Originally published on January 31, 1997
I'm glad I went into detail. I checked my database. November 14 was the transition date from Big Al to the current notation.
You asked me for editorial comments on "GUY DEBORD - Revolutionary" by the indefatigable Len Bracken. I have not forgotten, and was quite pleased that you asked for details of my impressions, so I suppose I should lay in a few lines on the topic right here, seeing as life is settling down again for me, and shorter than a thrice-used candlestick.
Considering the Situationist International's (SI) big cheese was, by revolutionary and philosophical necessity, a subterranean conspiracy veiled in secrecy, trapped in a state of chaos by idiosyncracies leaning toward an accelerated paranoia and strong diva tendancies, the volume was a decent read for the first biography ever written about the man (vested propoganda offered as fact by Len) in English. Especially for newcomers to Guy Debord and the SI. I was surprised by the general sense of objectivity in handling the material, having presumed Bracken to be a terminal sycophant of Debord as the self-anointed philosopher king of the whole romanticized SI movement.
I was able to argue plainly and successfully my objections with Len to the man and the philosophy based on details the book offered over the last week of proofing and finalizing the 420 page manuscript. The author's style was rather straightforward, his own voice almost non-existent, a minor flaw in the book as I pointed out to Len.
As any serious reader might be, I was plagued with the question, who is this Len Bracken fellow of few daylight credentials? Again, I emphasize, this was no ordinary biography, given the secrecy of much subversive material hidden by its originators, so as might be expected much of the narrative is speculative and heresay. Debord's two wives are still alive, intellectuals in their own right, and yet were not interviewed personally by the biographer.
And while Bracken's bibliography and footnotes are extensive, this dependency on so much second and third hand information will no doubt register as a flaw with serious reviewers. Historical threads of Debord's intellectual ancestors are woven rather seamlessly into the cloth of the story, while personal anecdotes from behind the scenes are perhaps in short number. By the end of the volume I had gained probably for the first time ever a respect for both the biographer and the subject, while still disdaining the ultimate outcome of such a philosophical stance. Debord was a tyrant and a romantic. He carved up friendships with bold sweeping strokes. (Hmmm, something I might actually respect in the man given my own circumstances.)
Bracken indeed proved himself capable of putting flesh and flaw onto the man and the myth, much to the book's advantage. To his credit, Bracken's usual bluster and misplaced pomposity (Bracken's Breath) that this was a book that will be read for 500 years fortunately was kept out of the pages, and I could only plead in a feeble GT grit and grunt that my own ears had not been spared the oft repeated utterance, no doubt a trumped up cry for respect of a very needy author and personality.
I had to insist repeatedly that I was no cheerleader type, no empty flatterer, a symptom of my childhood no less, but that my comments were sincere and as comprehensive as I could make them. It was a roller coaster ride around here, but I think we did a pretty damn good job on the proofing, the layout, and an unbias review of the material. Could he not just leave it at that? Needless to say, I was not sad to see that job finished, and a satisfied Bracken wheeling out the door.
I am promised another $250 plus two copies of the finished product to add to the original $500. One can only speculate if I'll ever see either. Small press insecurities chewed at Len persistently over the month we worked together. Adam Parfrey is not intentionally a fly by nighter, but the Feral House Books wing span ain't exactly an eagle's badge of honor either...