anti-canon

The Anti-Canon: Douglas Hall's In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica, 1750-86, by Yvvette Edwards

I seem to have always had an interest in the slave trade. I find the subject mind-bogglingly vast, involving so many people from so many countries for so many centuries, that to have an expert understanding is probably beyond a lifetime’s work. Perhaps because of the author in me, my interest over the last few years has evolved into a passion for first-hand accounts of slavery, a desire to understand something of the experience of being a slave on an emotional and psychological level, to read authentic and realistic accounts of what a slave’s life was truly like. 

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The Anti-Canon: Rant and Reflection by Jarred McGinnis

The Anti-Canon: Rant and Reflection by Jarred McGinnis

Lots of Johnsons and Willies, both Big and Blind.

Canon. What a silly idea and in so many ways. Such a backward-looking reactionary way to approach art. Swathes of kids each generation lost to the faith of words because they are taught to think a book has to look like something dead white guys made in mahogany lined libraries between attacks of gout. Two centuries of posh folk with emotional constipation is plenty. Silly also because ‘Canon’ smacks of someone telling you a book is important rather than giving a person the tools and time to figure it out for themselves.

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The Anti-Canon: María Angélica Bosco by Ben Bollig

The Anti-Canon: María Angélica Bosco by Ben Bollig

 

The Argentine novelist and critic Carlos Gamerro once wrote that the ‘whodunit’ is doomed to struggle in his country. There is a simple reason for this. In Argentina, if there is an unsolved murder, everyone assumes, or maybe knows, that the police or the military did it. In his novel An Open Secret he explores the role of the police during the Proceso, the dictatorship of the late 1970s. Police forces carried out disappearances, torture and repression far from the big cities, where there was no significant military presence and, it’s worth mentioning, there were very few of the alleged ‘subversives’ whom the junta claimed they were targeting.

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The Anti-Canon: Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo – by Irenosen Okojie

The Anti-Canon: Ishmael Reed's Mumbo Jumbo – by Irenosen Okojie

 

I first picked up Ishmael Reed’s inventive satirical thriller Mumbo Jumbo in college, on a sticky summer day. I found it beneath a turnstile on my way to the computer lab, as though it had emerged through a rabbit hole and landed at my feet. Published in 1972, Reed’s seminal novel set in New Orleans, New York and Haiti introduces us to a central character called PaPa LaBas, a private dick operating from Mumbo Jumbo headquarters with a sign on the door that reads ‘PAPA LABAS MUMBO JUMBO KATHEDRAL FITS FOR YOUR HEAD.’ At the beginning of the novel, we encounter an American south in peril, the psychic epidemic Jes Grew is tearing through the land with cases reported of people in a state of uncontrollable frenzy, doing stupid sensual things, wriggling like fish, dancing the ‘Eagle Rock’, the ‘Sassy Bump’, ‘lusting after relevance’ with the only successful anesthetizer being sleep. Jes Grew’s symptoms include seeing Nkulu Kulu of the Zulu, a locomotive with a red green and black python entwined in its face. And feeling like ‘the gut heart and lungs of Africa’s interior.’ It is an anti-plague even, characterised by ebullience and ecstasy that defies race, class and consciousness.

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The Anti-Canon: The Domesday Dictionary - Eley Williams

I wrote a dictionary when I was fourteen. It was exam term and, in an effort to read anything other than the allotted textbooks, I had stumbled across a magazine article about Chambers Dictionary’s editors, specifically the surreptitious insertion of jokes into the text of their lexicons (See: ‘éclair n. - a cake, long in shape but short in duration’). The idea of lexicographers smuggling such entries into an otherwise sincere work of reference struck me as the most amazing act of literary subversion imaginable; I’ve been a fan of éclairs, and eccentricities in dictionaries ever since.

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The Anti-Canon: Peter Gelderloos' To Get To The Other Side - by Gyorgy Furiosa

American anarchist, poet and author Peter Gelderloos’ most significant contributions to the anti-canon of radical critique and journalism have come in the form of two books exploring and exploding the false dichotomy of ‘violence versus non-violence’ in terms of enacting political and social transformation. His 2005 essays How Nonviolence Protects The State and The Failure Of Non-Violence: From The Arab Spring to Occupy (2013) both set out to '[debunk] the notion that non-violent activism is the only acceptable and effective method of struggle' and to 'defenestrate the stranglehold that [pacifism has on movements]', yet it is his 2010 work To Get To The Other Side that more fully explores and examines the human aspects of a life anarchic. Engaged in the life of action, as well as literature, Gelderloos has also been incarcerated for his political actions, once in 2001 for attending a protest at the School For The Americas, and again in 2007 for public disorder offences during a squatter’s protest in Barcelona.

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