You are hereTruthout: Occupy Writers: A Mirror of and a Stimulant for the Occupy Movement

Truthout: Occupy Writers: A Mirror of and a Stimulant for the Occupy Movement

-by J.A. Myerson

October 25, 2011- "I love the Occupy Wall Street Library," Jeff Sharlet tells me. He is the best selling author of "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" and someone who has spent a lot of time here at Liberty Plaza Park recently, observing the general assemblies, tweeting his thoughts and filing reports on the Wall Street occupation. "I've brought a lot of books there. I took a book, I like having it because it says, 'Occupy Wall Street Library' on it."

Sharlet is also the brain behind Occupy Writers a collection of authors, poets, playwrights, journalists, cartoonists, and others (anyone who self-identifies as a writer can get on the list) who have signed onto a simple statement: "We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world."

The simplicity of the solidarity statement mirrors the simplicity of the movement's message and yields the same result. Absent a long and complicated manifesto of specific demands and principles, it is possible to engineer broad appeal. For Occupy Writers, the appeal extends from prestigious award winners like Salman Rushdie and Alice Walker (and even, at press time, five US poet laureates: W.S. Merwin, Maxine Kumin, Robert Haas, Robert Pinsky and Billy Collins) to David Agranoff, author of the entrancingly titled "The Vegan Revolution with Zombies."

On Occupy Writers' list, each name, however known or unknown, is a banner name, featured with equal prominence through what Sharlet's collaborator Kiera Feldman calls "the great democratizing factor of alphabetical order." ("Don't scrutinize the alphabetical order too carefully," she warns me, "because we're inputting all of the entries by hand, sometimes at 4 in the morning.").

But full equality, on the Occupy Writers list as at Occupy Wall Street, does not imply the suppression of individuality. "Some leftist movements," says Sharlet, "suppress ego, pretend we are all egoless creatures. Nothing about this asks you to do that."

By way of ensuring individuality, writers on the list are invited to submit short pieces, stories that illustrate the writers' drive to be a part of the movement. Lemony Snicket's contribution generated so much traffic that Occupy Writers crashed, prompting Neil Gaiman, another signatory, to come to the rescue, posting Snicket's "13 Observations" on his own site. But even these entries are corrected for equality by brevity, which is not only the soul of wit but, it turns out, a democratizing factor of its own. "There are writers who are better than other writers," says Sharlet. "Pound for pound, I'm no Salman Rushdie. But in a paragraph, anybody's got a shot."



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