Posted by: Sally Ingraham | April 30, 2013

April’s Flotsam and Jetsam

I finally finished reading A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. My experience of it has already leaked into several recent posts here, and I know that I’ll be dealing with the frustration that the book filled me with for a long time. It remains to be seen what I will do with the knowledge I’ve gained, or how I’ll draw inspiration from ‘those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win.’ Because the book also gave me hope, hope ‘that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare.’

There’s work to be done, and there is neither a switch nor a carrot for me, stubborn donkey that I am. If I learned anything from Zinn’s book, it is that my own small amount of determination to move forward can be relatively effective. A hesitant step, a dainty one, a plodding one, even a stumbling one, is a step in the right direction and there is always, amazingly, someone else willing to tromp along beside you. Who wants to go walking with me?

I found the complete text of A People’s History online here, which led to the discovery of the History Is A Weapon site. This is a great resource for speeches and bits of writing from radical commoners which I’m eager to thoroughly explore.

I also came across the film The People Speak which is based on Zinn’s book Voices Of A People’s History.

It appears that Colin Firth was involved in a UK version of both a book and a documentary about his people’s history – Britain’s stories – also called The People Speak. That’s pretty neat. I want to watch and read both/all.

Lastly (having reached the bottom of this particular internet rabbit hole), I found a clip of Colin Firth, Omid Djalili, and Celia Imrie doing the Constitutional Peasants scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (here if you’re interested) which was quite good – especially Firth’s bit – but here’s the original scene, since…well no one could possibly do it better than them!

In other news, Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch did nothing to alleviate my slight phobia of mushrooms (I don’t really mind eating them, but whoa, they’re weird and mysterious looking!) Half noir detective thriller, half…total bizarreness, it’s ‘grey caps’ and their fungal takeover freaked me the heck out. Little Red Reviewer has a more articulate review here (she put VanderMeer’s name in my ear awhile back – thanks!).

artwork by Orion-Zangara

VanderMeer’s staccato style in this book took a minute to adjust to, and a little bit longer to appreciate, but in the end I liked the writing and felt that it suited the story. The oppressive, dank feel to the book fit my mood over the past week, and the rebellious undertone was a nice companion to my reading of A People’s History. I finished that book and this one on the same day, and their endings continue to chime together in my head. Normally I would be loath to reveal the end of a book, but this is an exception. *spoilers* follow, sort of. Read at your own risk:

Something stirs in him. A hint of a feeling close to pride. Close to horror. Because he knows, and she knows, that the world has changed. And he helped change it.

It may not be better. It may be worse. But it will be different. …

He sits in the rowboat next to her and watches the end and beginning of history.

Remembers it all.

Forgets it all.’

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer


It is a race in which we can all choose to participate, or just to watch. But we should know that our choice will help determine the outcome.

– from the Afterward, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Heavy stuff, really.

To combat it, to buoy my spirits, to distract myself, I resorted to hiking and biking lengthily over the weekend, visiting a community garden and meeting some of the local permaculture guild members, volunteering at Bend’s Community Center, learning to play disc golf, making fried rice, and reading The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson in one sitting (delicious book!)

Lewis’s Woodpeckers seen at Shevlin Park, Bend, OR

And now a whole new month spills out and away from my feet, waiting to be filled with books and work and hikes in the sun, and new friends, and old challenges, and all the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of life.

I’ll leave you with another one of my coping methods – the music of cellist Zoe Keating.


  1. […] did manage to track down the movie The People Speak and I watched it over the course of several days last […]

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