ‘bad girl,’ you know. she was a sex worker & she had a real problem with authority & stuff. she is one of the west coast collectives. i didn’t really think her book was very good, but girls just ate it up because it was about a bad girl, like the riot grrrls.”
me: *silently seething, because i have read susan stern’s book & felt that mark rudd had totally missed the point, & was managing to be insulting to riot grrrls & women today in his blithe dismissals of sex workers as “bad girls”*
PhD candadiate friend: “oh. um…sure. i mean…i think riot grrrl is more complex than that…”
mark rudd: “sure, sure. sounds great! good luck with that!”

awkward! anyway, here’s my awesome review:

what a totally weird book. i have never been big on mark rudd. i have read a lot about SDS (i really recommended kirkpatrick sales’s book on the subject for a thorough history & understanding the politics of the group & what broke it apart) & weatherman, including all of the various autobiographies of former weatherpeople that have been published in the last ten years or so. even back when i was reading my dad’s old history books about the 60s student movements when i was like 13, mark rudd always seemed like a preening, sexist asshole to me. so when i heard that some publisher had finally taken the bait & agreed to publish his long-unpublished manuscript (or this is what i have heard from sources that are perhaps less vested in mark’s story than he himself is–he claims in the epilogue that he retired from teaching a mere three years ago in order to write the book, which doesn’t at all tally with what i have heard about a completed manuscript kicking around since at least 2001), i was somewhat intrigued, somewhat trepidatious.

while looking for an apartment in kansas, i stayed with a friend whose scholarship focuses on oral histories. she had interviewed mark rudd several years before & told me that he was a really dull interview, over-apologizing for the actions of weatherman, completely flummoxed by certain questions she raised about, say, the lack of conspicuous female leadership in the student movement of the 1960s. you’d think that in the forty years he’s been psychologically beating himself up for adhering to an anti-imperialist violence line for a couple of years during which he didn’t even really do much of anything violent (if this book is to be believed), he might have stopped to think about ladies as more than just an amusing toy to fuck, but whatever. she’d picked up a copy of his autobiography & let me borrow it. i got a few chapters in before i had to put it away again because i couldn’t bear the descriptions of mark rudd’s sex life. do i care that he lost his virginity to an older married neighbor woman? no, i do not. nor do i need to hear about midwestern accents being a “sexual turn-on” or references to his penis as a “magic wand of [women’s] liberation”. YUCK.

i requested it from the local library back in boston though, since i can’t seem to leave a book unread once i’ve started it. the sexual stuff is strictly abhorrent. he writes about having a threesome with a married woman & another male weatherman member, & feeling “excited” by the prospect of his semen “mixing” with the other dude’s “inside a woman”. come on! it’s not like this book is really all that long. it’s just barely over 300 pages. he spends the first half of the book recounting the columbia strikes & building seizures, & pretty much the rest of the book detailing his seven & a half years living underground as a weather fugitive. surely he could have ditched the repellent sexual fantasies & written more substantively about the political work he has done since surfacing in the late 70s? he went to nicaragua to build houses. that’s interesting, right? roxanne dunbar-ortiz wrote an entire memoir about doing solidarity work with nicaraguans in the 80s. it’s not boring shit. i don’t know if mark was trying to maybe atone for having fucked up attitudes toward the ladies or what, but he came across as pretty unrepentant in a lot of ways. he actually writes at one point, defending his characterization as a borderline-sexual predator using his prestige within the student movement to score with girls (including very young girls who were virgins whom he never spoke to again), “i was 21. i was living out the standard american male fantasy.” OH! i see! every dude is a disgusting scum fucker. that makes it okay then? he also writes about jane alpert, palling around with her in new mexico, & then feeling betrayed when she cited his bad behavior with the ladies in a piece she wrote for “ms.” magazine. he writes about fantasizing about smashing her head in with a 40-pound concrete block. um…what the fuck?

& then there’s all the shit where he’s all, “when i found out about what was going on in nicaragua, i felt really depressed…when iraq invaded kuwait, it made me really depressed…when this huge geopolitical tragedy occurred, here’s how it made me feel.” i know autobiographies are by their very nature perhaps a conduit for selfish explorations of feelings, but oh my god! i don’t care how sad the first iraq war made you feel. suck it up, dude.

there was some nice dishy stuff about how crazy the weather underground’s politics got as they lost touch with reality living as fugitives, fighting with each other all the time over minute differences in political flavor, which is plenty familiar to me as a veteran of a gazillionty-nine different collectives full of people hung up on their own egos. it’s always nice to know that i don’t just have bad luck, but that maybe there is something about the isolating nature of this work that makes people pick each other apart. but i definitely won’t be giving this one a re-read anytime soon. seriously, comparing his penis to a magic wand? i still can’t get over how disgusting that is.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

3 thoughts on “the crabigail review: underground

  1. My vote goes for the Fluevogs, not only because they are a fantastic-looking shoe but also because i have 2 styles on that Operetta footbed and they are comfortable as hell. Tho’ those silver flats *would* make a fantastic all-purpose shoe.

    Penis as magic wand?? UGH. That analogy is making me feel unwell.

  2. Strategy’s the “what”, tactic’s the “how.

    GOAL: Shut down Walmart
    STRATEGY 1: Educate people about dangers of Walmart.
    TACTICS: Organise event, promote public event, put up signs in local food shop

    STRATEGY 2: Promoting and supporting local biz
    TACTICS: Creating a coupon/voucher system as a promo method, make a list of local bizs and do a flyer drop

    basically a way of narrowing things down to things you can actually DO, rather than big visiony ideas that are too broad.

    (I’m starting to be a geek for this sort of thing)

    though if you don’t know what it is, you shouldn’t really be facilitating a workshop on it.

    Also the riot grrl thing = o_O?!

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