“Circle” by Jiro Yoshihara
That Miami is not an easy place for harmony to take effect is correct and another point one could flag him on is that the status one feels one feels one has obtained and who one sees oneself as is for Wolfe the defining factor of America. However late in the game here imperceptibly our characters transcend as the African American police chief goes out on a limb for the Cuban Rookie cop seeing not his race but a fellow man in blue.
“Coming To Brooklyn,” an exhibition of the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition
Reviewed by Susan Scutti
Still photography more than any other art form is all about time. When we “take” a photograph, we essentially snatch a single moment, a single image from the infinite number of moments and images that eternally pass us by. In this way we redeem what is random and pronounce it worthy. Art, though, is an interpretation of the world and not simply a capturing of cascading reality. The artifice inherent in all great photographs, then, is the discovery of what is timeless in what is momentary. And so an exceptional photographer — and Eugene Hyon is exactly that — teaches us what is immutable about our world and ourselves.
Hyon’s range of subjects is vast and he seamlessly moves back and forth between digital and film photography, yet no matter what subject he chooses or which method he selects, he creates with a painter’s eye for composition. Each of his photos evidence the patience required to get things just right and his attention to craft and detail is what holds a viewer’s attention. And although it takes mere seconds to lift a camera and press the shutter, Hyon’s many years of making art and his wide-ranging knowledge of art history inform each momentary image. This timelessness is not only seen but more importantly felt by a viewer. Absolutely nothing he does is throwaway.
His work is currently exhibited in the show, “Coming to Brooklyn,” at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists’ Coalition, as well as on the website Artslant.com. A digital photograph ”Baked Goods and Books” (July 2011) shows a storefront bakery within a yellow brick building which also boasts a sign advertising a Polish bookstore and “Garage Gallery.” A 718 area code in the sign locates this building in Brooklyn and so one infers the neighborhood is Greenpoint, with primarily Polish residents. A huge hat painted beside the sign onto an area of whitewashed wall spills alphabetical letters, words, punctuation marks and phrases from its gaping brim. Significantly, the building stands behind a delicate wrought iron fence delicately painted white. What Hyon conveys in this elegant composition is diaspora as opposed to desperation; looking at this image a viewer senses the success and not just the struggle of American immigration.
In “Welcome to Greenpoint,” July 2011, a painted mural occupies the left half of his photograph while three adults and a baby stroller walk out of the frame in the lower right hand corner. The mural, which is painted in green, blue, white, gray, black and red on a concrete block wall, appears to be a government commission; the banality of its message — “Welcome to Greenpoint BK” — suggests this most of all. Scrawled on top is the indecipherable tag of some local graffiti artist — an embellishment of perfect disrespect. Painted within the mural’s block lettering is a separate image of a smiling, heroic-seeming man as well as a crowd of workers and the proportions of these figures are reminiscent of Eastern European propaganda during the years of the Cold War: the heroic, smiling man is twice the size of “the people.” He neatly echoes and subverts this idea within his photograph; the cluster of real, live people are also half the size of the heroic man, no different from the painted people except for the fact that they are walking away from their supposed leader. Thus, he subtly conveys a feeling of individuals who ignore and disobey what dwarfs them and so escape their historic past of oppression.
It seems appropriate that Hyon would choose digital photography for his urban fringe, but when documenting the natural world, he turns to film and achieves a more classical countenance. “Revival” (2010) and “Dancing at Night” (2005) are both black and white film photographs. The former is a lengthwise (11X14) close-up of leaves at the farthest edge of a branch weighted by snow; despite the starkness of this winter image, with its gray tones and icy whiteness, he impossibly conveys the promise of a Spring bloom. The second photo is an upper story view of city trees; dressed in white lights, they appear to be moving, essentially tangoing against a background of buildings, sidewalk, and street. Because the names of the stores are blurred in the photograph and cannot be read, he suggests that what is most significant and most soulful in the city is the natural world.
