Patti Smith spoke at a church in Berkeley and did an impromptu musical performance. Her self-deprecating humor was exquisitely charming. Her book, M Train, is about nothing. Really, on page one, first paragraph, first sentence, she writes, “It’s not so easy writing about nothing.” (Smith, 1). I devoured M Train. I was on vacation in New Mexico reading it, at my Aunt’s ranch, sitting on the porch, drinking coffee out of my deceased Uncle’s mug. Everything felt so connected, so immediately relevant. And yet, I suspect I would relate to this book and connect everything wherever I was while reading it.
Paul Beatty’s brilliant satire, The Sellout is about a present-day man who accidentally acquires a slave and loves his former town so much that he physically redefines its town lines and reinstitutes segregation. I bought the book because it sounded like a thought-provoking and challenging satire, one of the cover blurbs, called it “Swiftian satire of the highest order.” I assumed I would appreciate the humor and the authorial voice, but detest the protagonist. But Beatty created an incredibly likable character, one that truly means well but can’t help when strange things happen to him (like having a suicidal man he saved pledge his life as a slave to him). He ends up in the Supreme Court as a result of his trying to improve his community. Continue reading
Last week I started to feel numb. I realized I was feeling off and couldn’t figure out why. And then, it clicked. Clay’s death-a-versary. This is the third year since he died. And I’m horrible at dates. I can’t remember people’s birthdays. I never know anniversaries when I’m dating someone. I never bother to pay attention. So why would I remember a death-a-versary? But my body knows. My body mourns and reminds me of the great loss of the weirdest, coolest, most annoying, most awesome person, Clay Wofford, aka CD Wofford, aka, Seedy Wofford.
And of course, this day reminds me of the deterioration of his body and mind. And subsequently, the deterioration of our friendship. For years after we broke up, we remained friends. We were in weekly contact: at some points, daily contact.
Chuck Palahniuk‘s Fight Club 2 begins ten years after Fight Club the novel ends. The artwork by Cameron Stewart is amazing: at times I feel I’m experiencing a movie. The set up scenery is dizzying. The narrator Sebastian works a 9-5 job, is married to Marla Singer, and together they have a son. Sebastian sees a therapist weekly and is heavily medicated to keep Tyler Durden at bay. He suspects his wife is cheating on him and discovers that she is: Marla has been messing with his meds, resurrecting Tyler Durden.
Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Between the World and Me as a letter to his fifteen year old son growing into a black man in America. This letter, is 152 pages long. Because this work feels precisely like a letter, it results almost in guilt while reading it because you feel all the love and pain and anguish and anger that Coates experiences and expresses to his son. These are emotions that aren’t generally shared when writing about American history.* Books about history can induce anger, frustration, and guilt, but those are experienced by the reader, and not outright expressed by the writer. Why? Because we were told that history is what actually existed. We do not learn until later that history alters by who is telling the history, who is the writer, the “academic.” And so these “history” books we read growing up, are very one-sided, and of course, emotions are removed, falsely assuming objectivity. But how are they objective when they are only telling one version?