George Orwell and Albert Camus, Oscar Wilde and Alan Moore (January 2021)

I have an essay in the latest New Politics, in which I compare George Orwell’s writing about capital punishment with Albert Camus’, with particular attention to the essays “A Hanging” and “Reflections on the Guillotine.”  Following Orwell, I suggest that there is a relationship between each writer’s moral views concerning state violence and his prose style.

Swimming Against Themselves; George Orwell and Albert Camus - J.W. Carey

Meanwhile, Fifth Estate just ran a review of my book Resist Everything Except Temptation: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde.  Written by Nick Mamatas, the review ends with an urgent (and flattering) argument for Wilde’s relevance:

We must not cede individualism, and bohemian culture, to the right. The right wing today is making great inroads into popular culture, and posing as advocates for free speech against the “cancel culture” of online mobs, and as libertines contra the neo-Puritan left. Oscar Wilde is a model for the left of artistic achievement that holds neither to Party lines or the demands of a “scene,” and a model for artists of an explicitly left-wing and implicitly anarchist mode of being in the world as a creator and activist that doesn’t sacrifice aesthetics and individuality. Resist Everything Except Temptation is a case study in how one artist balanced, sometimes even successfully, the often contradictory demands of individual creation and social transformation. Intriguing, vital stuff.

I’m especially pleased to receive praise from Nick.  He was my first editor at Soft Skull, when they put out Our Enemies in Blue, and he contributed in a roundabout way to the Wilde book, though he may not even realize it.

Years and years ago I delivered a lecture on Wilde and anarchism at the San Francisco Anarchist Bookfair.  During the Q+A, I got a question that depressingly stumped me:  “Is there a figure in anarchism today who seems to be following Wilde’s path?”  My mind went blank.  I could think of literally no one, and had to confess as much.  After the talk, Nick came up to introduce himself and suggested a candidate for Wilde’s heir: Alan Moore.

A decade later, the book nearly done, I remembered this exchange and insisted, I think to the surprise of my publisher, that Alan Moore was exactly the right person to provide a foreword.  I didn’t really think he would — but he did.

Thanks, Nick!



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