21 October 2012
Reading Tolstoy’s early short novel The Two Hussars. Tolstoy expresses his longing for the previous generation in the story of Count Turbin, who endears himself to the inhabitants of a small provincial town, and his son, also Count Turbin, who appears in the town twenty years later, and unable to live up to the image of his father, makes the opposite impression. Interesting how we long for what was…
Also reading the New York Times article Rediscovering Someone Recognized about Los Angeles sculptor Melvin Edwards. His work is part of an exhibit on view October 21, 2012—March 11, 2013 at MoMA PS1: Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980.” Curated by Columbia art historian Kellie Jones, the exhibit showcases thirty-two prominent African American artists who began their careers in Los Angeles.
22 October 2012
Enjoying an excerpt from the new David Byrne book in the October issue of Smithsonian Magazine: How Do Our Brains Process Music? Byrne asks several questions about how we listen to music, including “Does our enjoyment of music—our ability to find a sequence of sounds emotionally affecting—have some neurological basis?” and looks to science for answers. Byrne notes that sometimes, he prefers silence.
Thinking about a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man:
America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It’s “winner take nothing” that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many— This is not prophecy, but description.
23 October 2012
Reading Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and his final prayer in the text: “O my body, always make me a [wo]man who questions!”
Re-reading some pages I marked in The Lives of Margaret Fuller by Pulitzer Prize winning biographer John Matteson. Matteson explores the various “lives” experienced by Margaret Fuller, a woman who, born in the nineteenth century, lived and thought well ahead of her time.
24 October 2012
Reading a quote from José Martí, Cuban poet and activist, from Our America (1891).
There is no racial hatred, because there are no races. Sickly, lamp-lit minds string together and rewarm the library-shelf races that the honest traveler and the cordial observer seek in vain in the justice of nature, where the universal identity of man leaps forth in victorious love and turbulent appetite. The soul, equal and eternal, emanates from bodies that are diverse in form and color. Anyone who promotes and disseminates opposition or hatred among races is committing a sin against humanity.
Ralph Ellison’s invisible man character and José Martí have idealized versions of their Americas. What is your ideal America? Leave your comment below.
25 October 2012
Andy Warhol on America:
Everybody has their own America, and then they have pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see. . . . So the fantasy corners of America . . . you’ve pieced them together from scenes in movies and music and lines from books. And you live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.
Reading Werner Sollors, Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University: Americans All: “Of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown and Ellis Island”; or, Ethnic Literature and Some Redefinitions of “America”.
26 October 2012
Reading Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by poetic cultural critic Greil Marcus.
…and what is history anyway? Is history simply a matter of events that leave behind those things that can be weighed and measured—new institutions, new maps, new rulers, new winners and losers—or is it also the result of moments that seem to leave nothing behind, nothing but the mystery of spectral connections between people long separated by space and time, but somehow speaking the same language?
27 October 2012
It is the end of my Week of Reading, and I leave you with a quote from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451:
Most of us can’t rush around, talk to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for… are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.
Photo: Glenn Ligon’s Rückenfigur. Ligon places the viewer on the outside looking in, reflecting the position of the marginalized in society.