Stillness and elegance can be found within each of his images. The subjects and images which another, lesser artist might glibly sensationalize, he calmly observes until he finds a kernel of hope. More importantly, a viewer of his photographs never senses overweening intention or manipulated intervention; what is uplifting occurs simply and as a result of patient witness. And so the rigorous, spiritual beauty infused in each of his images prevents his photographs from becoming lost in the noise of the temporary and trivial.
By Joan K. Harris
As New York glides into fall, the resonance of the Edinburgh Festival is still being felt. The prize-winning “smash hit” of the Fringe Festival, the South African “Mies Julie,” based on Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” will open the season at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, November 8th, for a four week run. And, while the festival continues in Edinburgh, hosting International Storytelling,”exploring Grimm,” October 19 – 28th, the really big month is August.
This August, the final week was my last chance for a summer get away after being stuck in the city for two years.
I was lucky. Dear friends I’d missed for years had just moved back to Edinburgh and offered to put me up. When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my good fortune: their spacious top floor flat looked out on the truly magnificent Edinburgh Castle. The down side… I had to climb up 69 steps to get there.
August 2012: the jubilant London Olympics were ending, the Paralympics were getting underway and, in New York, the US Open was in high gear. In Edinburgh, I quickly learned, every August means the smallish population doubles, many locals leave town, renting their homes for huge sums and prices on everything go up. This glisteningly beautiful,formal, grey-stoned city brightens and colorful throngs of tourists mix with performers from all over the globe. The atmosphere crackles with energy and… dare I say it? Yes, it is truly festive.
This largest annual arts celebration in the world started in 1947 after the dark days of the war, as a way to inspire hope through cultural expression. For years, I’ve heard it referred to as “the festival,” but the first and most important thing to know is that it is not simply one cultural festival. It is many festivals – just put Edinburgh in front of the following and you’ll get the idea: Art Festival, Book Festival, Comedy Festival, Film festival, Jazz and Blues Festival, Fringe Festival, Television Festival, and then, there’s the Military Tattoo, a historical bagpipe extravaganza. It just keeps growing. To pull it all together, the overall umbrella organization of Festivals Edinburgh was created in 2007. But beneath this umbrella, all the festivals have different and separate organizers with separate administrations (Assembly Rooms, Pleasance Dome, The Gilded Balloon, Underbelly for the Fringe, for example, and Usher Hall, Queen’s Hall, Festival Theatre, Royal Highland Centre and Royal Lyceum for the International). There are hundreds of events taking place at the same time, in different disciplines, and in different locations. Without a plan, it can be daunting, confusing, even overwhelming. www.festivalsedinburgh.com is a good place to start for next year.
The upside is, even if you miss some events you want, there is so much going on, you’ll still have a great time. Art galleries and some events are free, and the buoyancy of the street performers alone — actors, clowns, musicians, stilt-walkers, puppeteers — all promoting their shows daily on the Royal Mile — is almost worth the trip.
Because I’d done due diligence, read reviews in advance and put my ear to the ground on arrival, I experienced some of the best the Festival had to offer. In the space of one week, I went to 11 events and soaked up the vibrant energy all around me.
I chose three festivals: the signature Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe Festival and the International Book Festival. Here are some basics: The EIF – Edinburgh International Festival, is the original, invited festival at the core, with its ever expanding branches. It is elegant and dignified, yet unpretentious and venerated worldwide. While the EIF presents theatre and dance, its heart and soul has always been classical music. Major orchestral concerts, chamber recitals and half a dozen operas. Here, highly acclaimed world class artists perform each year. For this festival, it is wise to book tickets in advance.
The Fringe Festival on the other hand, is, by definition, anti-establishment, casual and controversial. The quality, while generally good, can vary. At that original 1947 festival, artists who weren’t “invited” simply appeared, performed, and thus created “The Fringe.” Today, this experimental, no-holds barred and often political festival— theatre, comedy, cabaret and dance– is, for many, synonymous with “the festival.” Throughout the month of August, there are literally several hundred
Fringe events, from mid-morning into the wee hours, some free, sometimes in pubs. One official told me that if you went to all the events back to back it would take three years!
