May 2, 2017

J. C. Sutcliffe review of Rich and Poor in The Times Literary Supplement

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Jacob Wren explores the boundaries and overlap between art, politics and fiction in his writing and filmmaking. On his blog, “A Radical Cut in the Texture of Reality”, he returns repeatedly to ideas of activism and, in particular, ending, subverting or re­organizing capitalism. But Wren never fully inhabits a fixed ideology: wherever his work takes a position, it also questions that position.

Wren’s previous works include Polyamorous Love Song (2014), a multi-narrative novel about resistance and identity in both artistic and political movements, and the fragmentary Families Are Formed Through Copulation (2007), by turns paranoid and cynical. His new novel, Rich and Poor, is perhaps more accessible than his earlier fiction, being told through a straightforward alternating narrative, but is equally replete with ideas. As the title suggests, one narrative follows the story of a poor person, a former concert pianist and current restaurant dishwasher who decides to kill the CEO of a massive corporation; the other narrative is the perspective of this billionaire CEO. In the first half, the poor character fails to kill the CEO despite having got a job with his company for this precise purpose. In the second half, he tries a rather different approach.

There are subtle echoes of each story in the other – confirmations, elaborations and contradictions. Both extreme positions are tempered by each character having experienced the other’s situation to a degree, and by their ability to understand, although not agree with, the other’s position. The rich man is presented not as some kind of unknowable, sociopathic enemy but as someone who makes compromises and accommodations like everyone else:
You drive your car knowing it is disastrous for the environment, and yet continue to drive anyway... You think it is terrible but not so terrible you are ready to drop everything and take action. Myself, I would prefer to run my business without any recourse to violence, but also, I have to admit, I don’t feel so strongly about it. And if I were to do so, it would be impossible to remain competitive. Profits would suffer.
In Rich and Poor form and content are an intriguing blend. It might seem odd to praise a writer known for surrealism and experimental forms for creating complex, believable characters, but Wren’s ability to do this allows him more leeway with some slightly improbable plot twists and a formal style that packs in a great deal of political argument. This is writing that campaigns against complacency while avoiding self-righteousness. Like Wren’s other work, this book is essentially not so much a call to action as a call for the reader to step away from apathy and to take seriously, however briefly, the most radical of positions.




[You can also find the above review here and here.]



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April 11, 2017

Permaculture

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Last night I went to see the documentary Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective and for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I really felt: this is a solution. I knew about permaculture before, and always thought highly of it, but watching the documentary it suddenly seemed to be so much more. As a way of thinking, a way of understanding our lives, a way of regenerating soil, earth, land, ecosystems and everything that lives on them, a way of producing healthy food and maximizing clear water, it seems to me to create endless possibilities and therefore to effectively replace despair. I don't know particularly what to do with this information. I don't think I'm ever going to get involved with farming, so for the time being my only thought is to learn more about permaculture and encourage others to do the same.



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March 13, 2017

Book

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I feel a perverse desire to try to write a book that every single person will hate. (I believe it has something to do with feeling imagined reader expectations before one even starts writing.)



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March 9, 2017

Ten years

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Facebook has just informed me that I joined Facebook exactly ten years ago.



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January 30, 2017

“neoliberalism” and “global warming”

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“Neoliberalism” and “global warming” are two terms specifically designed to make things that are absolutely horrible sound not that bad. (“Turbo-capitalism” and “climate chaos” are, in my humble opinion, two of the more accurate terms.)



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January 26, 2017

Alicia Garza Quote

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Intersectional politics (and practice) is not just theoretical – it is the lifeline upon which we depend for our collective liberation.

- Alicia Garza



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January 15, 2017

A few actual dreams from the past six years

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In my dream last night, the last thing I remember saying just before I woke up was: ‘Alain Badiou says the most nihilistic song is All You Need Is Love.’



In my dream last night, the name of my band was: This Unstable Honorarium.



Last night in my dream I googled: how do you fight capitalism.



Last night I dreamt I was an arsonist: as I headed to set one last fire, I got a text saying it’s a trap, turned around, and decided to go see art instead.



Last night I dreamt the telescope was invented by aliens, who sent it to us telepathically, to put us on the wrong track.



Last night I dreamed I had writer’s block.



In my dream last night I read an essay that began: “We’re sick of reading books that are only men writing about their loneliness. We want to read books by women writing about their ________.” But I couldn’t make out the last word. (I had a sense that the last word might be rage.)



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January 13, 2017

A politics of caring for one another.

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"And then I wonder if the way to fight requires some extremely long term thinking, to lay the mental groundwork for changes that might very well bear no fruit for many generations to come. Because, it seems to me, what we need now is a completely different way of thinking about what it means to live in the present and work towards the future. A different way of thinking time and accumulation. A present and future with breakthroughs but without linear progress, with commerce but without endless growth, with politics but against winner-take-all. A politics of caring for one another. I remember an indigenous saying I heard once: there is enough for everyone but there’s not enough for everyone’s greed. All of these goals seem so far in the future that I’m not even sure where to begin."

- Jacob Wren, The Year 2017: A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations



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January 9, 2017

Story number one...

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Story number one takes place ten million years ago and story number two takes place ten million years in the future. The problem is how to tell these two stories apart, how to know which is which. Story number three takes place now.



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