by Carolyn Chute

by Stuart Archer Cohen

Here are two books that make a clear and compelling case for the validity of fiction. Here are two books you should read.

These are great books, taking on the great topic at which the novel excels: morals, or the question of how to live a good life. Many, perhaps the majority of novels, are, at heart, examinations of moral dilemmas. The great ones, though, make the moral question immediate and painfully relevant.

Carolyn Chute's The School on Heart's Content Road is a poetic take-down of the System. Chute's protagonists are people who live outside of the mainstream. The school in the title also could and would be called other things in today's mainstream media; a militia, a cult, a compound. Chute's sprawling canvas includes a whole town's worth of characters; those who live within and without the remote rural Maine settlement headed by visionary countercultural leader Gordon St. Onge. Chute tells the interlocking stories of a handful of characters, and in so doing, issues a profound and passionate protest against corporate American culture.

Whereas Chute's book is set in the near past, Stuart Archer Cohen sets The Army of the Republic in the near future. Cohen's protagonist is an American terrorist-- an organizer and activist who has crossed over the line of peaceful protest into the murky moral ground of political violence. Cohen makes the case early that corporate security forces have already crossed this line, and that our hero is justified in his use of force as the only reasonable deterrent to a globalizing capitalism that knows no limits to its predatory exercise of power.

Cohen's writing is utilitarian and transparent. This is the first example of the thriller genre that I've seen that articulates a coherent anarchist point of view.

These two books, along with a very few others, should form the basis of a countercultural canon-- if there is to be a counterculture in the twenty-first century.

 --C. B. Coble