It was at the International that I saw two great, truly unique works of art, unlikely to be seen anywhere else: The Rape of Lucrece and Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores). The first had only a single actor onstage: the great, young Irish actress Camille O’Sullivan, accompanied by pianist Feargal Murray. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s presentation of Shakespeare’s poem, “The Rape of Lucrece” was simply and movingly performed in song. This tale of rape and subsequent suicide in the ancient corridors of power, in Ms. O’ Sullivan’s velvet voice, haunts me still with the modern knowledge of how societies have often destroyed women over this subject.
The second had a cast of countless characters, the actors doubling in many parts: Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir (Aurores) or the Castaways of the Fol Espoir) (Sunrises), is a four hour epic created by the visionary French director, Ariane Mnouchkine’s Theéâtre du Soleil. Both works deserve the description “tour de force” and are examples of why devotees travel to Edinburgh.
Having missed Mnouchkine, now in her early 70s, at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2009, I was anxious to see this theatre legend’s work for the first time. The company, founded in the 60s, is a socialist collective, based in an old munitions factory just outside Paris. Each work is the result of months, often years of collaboration.
The audience get unwittingly involved en route to their seats, passing the actors, seen behind sheer-netted lace curtains, as they chat, apply make-up, slip into turn of the century costumes, read and relax. All clearly intentional preparation for the multi-layered artifice we’re about to experience.
Conceived by the company, the play, partially written by Hélène Cixous, is based on a posthumously published story by Jules Verne. The story, in 1914, tells of assassinations, archdukes, lovers, vicious bounty hunters, Indians and voyages to Patagonia. Like embedded Russian dolls, or a hall of mirrors, the play is a story within a story about making a silent film: a movie about a shipwreck and dashed visionary dreams. The primary stage is the rented attic of a favorite restaurant, the Fol du Espoir. English sub-titles are provided, as the story revolves around the left-wing filmmakers’ utopian ideals and the flaws of human nature (ego, lust, greed) that keep mankind from achieving them. Its brilliance was in achieving a full, deeply felt, portrait of humanity while we witness the openly artificial, melodramatic effects of silent film making. With each transparency, everything became more real. A panorama heightened by taking place on the eve of World War I.
At the Fringe Festival, I was treated to two plays performed by two exquisitely skilled actresses: Sandra Prinsloo in “The Sewing Machine” and Vicky Arcasis Casas in “Juana in a Million.” The organizer, Assembly Rooms, sponsored an invited South African season and imported the quietly touching “The Sewing Machine.” This is a story of an 82 year old Afrikaner woman, Magdaleen, now in a retirement home. Her best friend and confidante of 55 years, her sewing machine, has been by her side through adolescence, marriage, motherhood and South Africa’s potent political changes over the years. Writer Rachel Greeff and director Hennie Van Gruenen did not shrink from the hard truths: Magdaleen, who had unthinkingly gone along with apartheid, is not always likeable. Movingly performed by the brilliant Sandra Prinsloo, the play reaches its apex with the memory of a family tragedy that transformed her. During this part, in the proverbial phrase, you could hear a pin drop. Allowed the privilege of seeing into this life, through the consummate skill of this great actress, the audience, too, was transformed. Finally, it was the power of universal truths of family, change, aging and loss that kept me and others in our seats, unable to move, for several minutes after the play ended.
Another Fringe “must see” was Pleasance Dome’s “Juana in a Million,” co-written by the Mexican actress Vicky Arcaico Casas and director Nir Paldi. Based on true stories, it is a tale of forced flight from a violent Mexican town, after witnessing a killing by a drug cartel. The actress, almost dancer-like, gives a powerful, physical performance, of a story partially rooted in her own experience. It tells of Juana, a young, naïve, undocumented Mexican immigrant, desperately seeking a new life in London. The detailed intricacies of that quest, the deceptions, abuse and exploitation, were beautifully paralleled with Mexico’s history at the hands of its invaders. After each searing performance, as the audience filed out, we were asked to donate to a London legal group in aid of the millions of Juanas. Wallets opened, coins jingled into the collection box and tears were wiped away. Including mine.
