The first thing I notice about the NYC Anarchist Book Fair is the widespread rebellion against deodorant. I flash back to college with nostalgia but for the stifling enclosure of Judson Church, and recall Nietzsche’s caution that one does not go to church to breathe clean air. This is the earthy air of the human real, and anyway my own quasi-effectual deodorant free from aluminum salts is probably not so masking either.
On this Saturday, the book fair combines workshops, free child care, extensive outlays of books, zines and pamphlets, and an art exhibit. The tables are jammed together and traffic is lively; at one end I encounter a guy who believes anarchy is a state of chaos without order or structure (and a bookseller remonstrating with him), and at the other a young man having a fiery discussion about means of resistance with another bookseller offering Kropotkin titles and excerpts, inter alia. I bought the illustrated “Abolish Restaurants” and a FAQ about anarchy from the bookseller while he insisted to another visitor that at a recent protest, he was there to fight Nazis, not cops: “At every revolution that’s made a difference, the cops stood aside.” I can’t disagree, and move on.
I learn that South End Press, a Brooklyn-based independent house, was responsible for publishing Manning Marable’s “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Africa.” It’s the only title I recognize on a table with a lot of Vandana Shiva books. This is especially moving considering that Marable died just over a week ago, barely managing to publish his 10-year magnum opus about Malcolm X. The woman at their table thinks I know who Josh MacPhee is because I’m carrying a book of his graphic art, and we have a brief desultory discussion about Facebook and Twitter before we’re interrupted by another browser.
I meet some friends at the exhibit just as the fair is winding down. The collection was memorable, but not labeled; fortunately Antonio Serna of vizKult, who had curated the show, drove us out at closing. We sit at a low table covered with photographs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; they include themes from “chillin drunk at the base” to “burnt haji corpse on a slab, thumbs up!” photos. Antonio tells us that this piece is called “At Ease” and it’s by Lucas Michael, using photos from a now-defunct military website where the enlisted posted all kinds of images from their travails. A small stack of CDs in sleeves offers the audience a thirdhand souvenir, and invites them to distribute the images. It’s a sobering coda to the bookfair, and we take discs to do our bit.