Mike Marqusee, who died yesterday after a long battle with cancer, never wrote an entire book for Pluto – although I tried, very hard, to persuade him to do so. He was too principled to jump ship from Verso. I conceded defeat on that front long ago. But Mike and his partner, the indomitable Liz Davies, supported everything that Pluto represents in spades, in their commitment to social justice. And they did so with a generosity of spirit that is all too rare. Mike found time to give fulsome reviews to Pluto books, and to offer encouragement to everyone engaged in publishing on the left. And his energy, even in extremis in his later years, was an inspiration.
Even while desperately ill, he seemed unable to stop researching and writing, constantly engaged with the issues of the day, driven on to speak truth to power without let or hindrance. I’m proud to have known him – one of the myriad who counted Mike as a friend, and an inspiration.
Go back to his books and rediscover the potency and the appeal – and, often, the joie d’esprit – of his writings: on cricket, on Mohammed Ali, on his own journey as an anti-Zionist Jew – and, of course, on Bob Dylan. It seemed wickedly apposite, in one sense, that Mike Marqusee, who’s written some of the best commentaries on Dylan bar none, should die on the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Sadly, he wasn’t around to share his own thoughts on that. But very movingly, someone has posted the lyrics to Dylan’s ‘Chimes of Freedom’ in an online comment on the Guardian’s obituary. Go read.
Anne Beech, Managing Director at Pluto Press.