In seven days, I’d seen three EIF plays, four Fringe plays, gone to three book talks and an art exhibit/lecture. By now, both my energy and the festival were winding down.
It made me sad to see the white tents dismantled. Green, beautiful Charlotte Square had just hosted the Edinburgh International Book Festival in the 50th year of a powerful legacy: The World Writers’ Conference of 1962. And while the Book Festival started in 1983, it was that groundbreaking, notoriously contentious conference in the culturally fertile 60s that arguably parented the whole thing. The fiercely debated issues: censorship and the future of the novel.
In 2012, the atmosphere is, by comparison, sedate and genteel. After leaving a Fringe performance, I was lobbied by an enthusiastic performer, shoving a flyer into my hand, to attend his friend’s politically-oriented show that night. I told him I had a conflict, had to go to the Book Festival on the other side of town. “Why’d you want to go there,” he snorted in disbelief. “Good God … it’s like being in bloody Hampstead! All those Ruperts and Cecils.” Yes, 2012. Sedate and genteel, but every now and then there’s a moment, sometimes an electric one.
Such a moment happened while I was there for Zadie Smith’s evening. It was the launch of the London native’s long-awaited fourth novel, “NW.” The event was sold out well in advance. Since “NW” was only released immediately after the book event, it couldn’t be discussed, but the devoted audience of Ruperts and Cecils hung on her every word. Smith is considered, by many, to be a wunderkind. Her first novel “White Teeth” debuted to thunderous acclaim, with comparisons to Dickens, when she was only 25. She is now 36 and a mother. With her previous 2005 novel, “On Beauty” also highly praised by the critics, she glided into the tent, her reputation secure, poised and self-assured, a tall slim figure wearing her signature turban. In the interview and the reading that followed, Ms. Smith did not disappoint. Though ”NW”, by now, widely reviewed, enthusiastically by some, less so by others, apparently did. But despite mixed reviews, no one could deny her brilliance. The novel centers on the section of London where Smith grew up, and examines the complicated lives of four people in their 30s who were born in the same housing estate or public housing.
She read a scene from “NW” about a playground incident that showed off her unerring ear for dialogue and satire. It pinpointed the crux of her many gifts: the layering of family and neighborhood characters, interacting in multi-cultural London’s complex landscape of race and class. There were, for me and others, a few surprises. She emphasized the contextual feeling of her book: her generation’s sense of ”genuine relativity,” of time speeding up as one grows older. This feeling is familiar to those of us who are older, but unusual for someone Smith’s age. Also, her talk of “self” and of her generation’s uncertainty of having a self. This was new and more personal. An existential reference I’d not heard before from this writer. That, coupled with her too sharp response to an innocent question about” voice,” provided fodder for the literati for weeks to come.
I was sitting next to the young black Canadian woman, a graduate student studying in Edinburgh, who asked Smith how she found her “voice” and the implied advice for herself and others in finding theirs. Ms. Smith’s dismissive response was adamant and felt like a rebuke, a slap on the wrist, or even a brush to the face. If I experienced embarrassment for my new best friend, others must have too. This, Smith said, was the sort of question her students often asked. Voice, she said firmly, is a “late capitalist construct.” A few moments later, both face and the day were saved, when Smith went on to say she wanted her novel “to demonstrate that people of color do not think of themselves as exotic or other to themselves. We think of ourselves as white people think of yourselves, as central to ourselves, and not some stylization, political points, added extras: none of those things.” The tension of the moment mercifully dissipated and the atmosphere was restored to its Hampstead gentility. My Canadian friend smiled, no doubt, relieved, as she nodded her head toward Smith, then me and said, “That’s what I was getting at. That’s what I wanted to know… what motivated her to write.” I, too, was relieved and pleased with this declaration, especially for my young Canadian friend. Perhaps, because we were the only discernible black people in the huge otherwise all white audience, I was, admittedly, still smarting from the reflected embarrassment of just a few seconds ago. It was, definitely, as they say,” a moment,” and Smith’s remarks about “voice” have spurred internet comments from others who were present.
