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Welcome to iBrattleboro!

Welcome to iBrattleboro!
It's a local news source by and for the people of Brattleboro, Vermont, published continually. You can get involved in this experiment in citizen journalism by submitting meeting results, news, events, stories, reviews, how-to's, recipes, places to go, things to do, or anything else important to Brattleboro. Or, just drop by to see what others have contributed.

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Contributed By: Spinoza


When we started iBrattleboro, we had some grand visions. In addition to wanting to provide a platform for local news, views, and opinions, we hoped that local writers would enjoy publishing their work to a large, local audience. It would be possible for any writer to have a regular place on the site, and build a following of regular readers, but also compile their collected works into a book if they so desired.

Almost 14 years later, it happened. The essays of “spinoza” were recently collected and collated by some sneaky members of the spinoza family, and presented back in the form of a bound volume. A copy arrived mysteriously on our back doorstep recently, and it was a real joy to behold. It was a bit like admiring a new infant in the family for the first time. “So what do we have here?”

It was quite different to see it all in print rather than as an ongoing stream of digital essays and commentaries. It feels different on the page, and it is almost strange to be “reading iBrattleboro” via ink, on paper, with many pages, with a book cover. But it is also a very nice way to read. The printed page lends an air of authority. It can be held. The book has weight. It can be carried anywhere.

332 pages fill “Contributed by: spinoza” — it’s nearly an inch thick, in a plain gray wrapper. Regular readers of iBrattleboro will find familiar favorites (remember The Miltons?), topics (skateboarding and spirituality), and themes (freedom and rights).

The writings are presented chronologically starting in 2007 and stand alone as text. For the most part all comments and images have been removed, and this difference from the originals gives the essays a different tone. It’s more of a monologue, and it works. Some of the original chaos and distraction is stripped away.

What remains,though, is a fascinating collection of observations on and about the human condition in the early 21st century. If you can, pick up a copy and remind yourself.

....

Once we saw the print copy, we had a few questions and sent them off to spinoza for a reply:

What prompted you to start posting pieces on iBrattleboro?

As always, it’s not just one thing. The package was the confluence of a necessary skate advocacy for our town, iBrattleboro’s arc, and seeing a good outlet for stoking creative writing. There was something new and different in that opportunity too. The public/private question (journaling vs. posting) intrigued me, as did the shifting vantage which using a pen-name/persona affords. That this would go on for over ten years, I had no notion of when I started.

Have you always been a writer? What other writing have you done?

Yes. I’ve been at it since school days, in terms of strict forms I’ve written mostly screenplays and short stories.

Why did you choose the name Spinoza as your username?

The original and real Spinoza is a heroic figure to me. And knowing I’d be offering unpopular opinion, and contradicting the status quo, I felt it was important to have someone with that kind of integrity and depth as a beacon. Also, part of my modus operandi, however tongue-in-cheek was to counter the skater-as-dummy stereotype.

Do you think your writing has made a difference? If so, in what ways?

If I didn’t commit to the skate project and want my voice to be useful, as a catalyst if nothing else, it’s hard to say where the skate park initiative would be. In Spanish they say 'no necesitas abuela’, which translates as, ‘he doesn’t need a grandmother’. I’m not trying to toot my horn here, but it is interesting. Laying the foundation with the Green Mountain Skate Coalition, and then being a founding member of BASIC, for me it’s an intertwined affair, with me as a real person, and spinoza as some kind of envoy entity.

I’m generally fascinated by how the world of fiction and reality overlap. One example; I came up with the name BASIC, and designed the logo- that big energetic swirling ’S’. In and among the stories in the book is 'The Scarlet Shredder.' As an aside, that was one of my favorites to write. In this story, which leans heavily on Hawthorne, the same Big Red S is embroidered on the shirt the protagonist has to wear around town due to his recidivism. I’m not sure chronologically which came first, but the germ of the idea for the story came as soon as I was seeing skaters being shamed and oppressed in a New England town. There are a lot of these kinds of Easter Eggs in the collection.

As far as the political or eschatological pieces, maybe I’ve offered some chuckles here and there, or food for thought, but it’s hard to feel any literature can move the needle nowadays, so to speak…sorry to say.

We worked secretly with your family to help them find everything. How did you find out about the book of collected works?

They pulled it out of the hat for a big birthday surprise.To say I was flabbergasted would not be overstating it.

We always hoped someone would compile a book of their work from iBrattleboro and you’re the first to do so. Do your essays feel different to you seeing them in print?

It’s been said, by more than one so far, that it’s a good bathroom reader. Which refers, I hope, to the diverse, semi-random, and byte-sizing of the pieces. So I’ve been told. I haven’t yet felt the urge to revisit them all. Yet it’s been fun to poke in and around the past.

Your first essay/submission was about books, and now the series of essays IS a book. Thoughts?

For me, Spinoza, the elder, embodied not only rigor of investigation, but unflappable behavior in the face of being ostracized. He seemed like a good mentor. But there are many others that influenced my voice. That 'small s’ spinoza moniker gave me a boost to tinker with ideas, and it’s really a huge tradition. Borges, Henry Miller, Eduardo Galeano, Camus, Beckett, Sam Shepard….Writers writers. All impressing the point, ”If you want to write you have to DO IT, so get to it. If you’re going be at all honest with yourself- and if not, why bother- know that it's going to be hard. But if you don’t bear down and try...you’ll never know."

You’ve written a lot about skateboarding. In a nutshell, what does skateboarding represent to you and why is it so important?

There are one hundred and ninety-five pieces in the the ‘Contributed by: spinoza’ collection. I’d guess half are about skateboarding. Besides the straight on skate park initiative or skate respect business, as an activity I still find skating elegant and enlivening. And it connects to sliding movement in multiple forms on land and sea.

And as a subject, it not only provides a solid metaphor for things from learning curves to energy conservation, but it’s bottomless. Skating sub-culture connects to music, sports, health, architecture, and transportation, on and on. I got into skating really and truly as an adult because I had children who got into it. And I got hooked. The lack of opportunity in Brattleboro struck me as appalling. Add the stigma on top, it made the situation here -where I live- an embarrassment. This seemed to microcosmically represent something that can and should be addressed and improved.

If folks want to read or purchase your book, where can they find a copy?

As of the moment, the library is vetting a copy, so depending on that outcome, it’ll be there. Otherwise they are for sale at Everyone’s Books.

Anything else people should know?

There’s a line in a song by Canned Heat. Something like, “What you give you get in return, can’t ask for anything more..." I like that. It sums up the spirit that underlies this whole enterprise.

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Galatians

Congratulations spinoza. That's very thoughtful and nice of your family to do that.

 

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