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Marx In Soho [Audio]


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Brian Jones is an African-American actor and activist, has been performing this engaging one-man show across the country since 1999. Historian Howard Zinn is the author of numerous books, including A People's History of the United States.


Marx's reputation may be in far more robust health academically than practically, but even among campus intellectuals his image has gotten a whipping. With Freud, Marx is one of the two 19th-century men who dominatedÄeven createdÄthe social sciences and critical thinking of this century. With psychoanalysis, Marxism has fallen hard; socialism, history as class struggle, and the idea that pervasive commodification is a bad thing are conceptual victims, both of apparent market prosperity in the West and the moral and fiscal bankruptcy of the governments established under the Communist rubric. Zinn, the eminent Left historian (A People's History of the United States, Borgo, 1994), suddenly "hot" thanks to buzz spread by his young family friend, actor Matt Damon, believes that Marx will have deep relevance in the next century, too. This one-man play, an imagined monolog that Marx delivers after being wrongly returned from death but with a glitch, is a witty delight that will engage both new and old acquaintances of the Marxian corpus. Though its brevity and entertainment-first intent depart radically from the density of Marx's actual written polemics, even conservatives will find Zinn's Marx-for-bright-funseekers an intelligent and diverting read. Recommended for academic and public libraries alike.ÄScott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., PA

Taking his inspiration from Karl Marx's stay in London's Soho district after his exile from the Continent, Zinn's (A People's History of the United States) one-man play reads like a first-person memoir narrated by a distinctive voice. Laid out on the page as seamless monologue, it envisions Marx in the Soho district of New York in the present, where his mind reels at the same capitalist injustices that boggled him 150 years ago. The wizened and ailing Marx discourses on the economic state of the modern-day U.S., heatedly decrying the vast disparity between rich and poor and the corrupt, systematic funneling of the wealth that workers earn into the hands of capitalists. Through cascading recollections, we learn of Marx's devoted marriage, his love for his children and his stormy debates with Mikhail Bakunin, a fellow radical whose concept of a revolution of the spleen rather than the intellect makes Marx seem cold by comparison. These nuggets of personal information yield warmth and mettle where the dialectical prose gets heavy-handed. Often, the doctrines espoused threaten to overwhelm Zinn's expressed mission to expose Marx's human side. Zinn is, after all, reissuing Marx's socialist critique to apply to modern America and, along the way, revising Marxist doctrine by imagining the theorist himself rethinking some of his more off-the-mark notions. Most often it is Marx's critical wife, Jenny, and brilliant daughter Eleanor who take him to task when he fumbles. With Zinn's hefty prologue and scholarly but pointed reading list, the text is a cleverly imagined call to reconsider socialist theory as a valid philosophy in these times. Zinn's point is well made; his passion for history melds with his political vigor to make this a memorable effort and a lucid primer for readers desiring a succinct, dramatized review of Marxism. (Mar.) FYI: Actor Matt Damon is coproducing a TV adaptation of A People's History. Zinn recently won a Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction.

"An entertaining, first-rate solo performance . . . humorous, a little touching, and an acting tour-de force."
"Engaging and charismatic. . . . The audience was clearly with him as he critiqued the death penalty, mega-mergers and mass media. You wouldn't imagine that social criticism could make for lively theater, but Zinn's text and Jones's acting deftly blended the political with the personal."
-Washington Post

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