There was nothing out of the ordinary about Jim Koplin. He was just your typical central Minnesota gay farm boy with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology who developed anarchist-influenced, radical-feminist, and anti-imperialist politics, while never losing touch with his rural roots. But perhaps the most important thing about Jim is that throughout his life, almost literally to his dying breath, he spent some part of every day on the most important work we have: tending the garden.
Plain Radical is a touching homage to a close friend and mentor taken too soon. But it is also an exploration of the ways in which an intensely local focus paired with a fierce intelligence can provide a deep, meaningful, even radical engagement with the world.
Drawing on first hand accounts as well as the nearly 3,000 pages of correspondence that flowed between the two men between 1988 and 2012, this book is about the intersection of two biographies and the ideas two men constructed together. It is in part a love story, part intellectual memoir, and part political polemic; an argument for how we should understand problems and think about solutions — in those cases when solutions are possible — to create a decent human future.
In a brilliant fusion of memoir and biography, Robert Jensen captures the bedrock Northern Plainsradicalism of his longtime friend and mentor. This is storytelling at its best and most inspiring, reminding the reader of what will be required for both survival of life itself and a future of mutuality.
Without sentimentality, Robert Jensen’s masterful homage presents a life well lived, and well worth learning from. At its end, two thoughts: ’I wish I’d known Jim Koplin.’ And ’I really ought to be more like him.
A heartfelt book about an inspiring model of wisdom, self-awareness, and thoughtful engagement with the world.
A straight and plain and honest memoir and tribute. A learning. The story of deep love for a friend who by his life taught a clean and radical way of being in and trying to help cure an ever more challenged world. It will teach and reach you, too.
Robert Jensen has written an intimate, passionate, and clear-eyed memoir and meditation about the enduring friendship of two radical thinkers, activists and teachers. In charting his own restless intellectual and political odyssey and that of Jim Koplin, his dear friend and mentor, Jensen challenges all of us to find a path that enables us to live in and understand the world in a way that is realistic, constructive, honest, and humane. There are no easy answers or glib conclusions in this vivid, demanding, and ultimately deeply satisfying account.
What emerges from this double biography’s unblinking look at our living at the end of affluence, comfort and cheap energy is the portrait of a passionate, concerned and radical U.T. professor, who learned from one of Nature’s Mystics that ’it’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out of the way.’
What a delightful and important read Plain Radical is! While a number of authors have begun to realize that the flourishing of life — sustainability — can only be achieved through relationships, no one has articulated this concept so well. By focusing on an intimate relationship with one friend it makes the case for communal relationships in a compelling and emotive way. This book is a must read for anyone interested in an inspiring journey of life.
Jensen’s heartfelt book about perspective, love, growth, kinship, and the necessity to live radically, couldn’t possibly come at a better time. Consider it both a handbook and a compass for guidance toward both how to be human, and how best to live during the Anthropocene, as climate disruption wracks the planet and makes our lives all the more uncertain with each passing day. Mandatory reading, then follow the example.
If at the beginning of Plain Radical you wonder what kind of book you’re reading, in the middle you’ll be nodding your head in agreement, and by the end you may be shedding a tear or two. A mix of memoir, manifesto and eulogy, it uses a cross-generational friendship as a through-line to explore the compelling social justice issues of our day . . . Within the Upper Midwest’s tradition of social progressiveness, Plain Radical is a touching and important record of the debts owed by one generation to another — the baby boomers to the Silent Generation — as embodied in Jensen and Koplin.