Later, she shared an insight, central to her novel’s territory, dissecting the intricate and nuanced class system entrenched in London. “My feeling is that people in particular classes look on people in other classes with some kind of pity or sorrow, or with a feeling that life must, by necessity, be hard in this other class. My feeling is, having lived in different classes, that people want equality of opportunity…that’s the thing that makes me despair: the idea that people aren’t given equality of opportunity.” Smith divides her time between London and New York City, where she teaches creative writing at NYU.
Seven intense days. Exhilarating, but exhausting. Taxis were too expensive, buses too slow and in the peddie cabs, also no bargain, one risked life and limb every time your teenaged driver tested his brakes. Climbing those seven hills every day tested that old adage, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” To say nothing of mounting the 69 steps, when I got home. It was like a week’s membership to a gym!
Finally, the sad truth is, you’d be lucky to see everything you want. I missed the sold out “must see” hit of the Fringe, “Mies Julie,” but happily, it’s scheduled for Brooklyn in November and London in March. Wherever you look, wherever you are “The Festival” still goes on.
In the last few years, the phrase “the take away” has come into the American lexicon. It refers to the kernel or core substance of useful, remembered information from an interview or a news story. It also implies something fast or quick. What, one wonders, is the term for that deeper than factual truth, an illumination experienced through a work of art, or from being in the presence of a great artist. Whatever it is – that now internalized memory of transformative art — I carry with me from that one week at the Edinburgh Festival.
The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, Edited by Rita Dove, Reviewed by Mary Wise
Pablo Picasso once stated that, “Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs.” This, I believe, is the impetus from which former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove crafted The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry. Her multigenerational, cross-cultural collection aims to put into historical perspective the broad and meaty scope of poetry’s artistic development over those 100 years.
This, as we can imagine, was no easy task. The multitudes of poets and poems that flower the era seem endless. And although, some areas feel underrepresented, Rita Dove successfully sifted through the endless possibilities and crafted a deliciously rich collection that did not rest solely on the expected canon of usual suspects.
When I received the gorgeously hardbound text, its stately cloth-wrapped burnt-orange cover adorned with recessed, shimmering chocolate-cherry lettering, aroused an expectation of decadence. I felt I was about to sink my teeth into an indulgent treat, but I expected it to be filled with the sort of sweet that I’ve tasted time and again. It was, after all, an anthology, but its regal presentation tempted me into believing it promised to be something more. With this in mind, I slicked my eyes through page after page of the table of contents, I chunked through sections of poems nibbling a bite here and there, and I rested back at the start, at the lengthy introduction titled, “My Twentieth Century of American Poetry.” And I realized then that it was definitely not a beautifully packaged college textbook anthology; it was a unique document that promised to be a life-long resident of my personal library and a cornerstone document of 20th Century literature.
Within Dove’s anthology we do see much of what we’d expect from any 20th century collection of American poetry. There is, of course, Robert Frost’s “Birches,” Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” Anne Sexton’s “Her Kind,” and Amiri Baraka’s “SOS,” to name but a few. Without these and so many other canonized poets who’ve made such a profound impact on the world of poetry, the anthology would be weak and flat. With only these poets, however, a similar phenomena would occur.
We’ve read these poems, these poets, repeatedly and will continue to do so well into the future. We’re in love with them; they are, in so many ways, the armature of last century’s poetry and they continue to build the foundation for the current one as well. However, there is more to American Poetry than these essential works. The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry fleshes out the body by including lesser known, but highly salient, poets such as Russell Edson, Dudley Randall, and Leslie Marmon Silko, who may not appear in a more traditional collection. The result is a deliciously rich indulgence fill with unexpected character.
