The Subversives discussion

Subversive Books

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message 1: by Brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Brian | 32 comments Mod
This topic had been posted before...apparently we need a first post to keep the list going. So I killed the old one and started this one.

This might also be the place to debate what constitutes a "subversive" book.

I'm going to include, in random order, some of my favorite subversive books. Yeah, they're self-evident. They might even be on Oprah's list. But they have vicious teeth:

Animal Farm
Keep the Aspidistra Flying

On the grounds that they challenged the conventional understanding of politics at their time, making Socialist Orwell one of sneakiest monkeys I know.

Player Piano

On the grounds that it is a dead-on razor parody of post-industrial United States. It's less sneaky than Orwell, but it's brazen.

A Clockwork Orange

Not your stupid 20-chapter Stanley Kubrik version. Your 21-chapter version, wherein, well, read it, okay?

Jeez, what am I, the pope?

Hard Times

Dickens, subversive? Of course! And this is as underhandedly wicked as he gets. Sure, he used Oliver Twist to mock religious charity. But can you gimme something that mocks 18th and 19th-century politics, makes a charade of marriage, and includes several dozen referrences to turtle soup on a golden spoon?

Done and done.

message 2: by Christina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:46AM) (new)

Christina | 5 comments Jonathan Swift is one of my favorite subversive authors. His commentaries are as timely now as when he wrote "A Modest Proposal." And if anyone reads "Gulliver's Travels" and thinks it is just about a man's dream, they are sadly mistaken.

H. G. Wells is another fabulously subversive author with classics like "The Time Machine."

Lastly, Ray Bradbury is a great subversive with stories like "I Sing the Body Electric" and The Illustrated Man.

message 3: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 31 comments Alice in Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass, and The Wizard of Oz.

When I was a kid, I actually understood that these books were "subversive" which is why I still love them today.

message 4: by Christine (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Christine | 2 comments Robert Coover's BRIAR ROSE. Definitely subversive. Also Lorrie Moore's SELF-HELP, in a more subtle way. Or Joyce Carol Oates' BLACK WATER. To me, a subversive book doesn't just have to undermine a political situation, but the authority on which the author or a continuous narrative consciousness rests...a text that undermines its positioning as a traditional narrative yet somehow threads itself into a damned near tangible existence regardless is a lovely and rare thing. When an author makes the move of undermining his or her own authority, it's a first step in displacing authority in general, whereas a political satire with a heavyhanded agenda tends to reinforce the authoritarian structure, to an extent, doesn't it?

message 5: by Izajane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Izajane | 4 comments My favorite Subversive reads not mentioned already-

The Witch of Cologne
The God Delusion
(don't throw things at me but-) The Fountainhead
Please Don't Kill the Freshman
The Bell Jar
The Awakening
The Stranger
Great Expectations (even though Mrs.H caves and Pip is spineless, the intent is gleefully naughty)
did anyone mention The Handmaid's Tale?

message 6: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:49AM) (new)

Patrick A list of subversive non-fiction:

- Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail
- The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham (1949)
- The Small Wars Manual (1940) by the United States Marine Corps
- Warfighting, the original edition, U. S. Marine Corps
- Men Against Fire, by SLA Marshall
- The Best and the Brightest, David Halberstam
- Common Sense Training, by Arthur. S. Collins, 1978
- Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay, 1841
- Boswell's Life of Johnson
- Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerilla Warfare
- Revolutionary Suicide by Huey Newton
- The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
- How I Turned $1000 into $5,000,000 in my spare time, by William Nickerson, 1955 [this is not what you think it is, trust me:]
- Anything by the self-published author John T Reed of Alamo, CA
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn

Each of these directly challenged a system of thought prevailing among either the masses or among the powerful and influential who dictated how those in a group should think about a certain subject. All had a direct intellectual impact on the revolution in thought that influenced the most effective and successful leaders currently working in these respective disciplines.

message 7: by Brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Brian | 32 comments Mod
Books I could not locate to add to the "read" list.


John T. Reed

message 8: by Izajane (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Izajane | 4 comments Joyce Carol Oates
here is a little excerpt/review

message 9: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:50AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 31 comments I love that Patrick brings his non-fiction lust to the groups.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Subversive? You want subversive?

- Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce

Now, that's subversive with a capital S.

message 11: by Philip (new)

Philip Gomez | 3 comments Nonfiction (incomplete):

Jacques Derrida, anything by
Mythologies by Roland Barthes
The Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engels
The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Interpretation of Dreams by S. Freud
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by F. Nietzsceh
Animal Liberation by Peter Singer
Marquis de Sade, anything by
Apocalypse Culture I & II, edited by A. Parfrey

message 12: by Paul (new)

Paul Squires | 1 comments I'm not sure any book can claim to be subversive if it is overtly pushing a political message. "Steal This Book" by Abbie Hoffman, maybe. I think most of children's literature is subversive in a way, slipping in little messages so maybe "Winnie-The-Pooh" with its hedonistic anarchy.

message 13: by Coalbanks (last edited Nov 20, 2008 05:10PM) (new)

Coalbanks | 2 comments Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, any & all of his works.
Try: Letter to the Soviet Leaders. They must have shrieked with joy over that one! The Americans/West did, but did they enjoy his letter to them as much?

message 14: by Philip (new)

Philip Gomez | 3 comments Paul wrote: "I'm not sure any book can claim to be subversive if it is overtly pushing a political message. "Steal This Book" by Abbie Hoffman, maybe. I think most of children's literature is subversive in a wa..."

Well, that would be a very hard position to justify. Consider Paine's Common Sense, Marx's Manifesto Of The Communist Party, and Hitler's Mein Kampf. Overtly political? Yes. Subversive? Absolutely - in their own time - if you're going by the standard American definition...

On the other hand, "Winnie-The-pooh" is a cute addition to this list, but I'm not sure it really qualifies. While I would personally love to see the "Pooh-ist Liberationary Army" march through the streets, in orange and red uniforms, advocating stopping all work and robbing the nearest grocery store of all its "hunny", I don't think it ever will happen. It certainly never has.

Truth is, if I can stand on a soapbox for a moment, it's hard for any work to really be subversive these days. Rather than being a mission statement, "subversiveness" has become a fashion statement. I'm in here, submitting this in a forum of self-proclaimed subversives, or of those that claim to read subversive literature, instead of making physical, real world changes.

Among the politically radical, this is what is called recuperation; among Marxists it would fit right in with the theory of alienation; in deconstructionist lingo it would be called différance.

In layman's terms, if I can formulate this intelligibly enough, we've bamboozled ourselves into reading "subversive" literature, hanging out in "subversive" websites, wearing "subversive" clothing, having "subversive" conversations, etc. All the while we are doing nothing truly subversive. We're lifestyle radicals. What we're doing is about as subversive as drinking "Lenin-Ade" while wearing a Che shirt we bought at Hot Topic.

Nowadays, most "subversive" writers and most "subversive" literature is accomplishing just as much. I also would say that we, including myself, overthink things. One could argue that Winnie-The-Pooh is closer to the soul of revolution than Marx's Capital, if only because it is less about thought and more about action (Marx of course was against merely theorizing and thinking onesself into an apolitical corner). In other words, it would be helpful if we were more childlike, in many ways. But of course, and I'm probably overthinking things, the Hundred Acre Wood does not exactly resemble the modern-day urban landscape, and not every lightpole has a beehive brimming with hunny. If we all had easy access to hunny like that, we could all live like Winnie and pals, but we can't. So we need an adult version of Milne's model. But doesn't that negate the point? Or am I overthinking this?

Perhaps, with adult eyes, critical eyes, we should look at Winnie The Pooh, and find out what can be learned from it. Maybe we should misread! Isn't Christopher Robin a sell out and a "summer squatter"? Would you, if you could, live like Winnie The Pooh, without modern conveniences, and practically on hunny alone? He's happy, right? What makes him so happy with so little and us so miserable with so much? Hoff's The Tao Of Pooh might help, but we obviously need something more thorough.

Or do we?

Do we?

message 15: by Jules (new)

Jules Arnold | 1 comments Someone said ..."don't throw things at me" ...and referred to adding the book fountain head by ayn rand. That was curious. It is definitly one of the more anti mai stream books at the time....among the self Appointed intellectuals a anyways.....

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