Theres Still Hope for Utopiaby Jim Feast
Steve Dalachinsky, a superintendent’s eyes (New London: Hozomeen Press, 2001) No. 46 State Street, New London, CT, 96320 129 pages, N.P.
Dylan Horrocks, Hicksville (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2001), PO Box 48056, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2V 4S8, 240 pages, $19.95.
I often wonder what you would see if you turned time inside out. That is, while the pummeling of exterior events is easy to study, what is less visible but more worth wondering about is how people relate emotionally and intellectually to historical surges.
Let’s think about New York City. In the last few decades, we’ve had the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, leading to the empowerment of the banks and the consequent austerity drive, then toward increasing disrepair and the starvation of city services. This story has been laid out in the press and various books but to find the inner history of these times, both here and across the country, one would need to turn to fiction. There one would find a description of the psychological and social coping mechanisms that have been developed to deal with the prickly conditions of little money and shelved hopes. A number of novels, such as Peter Plate’s Snitch Factory (which describes S.F. social workers dealing with the underfunded, red-tape crammed welfare bureaucracy,) and James Sturm’s The Golem’s Mighty Swing (2001) (looking at survival strategies of a scrub baseball team), have poked into people’s ways of making their lives manageable in times of retrenchment. In contrast, the two books to be considered here—the first, sulky, melancholy, yet at bottom defiant; the second, brash, deeply lyrical, but more conventional—discuss another psychological register, that of the ability to look forward to better times…
Both answer the question: How do people keep believing in the future after 30 years of generalized hopelessness? Nowadays, though little dreams wander on, the big ones, even those of triumphant capitalism, have been slashed to ribbons.
It’s ironic to think, for example of all the hot air in the 1950s and ‘60s about how our affluent, motorized, automated society had escaped poverty. It seemed we only had one major problem left: how we could productively