April 29, 2021

L.S. Halprin, Iain Boal, and Dick Russell

Harvard Book Store and the American Book Center welcome celebrated authors L.S. HALPRIN, IAIN BOAL, and DICK RUSSELL for a panel discussion of Halprin's latest book, An Essay in the History of the Radical Sensibility in America: Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman. Their discussion will be moderated by e-publishing pioneer LAURA FILLMORE, founder of Open Book Systems, Inc.


How do you use the word "radical?" Committed to the progressive? The cooperative? The communal? The equalitarian?

In so far as social, political, and economic power is sought and wielded in malice, just so far is benevolence radical. The history of social, political, and economic power has been mostly the history of malice. The history of benevolence has been mostly the history of radicalism. The sensibility that loves benevolence has been a radical sensibility.

In An Essay in the History of the Radical Sensibility in America, L.S. Halprin argues that before the middle of the nineteenth century the work of all American radicals was organized to defend some form of sentimental faith in millennial progress; that the work of the great writers of the middle of the nineteenth century was the first to be fundamentally free of the constraints of sentimentality; that despite that generation’s accomplishments, the old sentimentalities have persisted, perpetuating the cycle in which illusions designed to make radicalism’s chances seem better than they are become the disillusions which make them seem worse.

Along the way, Halprin unfolds something of the contribution of Edgar Alan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman to the specific content of the radical sensibility in America. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the radical’s work has been primarily to accomplish political power. That work and the frustrations of it often leave little energy for the pursuit of a thoroughgoing self-awareness. Halperin's analysis is particularly useful now to remind readers of both the sentimentalities and the wisdoms from which we come.

About Author(s)

L.S. Halprin began sharing his parents’ thrilling embrace of America’s and Europe’s great radical writing in the 1930s. Then in the 1940s he attended Uppsala College, followed by Columbia University. Halprin has taught at Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Dick Russell is the author of thirteen non-fiction books on a wide variety of subjects, including three New York Times bestsellers co-written with Jesse Ventura. His natural history Eye of the Whale was named a Best Book of the Year by three major newspapers.  His first of several books on the Kennedy assassination, The Man Who Knew Too Much, was called a masterpiece of historical reconstruction by Publishers Weekly.  Russell is the authorized biographer of depth psychologist James Hillman, and his most recent book is Climate In Crisis.

Iain Boal is an Irish social historian of science, technics, medicine and the commons. Educated in the British Isles he moved to Massachusetts in 1982, taught in the History of Science Department at Harvard, was a member of the Pumping Station collective of writers, teachers, artists and artisans, and wrote for the Boston Exchange. After moving to California he held teaching posts at Stanford and UC Berkeley, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Science and Technology researching the history of the bicycle in planetary perspective. He is a founder of the MayDay Rooms in Fleet Street, London, a social space and safe haven for archives of dissent threatened with loss or erasure.

Laura Fillmore, e-publishing pioneer and literary agent for L. S. Halprin, founded Open Book Systems, Inc. (OBS) in 1982. OBS packaged the first book about the internet, The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide, wrote and packaged the first trade book about the internet, The Internet Companion: A Beginner’s Guide to Global Networking, and, as the first online bookstore, sold the first online book, Umney’s Last Case by Stephen King in 1993, for $5 USD per download. Focusing on merging traditional and digital publishing standards and workflows in the 2000s, OBS is flexible by definition and has continued to evolve alongside the ever-changing publishing industry.