I was pretty disappointed, but that's mostly because (as someone who was already an anarcho-communist) there wasn't much new information for me. It miI was pretty disappointed, but that's mostly because (as someone who was already an anarcho-communist) there wasn't much new information for me. It might be a good 'anarcho-communism for beginners' type book. I was planning on writing here that it could even be a good primer for kids, but Berkman goes into some unnecessary atrocity propaganda and his writing feels a bit condescending at times. The repeated use of rhetorical questions annoyed me as well, because rhetorical questions make for less engaging writing and tend to decrease the chance of readers thinking for themselves. I probably will try some of his other books even so, since his writing might be better in his later works....more
I got this from a free pile, hoping it would give information about human development in a thoughtful and maybe anti-capitalist way, but I was very diI got this from a free pile, hoping it would give information about human development in a thoughtful and maybe anti-capitalist way, but I was very disappointed. There was a significant amount of repetition throughout the book, multiple instances of atrocity propaganda (including on the first page), and a creepy fixation on genitalia as a way of determining behavior. I suppose I shouldn't have expected much from a book written in 1977, but it often felt like it was written by a high schooler, in that the writing gave off a sense of heavily indoctrinated ignorance, naivete, and triteness. (To E: there might be parts worth reading, so I can loan it to you when we're together next. It's probably best to focus on the parts I've underlined, and so on.)...more
I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this book. On the one hand I feel like I learned a lot from it, and gained some worldview-evolving informatI have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this book. On the one hand I feel like I learned a lot from it, and gained some worldview-evolving information; but on the other, the author said a few really ignorant things. I skipped the chapter on patriarchy, (correctly) assuming it would be full of references to sexual violence and atrocity propaganda. While glancing through this chapter after finishing the book, I came across the cringe-inducing phrase "women and transgender people" (as if these are two mutually exclusive categories). The author also referred to Silvia Rivera as a drag queen, when she'd been openly identifying as a woman for decades before the book was written. Found that pretty offensive. The use of racial slurs to refer to the Romani people was disturbing, too.
I do think there's value in reading this book, even though the author shouldn't try to speak for groups he knows little to nothing about. There's some good information about the Black liberation movement, and tons of recommended reading. Gelderloos sometimes strays into the polemic, but it's significant to note that he at least has personal experience with riots and direct action and holding cells, unlike many well-known theoreticians who merely put words onto paper. I really would have liked to have seen more discussion about class and its role in hierarchical oppression, plus the acknowledgement that men are not the only ones capable of oppressive violence.
I think it's important, within a discussion involving words like 'violence' and 'nonviolence', to come up with a definition for violence. In my own case, I tend to believe an action is violent if it comes from a figure or group who nonconsensually possesses power over others, and is using this power against someone who is physically or psychologically incapable of fighting back with the same amount of power. In other words, police brutality is violence. However, a person defending themself against an attack by the police is not being violent, nor is a person who prevents a police officer from attacking someone. Self-defense and sabotage-based direct action are two things which (if done effectively, and if done against fascists) can actually prevent further violence. This is to be encouraged.
For a long time I considered myself to be a pacifist, but these days I don't. This book helped me realise how much I've changed in the last couple years. Obviously I'm still against systemic violence, imperialism, and government-funded bombings, but now I'm comfortable with a greater number of ways of fighting back....more
This was a frustrating book for me, mostly because it talked very little about the subject it was supposed to focus on. I would say even Mary Shelley'This was a frustrating book for me, mostly because it talked very little about the subject it was supposed to focus on. I would say even Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" did a better job showing individual language acquisition and development than this book did. There wasn't much about language at all in "The Ape That Spoke". Instead I found generalisations about the mind and inappropriate assumptions about humans being superior to all other forms of life that have existed. The author also seemed to think all of his readers would come from the same type of world as him, and that they would be able to connect with him when he talks about working in offices and having sex and going to cocktail parties and playing tennis as though those are things that every human does. There is some interesting information here, probably enough to make it worthwhile to keep the book around. In general, though, I was disappointed....more
Carl seems to be a very unreliable narrator. There's a lot of stuff he's left out, presumably to make himself look better. He talks about being almostCarl seems to be a very unreliable narrator. There's a lot of stuff he's left out, presumably to make himself look better. He talks about being almost incessantly "off [his] face" on a variety of mind-altering substances that he felt unable to function without; but then he says it was only Pete's addictions that caused the problems in the Libertines and in Pete and Carl's relationship, and acts like his own drug and alcohol use are no big deal.
I tend to be nervous about memoirs, since they are normally less based in reality than autobiographies or biographies. I read a memoir by an aviatrix once, and when I found out later that the majority of what she'd written about her life wasn't even true, I was very upset. Even though I know it's impossible to be entirely objective, I get uncomfortable when there's fabrication in a work that's supposed to be nonfiction. Throughout "Threepenny Memoir", I found myself wondering if, in addition to leaving things out, Carl was making things up as well, or otherwise twisting things in some way so that he seemed more like a sympathetic character....more