Discover more from From The Forests of Arduinna
An equinox in London
Photos and video from the first Here Be Monsters event in London
Yesterday morning, I returned back to my home after a whirlwind 36 hours in London. I was there for the first public appearance for Here Be Monsters: How to Fight Capitalism Instead of Each Other, and it was quite amazing.
My husband and I arrived to London Thursday evening and immediately traveled to a Burmese restaurant to meet a friend of his for dinner. She’d read most of the book already, and I was thrilled to learn she’d also, during her younger radical days, met two authors I cite in the book — Silvia Federici and Peter Linebaugh. Hearing her insights into what the left once was like and how important she found the book to be immediately took away any apprehensions I’d had about its relevance.
After dinner, my husband and I then fumbled our way through the London transit system to the hotel my sister, who works part of her weeks in London, had arranged for us. London is … big. I normally see more cows and deer than humans, and my usual definition of “crowded” is when there are more than six people at my gym. Also, concrete and asphalt are but brief and unsightly interruptions to the landscape here, rather than the default state of existence.
With so many people, and so much city, it all felt a bit overwhelming. That is, until we finally arrived at our hotel and found my sister had sited us in one directly on the Thames.
Waking next to a river the next morning was exactly what I needed. Sure, I was in a massive city much more populous (57,000 times more, as calculated by my husband) than my tiny village in the foothills of the Ardennes. But the river is older than all that concrete, and bigger than all that noise, and the Thames is also quite kind.
A few hours after waking, we again got on the transit system and headed to Hoxton for a lunch meeting with my editor, Carl Neville. Carl’s quite a fantastic man, very funny, deeply intelligent, and a bit more roguish than he lets on. It was he who commissioned the book, and I’d not really realised until recently how this was a bit of a coup for the direction of the publisher.
There’s a story there, but it’s also the story of all other leftist publishers since the rise of social justice identitarianism. Class has become a verboten subject everywhere, and the degree of cancellations an individual author might experience in the face of the overly-online mobs scales exponentially at the level of a publisher.
I know this from experience. Attempts to smear an author at a press immediately spread to the press itself, with every other author menaced into joining the “right side” or facing the same crusaders. Over the past few years, I’ve had several authors at the publisher I direct tell me they were pressured by others to pull their books from publication. I’ve also personally seen social media posts demanding authors “explain” their association with me.
Each time, I’ve told the author they’re free to do what they need to do, that I’d completely understand such a decision, and I offered them any technical support they might need to republish their books elsewhere. None of them have left despite how easy I tried to make it for them to do so, and it’s that fact which got me most thinking about the power of friendship to withstand identitarian thinking.
I mention all this because some abortive crusades have sparked around Repeater Books publishing me. Though I don’t personally know those upset about my book and have absolutely no ill will against them, it was initially disconcerting to learn of their anger. Such things are inevitable, though, especially after a decade of leftist publishers being too terrified to push back against mobbing. It will take a while for it to be okay to “face with sober senses” our larger reality and material conditions.
After our lunch, Carl introduced me to Nina Power, a woman who’s seen more of the mobs than any human being really ever should. It’s always amazed me how the egregoric descriptions of a person’s “danger” fit so poorly with the actual presence of the person. Years ago, I met an author who’d just been severely harassed by people who’d never known her, and on meeting her I almost laughed at the shocking difference between what those strangers had painted her to be and her actual existence before me. It was the same meeting Nina Power, also. She’s funny, calm, kind, and really the opposite of everything her critics paint her to be.
The four of us then walked the short distance to Hoxton Books where the reading was to be held. The space is quite small, making for quite an intimate place for a reading event. A few people were already there, including the owner, my sister, and a reader of this substack (Helen) who made the trip from Bristol. Others soon joined, and I was quite thrilled to finally meet the endlessly fascinating. She’d brought people with her, also, and soon all the chairs and part of the corridor were full.
Carl introduced me, and started the discussion with that forbidden subject of class itself, and to be honest I don’t even remember what else we talked about until people asked questions. That’s anyway my favorite part of reading events, since we never create alone.
At the end, they asked me to read a bit of the book, and I chose the very last bit of it, since it’s anyway my favorite. My sister kindly recorded it for all of you, which you can watch below.
As you can hear at the end, many of us then moved on to a nearby pub to keep talking. Of course, it’s quite difficult to actually talk in a London pub, but getting to have more time with people was anyway the point.
And just at the point the noise of the pub was too much to tolerate, I finally got to meet another of those “dangerous” and extremely lovely people (and just-signed Repeater Books author): Angie Speaks.
And then finally back to the hotel, with only a few hours to sleep before getting back on a plane. We left early Saturday morning, and after a long nap, my husband and I went on to a wedding.
I’ve barely had much time to think about everything, and the experience has rooted itself in that place of memory somewhere between the imaginal and dream.
I’m absolutely optimistic, at least. Mine was so far the largest reading from a Repeater Books author at Hoxton Books, a record that had just been broken a few days before. It was also incredibly humbling to meet so many people for whom the ideas in the book deeply resonate, and the questions they asked are still ringing in my head.
It looks quite likely that I’ll be in London again at the beginning of November, and hopefully also other places during that trip. I’ll likely be speaking at the London Radical Bookfair, and I’ll be working with Repeater’s publicist this week to set up potential events during that trip in Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham, and maybe also Manchester and Edinburgh.
And today (Sunday, 24 September) at 6PM CEST, I’ll be live with Gordon White for a discussion about Here Be Monsters on the Rune Soup podcast. I’ve listed local times for several cities below if you’d like to join and ask questions:
If you cannot make the live stream, the video will also be posted afterwards.
Be well, all of you.