Sorry for last week’s radio silence. I played an agoraphobe last week, which is another way of saying that I was zonked out and depressed over Hurricane Katrina coverage, and drinking too much. I know, I know–delayed reaction. So, beyond going to work and depositing a check, I didn’t go outside much, didn’t write much, and didn’t do much. I did, however, read a lot. Here’s some of what I found:
In the Autumn 1963 issue of Dissent, the magazine featured Irving Howe’s contentious essay, “Black Boys and Native Sons.” To say that Ralph Ellison disagreed with it would be to, ahem, put it mildly. Ellison responded with the blistering, classic essay, “The World and the Jug,” which ripped Howe a new one and articulated Ellison’s vision of what black American literature should be trying to accomplish. Howe’s essay has long faded from cultural memory, but “The World and the Jug” is available in Ellison’s Shadow and Act. In the new issue of Dissent, Darryl Lorenzo Wellington examines the debate, and (unsurprisingly, given where the article is published) finds more sympathy with Howe than has been given to him previously. It’s exhilarating and frustrating to note that a four-decades-old debate on race and literature still has most of its currency.
(I couldn’t find “The World and the Jug” online. If you can point to a link or even a PDF, please let me know.)
Chicago native Robert Birnbaum continues his mad quest to interview every single contemporary author. Here’s his long interview with fellow Chicago boy George Saunders.
Another Chicago boy, film critic Fred Camper, does something I’ve always wanted to do–take an extended bicycle trip throughout part of the country, photographing architecture and seeing the sights.
In this week’s New Yorker, but moving closer to home, there’s a new Haruki Murakami story. Hop to it. Also in that issue, Mississippi native Peter J. Boyer looks at the beginning of re-invention along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
And, finally, Meghan O’Rourke reads Mississippi master William Faulkner with the help of Oprah’s Book Club, and finds the experience much better than anticipated. I’ve always thought Oprah gets a bad rap in this regard–“She appeals to bourgeois housewives”; “Her tastes are pedestrian and banal”; “Her influence is far greater than it deserves to be”; blah blah blah–considering that the OBC’s selections are often experimental, daunting in breadth, and disturbing.
That is all.