Through her lengthy introduction, Dove builds a stage upon which the poems can dance. Within her concise descriptions of the periods of poetry that developed during of the 20th Century, she does not merely explain the movements with sole regard to literature; she weaves a tapestry of history, connecting poetry with art, music, and historical events. She cites the “waves of immigrants” who, along with their “social and economical traumata,” “brought their own cultural riches to the mix.” She discusses how the influences of Darwinism and Industrialism and “the horrors of World War I” sculpted readers’ interests and how “Modernism rose from the ruins.” She discusses the rise of the female voice and the voice of the Black Arts movement and paints for us a vivid view of the essential points of the Century.
This platform is a needed foundation for readers to understand the development of the 20th Century and where within its depths each unique voice grew. Even Dove herself, in the open letter at the onset of her introduction, found herself helplessly lost within the swarm and overlap of the voices within voices, as she states that while compiling the anthology, she was “hopelessly blinded by the trees in the forest, the forest, the forest.” I can only imagine the overwhelming task of finding one’s way through this wild and mirrored labyrinth without anyone’s leading hand. Thankfully, she was able to focus her ear on a web of conversations that pulled her through the spinning and seemingly endless dialogue. Her introduction serves her readers in a similar manner. It provides that vital guidance, tuning our ears to the tones which lead her through. It opens the door to an otherwise overwhelming world which many people feel alienated from. In her PBS interview with Jeffrey Brown, she states “it’s really important” for an anthology to not only provide a look at “what the century is like” but also a hand that “invites you in.”
In the same interview, she explained that in order to accomplish this, she began with the expected poets and expanded from there into who they were reading and talking to. Then, between the generations of poetry she could hear conversations between the poems, and in many instances she used those conversations to guide her. I could hear the echoes between poems such as Russell Edson’s “A Stone is Nobody’s,” which shadows the loss of self as the result of the need for self-preservation:
A man ambushed a stone. Caught it. Made it a prisoner. Put it in a dark
room and stood guard over it for the rest of his life.
A stone is nobody’s, not even its own. It is you who are conquered; you
are minding the prisoner, which is yourself, because you are afraid to go
out, she said.
And the struggle of being trapped in the stone of a traumatic past still warring inside of Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It:”
“I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way – the stone lets me go.
I turn that way – I’m inside”
I truly love how she listened to the conversations over the decades and constructed a richly textured collection based on her own aesthetic. However, as such there are significant holes within this anthology whose title promises to be the body of a century.
While Dove, on many levels, employed a refreshingly atypical approach to the medium, the deficiencies are bold. In her introduction, Dove explains that she omitted essential poets such as Allen Ginsburg and Sylvia Plath because of financial constraints. I am shocked and saddened by this. The idea that such influential poets can be, and were, omitted from a book titled to be the piece de resistance for the 20th Century of poetry is appalling. It confirms that history is written based on the dollar. And perhaps I am naive, but that is simply ridiculous and shameful. I am not sure who is to blame for this foux pas, and I’m not interested in laying blame. I am just simply disappointed because the reasons for these omissions, financial or not, are beyond my comprehension. I suppose we are to assume that other essentials, such as Jean Valentine, Dorothy Parker, and Charles Bukowski also fell to the wayside because of money. Regardless of reason, I do not see how they and so many poets of late 20th Century Postmodernism came to be so profoundly underrepresented. Where are the influential works from Charles Bernstein, Jerome Rothenberg, and Robert Kelly, among others? And where are the passionate and snarky writings of American-born Nuyorican poets such as Maggie Estep and Martin Espada? And, though it would admittedly be a challenge to include a CD-Rom, I was very surprised to see that the movement of 20th Century-born e-poetry, also known as digital poetry, such as that of Stephanie Strickland, was omitted completely, as if it provided no significant contribution what-so-ever. Being an anthology of 20th Century American poetry dictates that some form of electronic media be included.
While this anthology is refreshingly different, unfolding additional layers of the canon, it also feels very incomplete with regard to more recent times. Perhaps disappointment is inevitable when reviewing a book of this nature. Perhaps some of what I expect to be included is only a reflection of my own aesthetic. On many levels, though, I do believe that the later years of the century were underrepresented.
