Your Guide to the Nation

Your Guide to the Nation

The Nation Guide to the Nation, just published by Vintage Books, is your guide to living liberally in America, from bars and art collectives to publishers and bookstores. Take a peek.



Go to The Nation Guide site for information on the book.

This month The Nation Guide to the Nation, published by Vintage Books, hits the bookstores. Here’s a free sample (much condensed), beginning with an excerpt from the Introduction by Victor Navasky and Katrina vanden Heuvel.

The Nation Guide to the Nation is for and about a community of committed, passionate people with hyperactive consciences and where they eat, shop, drink, learn, read, organize, research, hang out and get buried. It offers a Left Heritage Trail, entries on slow-food restaurants, coffeehouses, bookshop cafes, think tanks, greenmarkets, saloons, alternative TV, progressive websites, indie publishers, reading groups, enviro groups, green builders, theatrical troupes, food co-ops, worker co-ops and lots more. It’s a mixture of The Whole Earth Catalog, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and The Old Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a Sears Roebuck catalog of tools and ideas for people who want to change the world–or at least the neighborhood. Like the magazine, The Nation Guide to the Nation is quirky and eclectic and quite contrarian, unique, improbable, handy, cheap at the price and priceless. [To order, see the ad on page 27.]

Bars, Pubs & Saloons

Scholz Garten.

Haben zie barbecue? Ja! This landmark Tex-Deutsch restaurant, founded in the state capital by Confederate vet August Scholz in 1866, continues to be a key fueling stop for state pols, political buffs and members of the drawling class who cover the Statehouse spectacle. When Molly Ivins–who, like many writers for the muckraking Texas Observer, hung out here–died in 2007, her wake was held in the biergarten. 1607 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701; (512) 474-1958; [email protected]

The Weary Traveler.

Writes Nation Washington correspondent John Nichols: “A snapshot of the real Madison–circa 1903, or is it 1967?–can be found at The Weary Traveler on funky Williamson Street. Old World pub with wooden floors and a long bar, local beers on tap, comfort food with flair, a portrait of Walt Whitman overlooking a room that even on the coldest winter night radiates a warmth steeped in poetry and acoustic folk, blues and world-beat music. The talk here is of politics….” 1201 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703; (608) 442-6207

Art Collectives

The Busycle.

A bicycle built for fifteen, this pedal-powered traveling art piece, created by Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta, sits on the stripped chassis of a van. The Busycle travels to different cities on cross-country story-collecting tours. During stops, the crew invites locals to climb aboard, work the pedals and experience the purposeful power of pulling together.

Preemptive Media.

Born at Carnegie Mellon University, this collective makes works of art that subvert actual technologies used by the government and companies to mine data and amass information on all of us. An example of their creations was the project Zapped!, which focused on radio frequency identification (RFID) tags used by companies like Wal-Mart to track products and sales.


Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company.

As its motto, “Subversive literature for the whole family since 1886,” indicates, Kerr is the granddaddy of radical publishers. Started by Charles Hope Kerr, the press has been publishing texts on radical labor and socialist history and theory since before the twentieth century. Kerr published the first three-volume English translation of Marx’s Das Kapital. 1726 W. Jarvis, Chicago, IL 60620; (713) 465-7774;

Soft Skull Press

. This radical outfit was launched in 1992 by Sander Hicks, punk musician (former lead singer of White Collar Crime), writer, activist. Soft Skull started life as a “guerrilla operation” in a Manhattan Kinko’s, where Hicks was working the graveyard shift and assembling chapbooks written by friends. 19 W. 21st Street, Suite 1101, New York, NY 10010; (718) 643-1599;


The Big Idea.

Pittsburgh’s only self-proclaimed lefty store runs itself like a nonprofit. It gets by on regular fundraisers and a staff of about twenty volunteers and offers a range of nonfiction titles not on display elsewhere in the city. 504 Millvale Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224; (412) 687-4323;

Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse.

Owned and operated by the workers, who are out to “subvert the logic of capitalism” and bring on the revolution. Baltimore City Paper called it the town’s “Best NonBar Hangout”–the right mix of socializing and socialism. 800 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, MD 21202; (410) 230-0450

Culture Jammers

The Yes Men.

