Thursday, May 03, 2007

What's My Name

Quick one.

One of the best political novels I've read in recent years is 'Standing Fast' by Harvey Swados. I write in 'recent years' only in the sense that it's one of the best political novels I've read in recent years, but the novel itself was published way back in 1970 and has unfortunately long been out of print and, sadly, Swados has long been out of literary fashion*, with only this book of his currently in print.

I could crank out a few hundred words of sawdust prose in praise of the book, and why you should seek out a second hand copy for yourself, but it's easier all round if I just point you in the direction of Steve Cohen's excellent article on the novel**, which originally appeared in the AWL's paper, Solidarity, and which prompted me to seek the novel out for myself.

As is my fashion when I stumble across a writer I like, I've since went on a treasure hunt to locate his or her others writings, and recently bought a second hand copy of Swados's debut novel, 'Out Went the Candle', from a bookseller in Washington. Nice hardback edition with a dust jacket that is just about still in one piece. Thing is, is just me or does the young Harvey Swados in the dustjacket picture below remind you of someone? Christ, it's the same haircut and everything.

The clue is in the title of the post.

* I wrote: "Swados has long been out of literary fashion . . ", but sadly it appears that was always the case: "Harvey was an unfashionable novelist yet his career has been an exemplary one. He is a writer free of public postures, indifferent to literary fads, and totally devoted to perfection of his craft." [Irving Howe]

**As a sidenote; one night coming home from work I was reading the novel on the F train when a bloke came up to me to talk about the book. He hadn't seen a copy in years, but it was a book he knew from his childhood days as it had been on his parents bookshelf. His way of telling me that they were political was to say that they had been in the 'movement'. I thought that was sweet.

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