Even with this significant disappointment, however, Dove’s anthology still holds itself as a highly inclusive but highly selective collection that sculpts the body of 20th Century American Poetry in a manner that had yet to be formed. This book is not about the luster of inclusion in “the club;” it is about the documentation of a century; it is about the conversations that formed over generations. And though, I feel that these conversations are significantly incomplete, I acknowledge the fact that there is no way to make an anthology that will appease everyone. This anthology must be viewed as an artistic creation like any other. This is Rita Dove’s interpretation of the century, and as such it is an educational and enjoyable collection that adds new layers to every reader’s understanding. It performs exactly as an anthology should, developing our knowledge and palate in a way that has not been done before. If an anthology only collects the usual suspects whose work we have already collected in other anthologies, what would make us need to keep one more? Because The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, breaks the mold and goes beyond the repeated reflection of the canon, we find it to be essential to our collection. This work makes its own statement, a new statement, an essential statement that brings us back again and again to reexamine our assumptions about the century. We broaden our understanding and find new connections, new conversations. And as such, this book embodies the living art that poetry is.
The Deceptive Smiles of Bredmeyer Deed
By Susan Scutti.
Illustrated by Sarah Valeri
Everyone on the ST that morning appeared broken in some essential way. As we passed through the unused parts of our district, I looked beyond them and stared through the half-obscured window at the remnants of the former city. Although the Multi domes had transformed buildings and imposed themselves upon the existing infrastructure, sagging ruins of time still remained.
Thus begins Susan Scutti’s new novel, a departure, in many ways, from her former work. The story is in the tradition of Brave New World or 1984—a world far in the future. A date of 3017 or 3082 is provided (a political discrepancy which might be propaganda); this puts it a thousand years in the future. I for one do not believe humans will be around in a thousand years, but that’s just me.
The people of this future society seem to be divided into two groups: those who work and live for the “Multis” (Multi-National Corporations?), and the RU or Resident Unemployed. The latter we are to assume are permanently and politically unemployed and must live on their wits, via their own economic systems, out in the savagery of the weather. The Multi employees live in various domes where everything is climate controlled, where their food is designed to control their emotions, and where reproduction takes place via a kind of genetic engineering. These people, if they leave their domes, will suffer from environmental exposure or Enviro-sickness. This division of society into two distinct groups reminds one of the contrast between the Molochs and the Eloi of Well’s The Time Machine, or the Alphas, Betas and Gammas vs. The Savage Reservation in Huxley’s Brave New World.
People who live within the Multi domes seem to have a fairly comfortable even pleasant life. Citizens (many of whom belong to a “customized class of workers”) have the services of Sani-bots and Nanny-bots. Surveillance pigeons fly around and perch on window sills. Everything is taken care of; their education is determined, as is their life’s work. And, oddly, many seem to be quite satisfied with their working lives. There are a few, however, who develop a suspicion that all is not as it seems to be. For instance, Dawn begins to suspect that all communications are altered before they each the recipient’s screens, and this presents a certain social illusion of satisfaction. There are, as well, curious “time-lapses” that occur periodically, in which, apparently, everyone sort of goes to sleep for a week or two. There are two reasons for this enforced sleep: 1) the Multis need to save resources, and 2) the various computerized systems that run everything within the Multis need to reboot. Most people, however, are unaware of these time lapses as their diet is changed during that time to put them into a coma.
The idea of mental and physical control through the medium of food is metaphorical as well as essential to the plot. The main character of the novel, Dawn Theocratis, has discovered that if you do not eat the modified food products, or eat foods at other than the prescribed times, you can begin to experience a different reality.
So, during my first brief food experiment I saw just this—how my interest level flowed like a sine wave. And then the following day the cycle began again: anxiety before eating, calm afterward. Are my feelings controlled by the food I ate? The pattern seemed so obvious once I began to fast. . . . I was stuck in a cycle of curiosity, concern, and apathy and that cycle was directly related to eating. Was Bredmeyer feeling the same? Within the flat color of his eyes, I believe I detected the same fluctuation of interest, a co-sine of angst.
