Sparrow: How To Survive The Coming Collapse of Civilization and other Helpful Hints

“Everyone knows that Western civilization (and probably Eastern civilization, also) will collapse within the next seven years. The question is: how will you survive? The answer is simple. Follow the advice below, explicitly. If you do so, you will weather the coming storms. I hope to run into you, and your newfound tribe, in a lily-rich meadow after the Apocalypse.”

Sparrow has reinvented the post-apocalyptic manual. Instead of advising his readers to stockpile food and kill intruders, he emphasizes giving your TV set a Tarot reading and finding rhyming names in the phone book. (There are many other suggestions: 268 in all.) Sparrow guarantees that following his sometimes-eccentric methods will enable you to survive the apocalypse, with your tribe of improvisational nomads. (The optimum number of tribal members is 14, he explains.)

“Sparrow’s harvest of advice, wisdom, fake wisdom, and miniature poems is eccentric and funny, yes, but also thoughtful, politically engaged, and generous: Sparrow sees our familiar world from another angle, he pays attention its peculiar beauties, and he wakes us up. How to Survive is a pleasure to read, read aloud to a friend, and think about later.”

–Lydia Davis, author of Can’t and Won’t

“God knows we need this guide which is why He sent Sparrow to dwell among us. Is it Zen? Is it “deterritorialization”? Has the world’s navel ever been rubbed like this? If wit can save the world from itself, this collection of tricks, poems, and fake wisdom will surely achieve that. Even if wit cannot save the world at least you will die laughing as the gentle anarchist allows you to see what you always knew but didn’t know you knew.” — Mick Taussig

“I love how Sparrow occupies time—specifically my time. His genius is his pleasure and that pleasure is a roar and a sigh and a long walk against capitalism. I could read his thoughts until I die. I’m sure I will.” – Leopoldine Core

“The names that come to mind are S. J. Perelman, Robert Benchley, James Thurber – and not just because they’re dead. Or Woody Allen – if he’d never made any films, just the little prose pieces. Everyone thinks of Sparrow (the poet and pop star) as a Communist Republican Jewish Tantrik Yogi Hippie – more a symptom of post-modernism than a practitioner. Yet [Sparrow] reveals himself rooted in tradition: New Yorker as sly wiseguy, a line going all the way back to our ur-ironist, Father Knickerbocker.”-Hakim Bey

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Sparrow was born in 1953 in Lenox Hill Hospital, in Manhattan. He grew up in a housing project in Inwood, graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, flunked out of Cornell University, became a hippie, studied at the Naropa Institute in 1976 with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Whalen & William Burroughs, published his first book of poems in 1978 (Sparrow’s Poetry Coloring Book, entirely hand-drawn, xeroxed at his friend Richard Gartee’s copy shop) returned to New York City (still in 1978), finished college, began graduate school at CCNY (studying with Ted Berrigan). Soft Skull Press published three of his books: Republican Like Me (about running for President of the United States in 1996), Yes, You ARE a Revolutionary! & America: A Prophecy – The Sparrow Reader. Sparrow is the longest-running contributor to the Sun magazine, beginning in 1981. He has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times (five poems & three op-ed pieces), The American Poetry Review, Lungfull! (plus other magazines) – and was quoted in Vogue. Sparrow plays flutophone in the “New Crimean” pop band Foamola. He now lives in a doublewide trailer in Phoenicia, New York with his wife Violet Snow.

Alan Wieder: Studs Terkel–Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation

Studs Terkel was an American icon who had no use for America’s cult of celebrity. He was a leftist who valued human beings over political dogma. In scores of books and thousands of radio and television broadcasts, Studs paid attention—and respect—to “ordinary” human beings of all classes and colors, as they talked about their lives as workers, dreamers, survivors. Alan Wieder’s Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation (Monthly Review Press) is the first comprehensive book about this man.

Drawing from over one hundred interviews of people who knew and worked with Studs, Alan Wieder creates a multi-dimensional portrait of a run-of-the-mill guy from Chicago who, in public life, became an acclaimed author, raconteur, while managing, in his private life, to remain a mensch. We see Studs, the eminent oral historian, the inveterate and selfless supporter of radical causes, especially civil rights. We see the actor, the writer, the radio host, the jazz lover, whose early work in television earned him a notorious place on the McCarthy blacklist. We also see Studs, the devoted husband to his adored wife, Ida.

Studs Terkel: Politics, Culture, But Mostly Conversation allows us to realize the importance of reaching through our own daily realities—increasingly clogged with disembodied, impersonal interaction—to find value in actual face-time with real humans. Wieder’s book also shows us why such contact might be crucial to those of us in movements rising up against injustice. The book is simply the best introduction available to this remarkable man. Reading it will lead people to Terkel’s enormous body of work, with benefits they will cherish throughout their lives.

Alan Wieder is an oral historian who lives in Portland, Oregon. He is distinguished professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina and has taught at the University of the Western Cape and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. In the last fifteen years, he has published three books and numerous articles on South Africans who fought against the apartheid regime. The latest book, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid, was published in 2013 by Monthly Review Press.