“... enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history. Never forget th
“... enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history. Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains. You must struggle to truly remember this past in all its nuance, error, and humanity. You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance—no matter how improved—as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never compensate for this.”
Gut-wrenching and terribly, beautifully composed. Essential reading for all Americans, especially us white ones, because we are still steeped in such shameful ignorance. Coates’s repeated refrain of “the body” was especially powerful and eye-opening to me, to consider the ever-present threat to the only thing you truly have, your physical self, if you are a black American. Until we so-called white Americans can acknowledge and bear our mutual, omnipresent complicity in perpetuating racism in a systematic, universal way, nothing will change in this country.
“I am not a cynic. I love you, and I love the world, and I love it more with every new inch I discover. But you are a black boy, and you must be responsible for your body in a way that other boys cannot know. Indeed, you must be responsible for the worst actions of other black bodies, which, somehow, will always be assigned to you. And you must be responsible for the bodies of the powerful—the policeman who cracks you with a nightstick will quickly find his excuse in your furtive movements. And this is not reducible to just you—the women around you must be responsible for their bodies in a way that you will never know. You have to make your peace with the chaos, but you cannot lie. You cannot forget how much they took from us and how they transfigured our very bodies into sugar, tobacco, cotton, and gold.”
“My mind is in a little box, dear God, down inside other boxes inside other boxes and on and on. There is very little air in my box. Dear God, please“My mind is in a little box, dear God, down inside other boxes inside other boxes and on and on. There is very little air in my box. Dear God, please give me as much air as it is not presumptuous to ask for.”
21-year-old Flannery O’Connor jots down some prayers in a composition book, and presumably, someone finds it and publishes it, along with a complete facsimile of the book itself. I doubt she would have wanted this, but her prayers are sweet and thoughtful; they can be read in a sitting (the reprinted text itself is about 40 pages). They will perhaps be especially moving to good Catholics like herself. If anything, the prayers serve as a record of her desire for faith and of her innate and developing artistic power. (With thanks to Celeste and Christian for lending me a copy.)...more
I so loved Books One and Two, but this one somehow just didn't do it for me. So much adolescent crying. So much. I actually missed the back and forthI so loved Books One and Two, but this one somehow just didn't do it for me. So much adolescent crying. So much. I actually missed the back and forth between the past and the present; here, in the volume of his childhood, there is no jumping ahead to the adult Karl Ove. I'm still looking forward to Book Four, but I felt a little let down by this one. I can't think of more intelligent things to say about why I feel disappointed. Curious....more
What might happen, Nell Zink muses, if a young lesbian and a gay poetry professor met and married and had two children in 1960s Virginia? A lot of strWhat might happen, Nell Zink muses, if a young lesbian and a gay poetry professor met and married and had two children in 1960s Virginia? A lot of strange, unhappy things, it turns out. But Zink relays it all in this vivid, funny, compellingly readable style. Her prose is light and humorous but perfectly structured, and her narrative flow is extremely relaxed and unconcerned with plot. There is also a happy vulgarity here that I particularly enjoy. It is a weird novel wholly unconcerned with its weirdness.
(Zink herself grew up and went to school about 45 miles from where I now live, and the frequent local references in this novel were a delight to me. The kids, for instance, all end up attending the University of Virginia, which is a few miles from my house.)...more
Sometimes I get weary of Wendell Berry's curmudgeonly, Luddite shtick and his general sense that this is the worst generation in all time (which reveaSometimes I get weary of Wendell Berry's curmudgeonly, Luddite shtick and his general sense that this is the worst generation in all time (which reveals, in my mind, a serious historical amnesia). But, there were some thoughtful pieces here. And I was especially impressed by his carefully reasoned arguments regarding abortion and gay marriage, which I frankly was not expecting....more