Its statement is simple and stark.
“We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world.”
The undersigned so far include Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, Russell Banks, Jennifer Egan, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eve Ensler, Naomi Klein, Jonathan Lethem, Ann Patchett, David Rakoff, Donna Tartt.
The website carrying the declaration and its signers went live late last night, as an encouragement to the movement. More names are being added all the time.
The site is a creation of Jeff Sharlet, a journalist and author who teaches creative nonfiction at Dartmouth College, and Keira Feldman, a Brooklyn-based journalist, with help from the publications Tin House and n+1.
Sharlet spoke to The Huffington Post on the telephone while driving in New Hampshire. He told us how the site began, what its aims are – and how it is a message both to the protestors and to Mayor Bloomberg as well.
“At first,” he says, “I thought somebody would do this better, and I would sign on. Here come the municipal workers and the teachers, here come the musicians. So the writers will do something.
“And nothing happened. So on Sunday night, I see Salman Rushdie’s on Twitter, and I don’t know him, I just sent him a message saying ‘If there was a letter, would you sign it?’ And he wrote back immediately, with enthusiasm and ideas. I wrote a letter and sent it out to my address book. From there, it snowballed.”
Sharlet says that the original plan was to gather more big names for the list before making the site live, but “with ‘Bloomberg Dawn’ looming this morning, and talking to folks there on the Media Committee and the Library [at Occupy Wall Street], it seemed like a good thing that those people who were on the vigil through the night, afraid of what would happen in the morning, that it could be meaningful for them to know that more people were coming.
“Maybe if they see a writer that they really admire supporting it, from whom they derived their sense of critical thought, it’s good to know that he’s standing with you.”
The site still launched with more than 200 names, Pulitzer Prize winners among them. Although the statement is short, it still contains an implicit message to Mayor Bloomberg himself.
“There are radical writers on this list, but there are also the kind of writers who maybe Bloomberg takes their books with him on a vacation to the beach. We wanted to say, ‘Look, you’ve been outflanked. The movement draws as much from the people you consider to be your base.'”
Writers can add their own names to the list, which is subject to verification by a group of volunteers, currently Dartmouth College students although others are welcome, before being placed on the site.
“There’s a way in which status dissolves in the Occupy movement, and we like the idea that that would be reflected in the site, so you start with this group of established writers, and then it democratizes. The person who has a tiny book that nobody’s ever read, and their name begins ‘Ru-‘, they’re next to Salman Rushdie.”
Sharlet spent much of the last few days at the protest in New York – “at first I thought I would write about it somehow” – and he decided to use the word “support” rather than “solidarity” on the website as an implied call to further action than simply filling in a form on a website.
“Let’s think like writers. You bring your body to a protest, that’s definitely solidarity. This is a letter of support, and that’s good too. But you can bring your body down.
“People are bringing books to the library that’s there – what writer could not love that? The nice thing is, you can appeal to a writer’s vanity. Bring some books from your shelves, and some of your own as well.
“Joyce Carol Oates wrote in, saying ‘I’m going down to the park tomorrow.’ Go down, like the transport workers.
“One thing I think is important is that there’s a lot of folks out there like me, we tend to be fairly skeptical people. We see the inevitable cliches of a movement, and reply at worst with snark, at best with instructions of what we think they should do. ‘Instead,’ I thought, ‘what these people really need is some cover that allows them to be earnest.'”
As for the next move for Occupy Writers – Sharlet says that’s out of his hands.
“This website is very much like the movement itself, there’s nobody in charge. I’m just the one who got the thing going.”
Click here to sign up at occupywriters.com. People can also volunteer to help the project by emailing email@example.com
Correction: This article was altered to include the name of the co-creator of Occupy Writers, Kiera Feldman, and to credit its co-organizers. There were also minor corrections made to clarify Jeff Sharlet’s current location, and to confirm that not all volunteers for the project are students at Dartmouth College.
Article Courtesy of The Huffington Post
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