Definable Traces in the Atmosphere

sub-heading:
Selected Writings
Edited By
LIZ DAVIES

With An Introduction By Mark Steel

"An intellect as dazzling as it was unique."

- The Guardian
₹1,499.54

Adding to cart… The item has been added
  • 316 pages
  • Paperback ISBN 9781682191637
  • E-book ISBN 9781682191644
  • Publication 31 May 2018

about the bookabout

This rich selection of Mike Marqusee's writing captures the kaleidoscopic mind of a polymath who delighted in deploying one sphere of knowledge to provide exhilarating insight into others.

These pages illuminate the connections and contrasts between William Blake and Thomas Paine, Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali, cricket and the nation state, Jewish identity and the BDS campaign, flamenco music and the films of John Ford, and the vagaries of political activism, often working closely with those who, subsequent to Mike’s untimely death in 2015, went on to lead the Labour Party.

The extraordinary profusion of Mike's interests was rooted deep in the soil of principles: a lifelong commitment to socialism, a recognition of the transformative nature of art, an expansive internationalism, and a commitment to intellectual and personal honesty heedless of cost.

Acute and erudite, the pieces that make up Definable Traces in the Atmosphere reveal an intellect both serious and engaged. But Mike was never a writer who succumbed to the doctrinaire or the earnest. In marveling at this tapestry of some of his most memorable writing we can share another defining characteristic of its author's outlook: a joyful appreciation that life's pleasures are there for the sampling.

About The Author / Editor

Mike Marqusee (1953-2015) was an American-born writer, journalist and political activist who spent the last four and half decades of his life in London. He is the author of numerous books including The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew, Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the Sixties, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Kinnock's Labour Party, War Minus the Shooting: A Journey Through South Asia During Cricket's World Cup, Anyone but England: An Outsider Looks at English Cricket, a novel, Slow Turn, and two collections of poetry, Street Music and Saved by a Wandering Mind.

Read An Excerpt

Time to talk utopia

In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations - on human freedom and the prospects for social change - formed the basis for Shelley's poem Julian and Maddalo, in which the mild-mannered English rationalist Julian (Shelley) puts the case for hope while the brooding Italian aristocrat Maddalo (Byron) argues for despair. 'We might be otherwise,' Julian insists, 'we might be all / we dream of: happy, high, majestical' were it not for our own 'enchained' wills. To which Maddalo replies bitterly: 'You talk utopia!'

That snap dismissal echoes down to our own day. We've been taught to fear utopian thinking, which is denounced as not only impractical but positively dangerous: the province of fanatics. In ignoring the lessons of history and the realities of human nature, utopian idealism results, inevitably we are told, in dystopian outcomes. It's a modern version of the myth of Pandora's box: a warning against being too enquiring, too ambitious.

Fear of utopia, a mighty weapon in the arsenal of the ruling powers, has a long pedigree. Since Burke, at least, conservatives have warned that tampering with established institutions, encouraging people to expect too much, leads to disaster. The 'failure' of every social experiment, from the French revolution onward, is seized on as evidence of the perils of utopian thinking. Anti-utopianism was a staple of Cold War liberalism and was resuscitated as the ‘end of history’ thesis following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Increasingly we have been told that a utopian denial of realities lurks in even the most modest demands for regulation and redistribution. When it comes to the apparent dearth of alternatives, I'd argue that social democracy's long retreat into the arms of neo-liberalism is as great a factor as the demise of the Communist bloc.

in the media

Definable Traces in the Atmosphere

sub-heading:
Selected Writings
Edited By
LIZ DAVIES

With An Introduction By Mark Steel

"An intellect as dazzling as it was unique."

- The Guardian
₹1,499.54

Add to Cart

Adding to cart… The item has been added

about the bookabout

This rich selection of Mike Marqusee's writing captures the kaleidoscopic mind of a polymath who delighted in deploying one sphere of knowledge to provide exhilarating insight into others.

These pages illuminate the connections and contrasts between William Blake and Thomas Paine, Bob Dylan and Muhammad Ali, cricket and the nation state, Jewish identity and the BDS campaign, flamenco music and the films of John Ford, and the vagaries of political activism, often working closely with those who, subsequent to Mike’s untimely death in 2015, went on to lead the Labour Party.

The extraordinary profusion of Mike's interests was rooted deep in the soil of principles: a lifelong commitment to socialism, a recognition of the transformative nature of art, an expansive internationalism, and a commitment to intellectual and personal honesty heedless of cost.

Acute and erudite, the pieces that make up Definable Traces in the Atmosphere reveal an intellect both serious and engaged. But Mike was never a writer who succumbed to the doctrinaire or the earnest. In marveling at this tapestry of some of his most memorable writing we can share another defining characteristic of its author's outlook: a joyful appreciation that life's pleasures are there for the sampling.

About The Author / Editor

Mike Marqusee (1953-2015) was an American-born writer, journalist and political activist who spent the last four and half decades of his life in London. He is the author of numerous books including The Price of Experience: Writings on Living with Cancer, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew, Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the Sixties, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties, Defeat from the Jaws of Victory: Inside Kinnock's Labour Party, War Minus the Shooting: A Journey Through South Asia During Cricket's World Cup, Anyone but England: An Outsider Looks at English Cricket, a novel, Slow Turn, and two collections of poetry, Street Music and Saved by a Wandering Mind.

Read An Excerpt

Time to talk utopia

In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations - on human freedom and the prospects for social change - formed the basis for Shelley's poem Julian and Maddalo, in which the mild-mannered English rationalist Julian (Shelley) puts the case for hope while the brooding Italian aristocrat Maddalo (Byron) argues for despair. 'We might be otherwise,' Julian insists, 'we might be all / we dream of: happy, high, majestical' were it not for our own 'enchained' wills. To which Maddalo replies bitterly: 'You talk utopia!'

That snap dismissal echoes down to our own day. We've been taught to fear utopian thinking, which is denounced as not only impractical but positively dangerous: the province of fanatics. In ignoring the lessons of history and the realities of human nature, utopian idealism results, inevitably we are told, in dystopian outcomes. It's a modern version of the myth of Pandora's box: a warning against being too enquiring, too ambitious.

Fear of utopia, a mighty weapon in the arsenal of the ruling powers, has a long pedigree. Since Burke, at least, conservatives have warned that tampering with established institutions, encouraging people to expect too much, leads to disaster. The 'failure' of every social experiment, from the French revolution onward, is seized on as evidence of the perils of utopian thinking. Anti-utopianism was a staple of Cold War liberalism and was resuscitated as the ‘end of history’ thesis following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Increasingly we have been told that a utopian denial of realities lurks in even the most modest demands for regulation and redistribution. When it comes to the apparent dearth of alternatives, I'd argue that social democracy's long retreat into the arms of neo-liberalism is as great a factor as the demise of the Communist bloc.

in the media