Richard Lingeman | The Nation Guide to the Nation

book_nation.jpgThe book is a highly selective and somewhat arbitrary guide to places, organizations and cultural items likely to be of interest to people who read The Nation.




416 pages. New York: Vintage, 2009. $19.95 (paperback)

The Nation, founded by abolitionists at the start of Reconstruction, began publishing in 1865 and has been at it ever since, making it the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. Sometimes described as "the flagship of the left," The Nation is more colorfully described in the preface to this book by publisher emeritus Victor Navasky as "a money-losing, troublemaking, dissenting, establishment-questioning magazine."

Through the wonders of the postal service, subscribers in the most unlikely locations can receive their weekly fix of news, analysis and criticism from regular Nation contributors including Naomi Klein, Eric Alterman, Alexander Cockburn and Patricia J. Williams. But such folks may feel a bit out of step with their neighbors in, say, Hot Coffee, Mississippi (apologies to Mart Crowley) and yearn to connect with others who share their progressive views.

And that’s where The Nation Guide to the Nation comes in. Written by Richard Lingeman with contributions from several quarters, including Nation Associates (people who make a donation to the magazine above the cost of a subscription) and a crew of past and present interns, it is a highly selective and somewhat arbitrary guide to places, organizations and cultural items likely to be of interest to people who read The Nation.

And I don’t mean to say arbitrary as if it were a criticism. An all-inclusive guide would be impossible to lift off the coffee table, so the guiding spirit of this volume is that articulated by Allen Ginsberg: "Always be just, but if you can’t be just, be arbitrary."

The Nation Guide to the Nation is divided into five main sections: Culture; The Media Gallery; Policy, Advocacy, and Action Organizations; Goods and Services; and Social: Only Connect. Each section is further divided into subsections; for instance the Media Gallery includes subsections on print, monitors, online, radio and television. Within each subsection, each relevant location, organization or resource is described in a paragraph, followed by contact information.

Interspersed throughout are articles, commentary and lists with some bearing on the topic at hand. For instance, the Culture section includes an annotated list by the film critic of The Nation: "Stuart Klawan’s 25 Greatest Political Films, Or, Notes Toward a Filmography of the Left." Like The Nation Guide to the Nation itself, Klawan’s list includes the obvious (Battleship Potemkin, Salt of the Earth), the obscure (Xala) and the quirky (Soylent Green).

The Nation Guide to the Nation is not just a lifeline for people who feel trapped in a cultural backwater; even residents of the hippest, most progressive census tract in the United States (whatever that might be) will enjoy browsing, and will probably find themselves learning a few things as well. It could also come in handy if you want to plan the perfect lefty road trip or if your job sends you to a conference in Baltimore or Atlanta or Lawrence, Kansas, and you want to find congenial bars and bookstores where you can hang out. | Sarah Boslaugh

Further information and an excerpt from the book is available from the publisher’s website

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