Egg-head extremists

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

 Shelf Monkey
The Shelf Monkeys push moral superiority to the edge, kidnapping and torturing a talk show host who uses his television book club to push trashy novels.

THE WHOLE OF MY life has taken place since Edward Abbey released his fictional, sometimes satirical, environmental manifesto Monkey Wrench Gang in 1975. Abbey's colourful characters use sabotage to protest environmentally damaging activities in the American Southwest.

When I first encountered the book at age 19, it inspired me to don a ski mask and blow up the bulldozers destroying my native Ozark Mountains. But, stopping just short of making pipe bombs in the back shed, I instead revisited Abbeyâe(TM)s work and reflected on the fundamental contradiction of using violence to confront violence. More than 30 years later, Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey addresses literary snobbery in much the same way as Abbeyâe(TM)s manifesto, exposing the contradictions inherent in extremism.

In Redekop's tale, disgruntled bookstore employees and librarians form a secret society, the Shelf Monkeys âe" an outlet for their frustration at the pathetic book choices of the masses. The group meets under cover of dark to set flames to books that are polluting the intellectual landscape and destroying the minds and souls of those who read them. No mere literary witch hunt, the group justifies their savage quest for their vision of a well-read society by employing a lengthy process to build consensus around a book or author's worthlessness.

âeoeIt was an opiate, more satisfying than tobacco, more addictive than heroinâe¦burning books was the ultimate in stress relief,âe says new Shelf Monkey Thomas.

The Shelf Monkeys, much like Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, push their sense of intellectual and moral superiority to the edge, kidnapping and torturing a talk show host who uses his television book club to push trashy novels.

âeoeKnowing now what you do, if you had the chance, would you kill Hitler, or Hussein, or Milosevic, before they came to power? Wouldnâe(TM)t you have the responsibility to do everything you possibly could to stop these monsters? Now again, with the benefit of hindsight, if you could have stopped Jackie Collins before she had a chance to destroy a whole generation of bored housewives, well, wouldnâe(TM)t you have at least tried to convince her of the merits of a life devoted to something more appropriate to her talents? Like a travel agent?âe says Aubrey as he justifies his cause.

Redekopâe(TM)s ultimate success is in challenging intellectual snobbery. Shelf Monkey highlights how we can all too easily become that which we claim to detest, employing our own brands of dominance and hatred. Not bad for the first novel from this Manitoba librarian.

If you're the type of person who sticks your nose in the air as you walk past books with the Oprah's Book Club sticker on them and snorts at the person next to you in the coffee shop reading John Grisham, this book will challenge your intellect while tickling your funny bone. Redekopâe(TM)s work could be read as a light satire or a savage condemnation of intellectual snobbery, but in either view the work explores the complexity of any group of people attempting to set the standards by which we understand and engage literature.

The next time youâe(TM)re sitting on an airplane haughtily surveying the titles propped before your fellow travellers, remember that, soothing as it may be to the little snob that lives in most of us, intellectual snobbery is not a monkey you want on your shelf.âe"Melanie Redman

related items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.