Reflections sparked by a busy time (Guest post from Emily Banner)

March 3, 2006

Usually here at Inkberry, we try to space our readings out a bit. We’ll have three or four events per season, and a season lasts four months, so we aim to spread our events over that period so as not to stretch ourselves or our audience too thin.

Well, this time we’ve got events three weeks in a row, boom boom boom. As I’m the one who books our reading series, there’s nobody to blame for this but myself.

Fortunately, they’re three incredibly diverse events, quite literally ranging from the sacred to the profane. At the more secular end of the spectrum was last week’s visit from John Dicker, journalist and author of The United States of Wal-Mart.

Thanks to generous support from a consortium of different groups at Williams College (the Lehman Council for Community Service, Students for Social Justice, the Green Party, and the college Chaplains’ Office), as well as the English Department at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, John spoke at both campuses last weekend, talking candidly about his research process, the trials and tribulations of writing about the world’s largest retailer, and most importantly, Wal-Mart itself.

With a charismatic combination of wit and analysis, John answered questions on everything from Sam Walton’s folksy legacy, to how Wal-Mart is likely to develop over the next ten or twenty years, to how (if ever) the company could be stopped – making it clear just why the Montreal Mirror reviewed his first book as “an unusually entertaining and readable account of a normally depressing subject.”

His events were a particular treat for me, since John has been a friend of mine since the late ’90s, when we met in a writing workshop back in Brooklyn. At the time we were both trying to figure out what we wanted to do with our lives; I dreamed of being a novelist, and he didn’t know if he wanted to be a writer or a labor organizer or what. Reconnecting last weekend, as I watched him talk about the future of globalism, unions, and grassroots politics – at events coordinated by the nonprofit organization I co-founded to promote the literary arts in the region I now know as home – I couldn’t have asked for a more vivid demonstration of how far we’ve all come.


Talking about John Dicker

March 3, 2006

Avid Inkberryphiles may remember that we brought John Dicker, author of The United States of Wal-Mart, here last week; we presented him in a pair of events at Williams College and MCLA. His visit got some good press, which is exciting.

John’s visit was blogged in advance here at greylocknews, and there’s a great writeup by Andrew McKeever in the MCLA Beacon.

The Beacon article — called Union Blues — includes a color photo of John speaking at Smith House, and offers some terrific quotes from John’s talk.

“Wal-Mart doesn’t care what people who don’t shop there think,” said Dicker. “They totally got into the P.R. game late. They realized that their public image affects the bottom line.”

When asked about the future of Wal-Mart, Dicker stated, “I see them maxing out. I also see them changing their format…”

If you weren’t there and want to get a sense for what you missed, check out the link (we hope to reprint the article in our press archive, but at the moment it’s still online at the Beacon site, so you can check it out there.) Thanks for the press, guys!