In 1999, with the Seattle world trade meetings looming, Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum constructed a website for the WTO (, which powerful people mistook for the real thing. The Yes Men were invited to appear on CNBC, at industry events and schools, and were assumed to be legit reps of the WTO. Since then they’ve impersonated many industry spokespersons.

Philip Green’s Top 10 Left Mysteries

The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout (1965).

Nero Wolfe vs. the FBI! A young woman claims she is being harassed by the feds, and Wolfe and Archie Goodwin decide to take on her case. The plot turns on revelations about FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in a Nation article by Fred Cook. No doubt about it–the best civil liberties mystery of all time.

Stuart Klawans’s 25 Greatest Political Films

Johnny Guitar (1954), directed by Nicholas Ray.

Because a steely, imperious Joan Crawford faces off against the furious Mercedes McCambridge, Johnny Guitar has become known as a pathbreaking feminist Western. But it is also an allegory of the blacklist, in which demands for incriminating testimony are focused on the title character, played by Sterling Hayden, an actor who had named names before HUAC. An entire generation of cinephiles used this film, and Nicholas Ray, to argue that genre movies could becomes vehicles of individual expression.

Danny Goldberg & Eric Alterman’s Top 10 Left Anthems

Patti Smith, “People Have the Power”; Marvin Gaye, “What’s Goin’ On?”; Bob Marley & the Wailers, “Get Up, Stand Up”; The Rascals, “People Got to Be Free”; Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come”; U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”; Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers”; Peter La Farge, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes”; Jackson Browne, “Before the Deluge”; James Brown, “Say It Loud–I’m Black and I’m Proud”

Left Heritage Trail

Italian Socialist Labor Party Hall.

In 1900 the leftist Italian stonecutters in Barre raised $2,000 and built this meeting place and social hall. Rallies, speeches and debates, community gatherings and union meetings were held here. The building also housed a worker-owned cooperative store that sold fair-priced produce, groceries, dry goods and coal, paid for in scrip with the SLP logo on it. A National Historic Landmark. 46 Granite Street, Barre, VT 05641; (802) 658-6647;

Forest Home Cemetery.

“The Forest Lawn of the Left.” Here stands the Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument, marking the graves of six of the eight anarchists wrongly condemned to hang for the deaths of seven policemen during a mass rally for the eight-hour workday in Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886. Emma Goldman, who was inspired by that tragedy to become an anarchist, is buried nearby. 900 South Des Plaines Avenue, south of the Eisenhower Expressway, Forest Park, Illinois

Locavore, Slow-Food & Organic Restaurants

Hominy Grill.

A low-key restaurant that specializes in simple but beautifully done Lowcountry cuisine (think shrimp creole with okra and sesame-crusted catfish). Owner-chef and North Carolinian Robert Stehling opened Hominy Grill in 1996 in a former barbershop. He goes out of his way to support local producers, from whom he buys vegetables, meat, eggs and fish. His grits are stone-ground in an eighteenth-century water-powered grist mill near where he grew up (his father drives down every month with a supply of grits). 207 Rutledge Avenue, Charleston, SC 29403; (843) 937-0930;

Bookshop Cafes

Busboys and Poets.

Part cafe, part bookstore, part performance space, part meeting place, B&P is a popular rendezvous for progressives in the DC area, a major center of antiwar activity. Says owner Andy Shallal: “People that are in the peace movement are used to working out of church basements, you know, the environment isn’t always the most beautiful, not always the most conducive to creativity and openness and thought provocation.” 14th & V Streets NW, Washington, DC 20009;

Mercury Cafe.

Writes Nation Associate Annette Walker: “The Mercury Cafe defies categories. Established 32 years ago by Marilyn Megenity and friends, ‘The Merc’ is Denver’s premier alternative political and cultural space and haven for organic dining and environmental consciousness. Windmills and solar panels grace the roof, and climbing plants blanket one side of the two-story building.” 2199 California Street, Denver, CO 80205; (303) 294-9281;

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