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Occupy Wall Street library
November 4, 2011

The Literature Of Occupy Wall Street

The “Occupy” protests that have swept cities throughout the United States and elsewhere have been portrayed as hopelessly unoccupied, a judgment that casts a blind eye toward the internal evidence of the movement’s organization, from their elaborate hand signals to their public libraries.

New York protesters have created a “People’s Library,” where readers can come to leave and borrow books, and there has even been the compilation of poetry anthologies feature the work of some of the more literary-minded protesters.

Over the last weeks several writers and intellectuals have visited the protests to show their support, including Slavoj Žižek, who gave an inspiring speech to the protesters, encouraging them but at the same time warning them not to “fall in love with yourselves.” Žižek will be visiting Prague in November, partly to give a speech on Wenceslas Square on the anniversary of the beginning of the Velvet Revolution.

Perhaps more controversially, writer, professor and cultural critic Dr. Cornel West has made several appearences on Wall Street, where he voiced his support for the movement. He was then arrested Oct. 17, along with 18 others, in a protest on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Austin Allen has written an interesting, if inconclusive, essay about what Allen Ginsberg would think about the Occupy Wall Street movements. What would other public writers who were active during the 1960s, like Robert Lowell and Norman Mailer think of the protests? More importantly, who are the public writers of our day who are down on the front lines? And what kind of literature will come out of these protests?

Surely, within a year or two we will begin to see the emergence of novels set during or centered around the current protests. It will be interesting to see who steps up to the plate. That is assuming, of course, that these protests don’t herald the apocalypse.

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