I received in the mail a copy of a bright yellow-and-orange book I’d never heard of, The Impossible Will Take A Little While, edited by a hardworking political journalist named Paul Rogat Loeb.

This a source book of political hopefulness, if such a thing can actually exist in these times. Indeed, it seems one must put on a mocking voice to even whisper of hope for mankind in the era of suicide bombers.

So I feel some admiration for the courage of this collection’s editor. His introduction states the purpose: there must be some foundation for positive political activism in our discouraging times, and literature can help. To this I say, damn right. I like this book, and I recommend it as a Christmas present for anybody you know how has moral values and doesn’t know what to do with them, or anybody who doesn’t have moral values but might eventually develop them.

Loeb’s introduction tells of watching legendary South African dissident Archbishop Desmond Tutu unself-consciously dance at a Los Angeles benefit. “Tutu, I realized, knew how to have a good time,” Loeb tells us, and that points to his book’s message: political activism should be as natural as smiling, breathing, dancing. We need to engage because it is our basic nature to do so, and when it is hardest and most discouraging to engage is probably when it’s needed the most.

The book offers new and previously published writings from Jonathan Kozol, Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Wendell Berry, Seamus Heaney, Sherman Alexie, Pablo Neruda, Jim Hightower, Arundhati Roy, Ariel Dorfman, Cornel West, Alice Walker and Sam Hamill. Some are good, some are routine, but it works together as an effective package of do-goodism. Yeah, this stuff can be corny. But remember what W. H. Auden tells us, reprinted here on page 58: “Hunger allows no choice / to the citizen or the police / We must love one another or die”. I think so.

5 Responses

  1. Desmond TutuTutu was at my
    Desmond Tutu

    Tutu was at my alma mater, University of North Florida, recently.

    Just thought I’d mention it. I had a schedule conflict, and because Tutu isn’t primarily known as a writer, I decided not to write an article about his visit, so I opted to keep my other commitment. I probably should have gone.

  2. WH AudenI dig the quote from
    WH Auden

    I dig the quote from Auden. Very apropos. My editor learned under his tutelage and spoke of his influence often.

    Just thought I’d mention that…

    But it seems to me that the very title of this book belies its own purpose, no?

  3. Well, about the title, I
    Well, about the title, I guess he’s anticipating and trying to “outbox” the natural reaction readers will have to this kind of book. I guess maybe I relate to the author’s mission because I’ve tried to do similar things with projects like October Earth here on LitKicks. It almost feels like you have to apologize in advance before writing something politically hopeful in public. I think that’s what he was trying to do with the semi-jokey title.

  4. Auden quoteMaybe i’m one of
    Auden quote

    Maybe i’m one of those “glass half empty people” but i think it’s interesting to note that W H Auden altered that quote years later to read, “We must love one another AND die.”

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