Occupy, Writers!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I assume you’re up to speed on Occupy Wall Street, but have you heard about Occupy Writers? It’s a website with a fast-growing list of over 1,200 writers (Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Cunningham and Northwestern faculty Gina Frangello and Stuart Dybek) who have publicly declared support for the Occupy movement.

Created by author Jeff Sharlet and journalist Kiera Feldman, the site now hosts “occupy writings.” Lemony Snicket’s piece, “Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance” has been tweeted wildly; my favorite parts are numbers ten and eleven:

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.
11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

Alice Walker’s piece praises Princeton professor and activist Cornell West—one of OWS’s most vocal supporters—who was arrested last Sunday:

what a joy it is

to hear this news of you.

that you have not forgotten

what our best people taught us

as they rose to meet their day:

not to be silent

To anyone who believes that writers should also be public intellectuals, this site is bound to feel important. As Francine Prose said in a recent Guardian story: "Since this movement started, I've been waking up in the morning without the dread (or at least without the total dread) with which I've woken every morning for so long, the vertiginous sense that we're all falling off a cliff and no one (or almost no one) is saying anything about it."

I find the list is refreshingly diverse. New York Magazine might have sniffed that it “tends toward the small-press published, lefty magazine editors, and generally highbrow types,” but at least it admits that “It's not without big, big names (Elizabeth Wurtzel, Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, James Wolcott of Vanity Fair, Ann Patchett, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan).

Personally, whenever I see the names Dorothy Allison, Barbara Ehrenreich, Rick Moody, Elissa Schappell, Jonathan Lethem, Barbara Kingsolver, Gloria Steinem, Ayelet Waldman, and Chicagoans Dan Sinker, Zoe Zolbrod, and Sara Paretsky on a list, it’s one I want to be part of. In fact, I may start looking askance at favorite writers not on the list. (I’m looking at you, Michael Chabon, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Pam Houston.)

If you support OWS and have published a book or are a magazine editor, you can add your name. There’s a backlog (because they verify identities), but new names are constantly being added. Follow news at @occupywriters on Twitter.