Saturday, April 29, 2006

Book Report: "Snitch Jacket" by Len Bracken

Today a little anarchist literature.

Len Bracken’s "Snitch Jacket"examines the inner phantoms and outer realities of full-time anarchists and dedicated revolutionaries of the anti-globalization movement.

One of the novel developments coming out of the famous Battle for Seattle at the 1990 World Trade Organization talks was the resurgence of anarchists and the prominent role its rank-and-file, popularized through the image of the black bloc, played in the street skirmishes there, and in later protests across the world.

Bracken takes us inside that movement.

“Snitch Jacket” concerns itself with the longings and angers of Alex, whose nature and actions are most characterized by an outsized incisor that makes him look like a wolf. Drunk on Situationist strategies and something called Vin Mariana, a wine either distilled from coca or made something else by the infusion of coca leaf, Alex is a guy for whom crossing over the line is the test to living in truth.

The book opens with him seducing an attractive young media magnate in the Library of Congress, which he sets on fire in the process. During the escape, Alex kills a guy; not his first murder, either.

The setting is Washington D.C. on the eve of George W. Bush’s first inauguration. The anti-global set has gathered to make as much of a mess as possible. Alex serves as a literary tour guide through the local group of anarchists, and other things; the rank-and-file made up of drifters, folks with an axe to grind, former criminals, and journalists who don’t know where the ethical line of their profession lies.

To a certain extent, nobody is completely what they portray themselves to be and, while everybody’s goals are pure and noble, their means are another matter altogether. Some are spying, might be spying, are converted over form the enemy, and there is not structure other than the sex and beer bash through which they might be sorted out.

There are three beautiful women, Chilean, Chinese, and Russian, all with murky backgrounds and deadly dangerous with whom Alex spends of a goodly portion of his time mixing revolution and seduction; later wrestling (but not much) with the friction between his anti-paternal politics and the pull of his prick.

Anyway, these are folks on “the list.” There are no angels and the authorities know of and about them. And for all that, as mentioned, they spend a lot of time partying. Bracken’s portrait of the easy-come-and-go world of true relations between true leftists, influenced still by hippie codes, are lively and enthusiastic and you can feel yourself in the warm spring air of colonial region at an indoor/outdoor beer party.

This has always been one of the left’s downfalls visa a vis conservatives and fascists. They like to party and talk a lot about discipline. The enemy doesn’t and are truly disciplined. The eternal question, of course, (from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective) is who do you want organizing the whole big shindig?

Bracken, a resident of Washington D.C., knows the city well and details every moment of transit with a dissection of what is being seen. Not so much the monuments everyone knows, but the buildings housing lesser-prominent bureaucracies where, the author gives us a sense, less virtuous goings-on are being concocted.

Throughout the street roaming and street life of his protagonist the author tells some of what our government is up to, and where it is done, achieving a sinister portrait of what (and the why) his angry anarchists are up against.

Bracken goes farther along in weaving the sexual lives of his characters into the larger yarn than most writers, dishing up detailed imagery of the numerous couplings not only between Alex and his paramours, but for the uber-kinky, girl-on-girl and all that. The overall achievement is clear as, by mid-book, the sex scenes are really read with a a curiosity about whose using what on whom. Sex as part of the story, as opposed to a forced extraction from the story that says, the story’s stopping here for that great an universal timeout that is “SEX.”

And that’s from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective, too, which is to say Bracken is in friendly territory at highwayscribery.

He is a self-published authored in the same way the scribe is. Like the scribe he also self-brushes his teeth, self-bathes himself, and takes responsibility for himself; all of which makes self-publishing that much easier.

You can buy “Snitch Jacket” at iUniverse and Len will get a cut.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know that Len had a new book out.

Cool. I know Len and I was involved in the anti-globalization movement, so I look forward to reaing this.

In my experience, leftists and activists don't party enough, which really limits the movement to mostly serious, unfun people. If Len's take is that anti-globalization activists party all the time, well, that is pretty far from the boring truth.


highwayscribery said...

I sent your comments on to Len.