Thursday, November 16, 2023

Liz Knox | The Anarchist Review

Liz Knox
The Anarchist Review
Vancouver, Canada: The Peripheral Review, 2022
20 pp., 21.5 x 14 cm., staple bound. 
Edition of 100

The notorious Anarchist Cookbook was published in 1971, at the apex of the counterculture era and resistance to the war in Vietnam. Author William Powell was 21 at the time, and a teenager when he wrote the incendiary text. The dust jacket blurb warns that the book will “shock, disturb and provoke.” 

Powell declared that the volume was not written for radicals such as the Weathermen or the Minutemen (“They already know everything that’s in here”), but rather for the “silent majority” survivalists. It offered information on the uses and effects of drugs (heroin, pot, peanuts), non-lethal and lethal weapons (cattle prods, bow and arrows, machine guns) and various explosives. 

"The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change,” wrote Powell, a sentiment that he would renounce a few years later when he converted to Anglicanism  and attempted to have the book removed from circulation.1 He was unsuccessful. The copyright resided with the publisher and an FBI investigation concluded that the content was protected by the First Amendment. 

Over two million copies have been sold. 

In the early days of the internet, the book was copied and distributed extensively, much to the chagrin of alarmist journalists, who feared the sway it may have over terrorists and teenagers. It remains available at sites like Efforts to have it banned are ongoing. 

The Anarchist Review by Liz Knox features a curated collection of customer reviews of the book, submitted to the online retail behemoth 

Knox often mines online comments to produce portraits of changing political and sexual mores. In her 2013 bookwork Synopsis, she created brief, often poetic, descriptions of over fifty films, using only the parental advisory section of the Internet Movie Database. The IMDB "Parents Guide” includes the following sections where users can contribute warnings to other worried parents: Sex & Nudity, Violence & Gore, Profanity, Alcohol, Drugs and Smoking, Frightening & Intense scenes. 

Commentariat featured a collection of comments from the sex advice column Savage Love, producing a portrait of the sexual politics of the era of the Obama administration. 

The Anarchist Review continues this approach, complimented with illustrations in the style of the 1970’s edition of The Joy of Cooking. Comments range from those concerned about the societal impact (“STOP SELLING THIS” in all caps) to those disappointed that it doesn’t go far enough (“Don’t waste your money, this book...while a neat novelty...isn’t very detailed and doesn’t teach you anything”). Another worries that his impulse buy may have led to him being on a “watch list now”. 

Others complain about the print quality of the latest reproduction. 

The Anarchist Review also includes an introductory essay titled, “Blueprint-Recipe Industrial Complex” by activist and editor Nathan Crompton.

The title is available from Read Books (the art bookshop on Emily Carr campus, Vancouver) and the publisher, here

1. Three years before his death, Powell published this Mea Culpa in the Guardian:

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