The book i chose for my independent reading is Fug You by Ed Sanders. So far this book has been really interesting. I’m getting a perspective of American from the early 60’s to late 60’s going into the 70’s from a guy who was part of the counter culture/art culture of the lower east side during the time. Within each chapter there are pictures of random things, such as sketches of individuals of the time created by their contemporaries. Images of the covers and contributor pages from the magazine Sanders had created and run, Fuck You / A Magazine of the Arts. His slogan is “total attack on the culture” which he and his cohorts undertake through their expressive presence in the underground art world as well as their involvement in political issues.
The environment depicted appears to be completely different from the way Manhattan, specifically the lower east side is today. There were rent controlled apartments where an apartment could be rented for 25$ a month. These days the opposite of rent control is occurring. Within Manhattan rent continues to be raised as landlords push there tenants out in order to have them replaced by a class that has more money. The only people allowed to stay are those who have been exempt because they were there before a certain date (I’m not sure what that date is). Many are being pushed out as the city is becoming more gentrified which could be seen to have positive and negative effects. In Sanders book it appears heroin was in a lot of places and the streets weren’t the safest place to be so the clean up that occurred from that time on could be seen as a good thing. That being said a lot of the awesome diversity and artistic presence that had thrived at that time is being lost. The artistic fervor that had existed then and even now is beginning to move out into the Burroughs.
It was also interesting to see how the government responded to some of the activities that were happening on what Sanders calls “the scene”. In order to stop the spread of ideas through art that could be seen as counter intuitive to the mainstream, government propagated mindset, they enforced laws that would disallow a forum for expression, or the meeting of these minds. An example would be coffee house laws that had been passed, they required owners to meet a certain physical/archetypal criteria in order to be considered a coffee house, which also connected to the ability of the venue to have poetry readings/ music, which had been banned. The explanation I just wrote isn’t the best description of what happened but its something like that. Along with these laws the government shut down an underground movie theater where many people met to discuss film as well. In response the residents of the lower east side protested and got people to sign petitions as they actively worked within the system to correct what they felt were wrongs done to their rights. Sanders points out the period between 1962-64 as the time when censorship was most radical (at least as far as I’ve come in the book).
So far I’m really diggin this book. Its been an interesting read and I’m looking forward to reading some more of it. Always good to get as many versions of history as possible if you want to obtain some type of universal truth.