Essential Texts on the Mimeo Revolution

In referencing Diane Di Prima's Recollections of My Life As a Woman last night, I am reminded just how essential this book is to understanding the Mimeo Revoluton.  It is a top-10 book in that regard.  The sexism of the secret location is no secret history (although it should be noted that for all of Fuck You's chest thumbing regarding gobbling down on fur burgers, that mag, in particular, is relatively strong in including women).  There are few accounts of the Mimeo Revolution that provide as detailed an account of the daily activities of producing  little magazine as Di Prima's.  For example her description of what it took to prepare a stencil and physically run a mimeograph machine is one of the best I know of.  In addition she provides an intimate look at the personal relationships and community politics surrounding a mag like Floating Bear. 

The publisher must have grossly over-estimated the demand for this book because seemingly every used bookstore and reminder table has a copy.  In fact, the Big Chicken Barn had a copy yesterday (as well as two copies of the November 1959 issue of Life featuring O'Neill's The Only Rebellion Around article, which misrepresented the Beats, all the while producing some of the greatest images of them in their natural habitat.).  I was tempted to buy it and give it as a Christmas present.  The book really is a gift on Di Prima's part, granting readers access into her life and the inner circle of the Mimeo Revolution.  I would bet a copy of Floating Bear No. 9 (of which Recollections has a great account of the resulting obscenity charges that developed around the issue) that The Stand has a copy, if not more, right now.  Hipsters, run don't walk there and get a copy.

Hettie Jones' How I Became Hettie Jones is a close second to Di Prima's book in terms of providing a close look at the culture and operation of a little magazine.  Years ago I gushed about the editorial prowess of Leroi Jones (Baraka), but I think I overplayed my hand.  Now I would say that Baraka as editor was not possible without a woman behind him, but that is not accurate either.  Hettie Cohen and Di Prima were full partners and collaborators in Baraka's magazine efforts.  In fact it could be argued that Cohen's relationships with and knowledge of the publishing industry and Di Prima's skills with the nuts and bolts of printing are just as important as Baraka's connections with the literary community.  Increasingly, I believe this to be true as Baraka never, as far as I recall, produced another magazine with out their knowledge and input. 

As for Floating Bear, I could be argued that the issues after Baraka's departure are in some ways more interesting than the issues he worked on.  For me that is particularly true of Issue 26 (one of the first issues after Baraka left and guest edited by Billy Linich) and Issue 33 (guest edited by John Wieners).  With these two issues, Di Prima proved she could manage a magazine and marshall literary talent just as well as Baraka and to more interesting effect.  I would argue that the Di Prima issues, especially Nos. 26 and 33, are more in the mimeo spirit (ephemeral, uneven, sloppy, yet beautiful and fragile in their roughness, and full of a poignancy touched by sadness, despair and death).  These issues also changed the Floating Bear format and reveal Di Prima's talents for magazine design.

If one is amassing a reference library on the Mimeo Revolution, Hettie Jones' and Di Prima's books are essential.  Recently I received a request from somebody asking how to build just such a library, so for the next several posts, I'll provide a very haphazard and meandering list of books that strike me at particularly useful foundations constructing a Mimeo Revolution information bank.



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