Dawn’s partner in suspicion, Bredmeyer Deed, is the person who has discovered the time-lapses and clued her in. This discovery coupled with the food-mood manipulation makes Dawn curious about the uncontrolled world beyond the Dome. Eventually she decides to explore that world. When she suspects a time-lapse is coming, she refuses to eat so that she does not succumb to the requisite social “sleep.” She then leaves the Dome to live in the RU world, where she tracks down a woman she had previously briefly met, a woman named Exile. Dawn becomes engaged in Exile’s somewhat troubled domestic life while at the same time learning about self-sufficiency and the ways of life outside the Multi domes. She is later joined there by her partner in intrigue, and her eventual lover, Bredmeyer Deed.
Several dramatic events take place out there in the RU world, which cause Dawn to reconsider the meaning of her life, i.e. whether she should remain in the world of the RUs or return to the Multi. She chooses the later, yet with a new mission; that being to find a way to humanize the Multi and, at the same time, to raise the level and consciousness of the RUs. She becomes a social healer of sorts and, more to the point, her mission is not squashed by the Multi State, as one might suspect.
Indeed, several sociological/philosophical issues come up in this book, which are worth reviewing. In the world of the RU things seem to have reverted to a basically benign, if struggling, society in which people get along—in other words, it is not Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, out there beyond the Domes. One might legitimately wonder at this state of passivity. I for one would have liked to know more of the history and background of revolt, if there is/was any. Of course, this is not Scutti’s subject in this novel, but some historical exposition would have added depth to the RU characters. We also find that the RUs are extremely dependant upon the Multis for materials and even food, as in the case of Exile. Thus, for all their self-sufficiency, they seem to be reduced to a position of childlike dependence. Sound familiar? I would have liked to see some reflection on this dilemma, especially among the RU philosophes, such as they are.
Both Dawn and Bredmeyer seem to think the RU world is kind of boring because people don’t dissemble—they are exactly as they seem. In addition both of them seem to miss their jobs back in the Multi, which they begin to remember as being rather satisfying. Dawn’s desire to return to the Multi, further brings this question to the focus. Is Scutti advocating for the beneficence and superiority of the Multi and therefore a possibility of progressive Corporate Citizenship? Or is she merely a realist? There is a strain of thought throughout the book that seems to suggest that the Multi world is not all that bad, and that some sort of better synthesis of worlds is possible.
Another question that gnaws at the reader is “What has happened here?” We get vague mentions of catastrophic wars (a Third Multi-War), and environmental disasters, but the reader has to fill in the past with their own imagination. I understand that Scutti might be legitimately avoiding this kind of tired explanation of the fall of human society, and that’s a perfectly legitimate strategy. Cormak McCarthy’s The Road, also references only vaguely the past disaster that leaves the world in its dystopian state. We know these scenarios too well and don’t need to go over them again.
At one point, after Dawn admits to not really remembering anything ever happening for sure, Exile tells her:
I’m telling you exactly what happened, Dawn. Long ago a series of small bombs killed a bunch of people and ruined the environment and people became allergic to the genetically modified food so the Multi built this dome and other domes all around the world and still the bombs went off at times and so then the Multi started to dope people and put them to sleep sometimes to save food but also so the people could be happy enough to continue so they wouldn’t be so depressed thinking about how lousy everything had become. That’s what happened.
Still we have little to go on, other than that the regrettable state of society is due to ancient history, accident, the way things are, etc. What we have is a society in resignation, much the way our current young are resigned to the “ancient” realities of the Holocaust, the Atomic Bomb, Vietnam and even modern Terrorism—these are merely part of the movie of everyday life. Might as well shop. Also, I don’t really understand the relationship between the one world and the other (RU and Multi). For all their opposition there seems to be an acceptance and even a certain amount of easy communication between them. Any policing of transgressed borders seems lax. Scutti explains this porosity as “a world where perfect enforcement of borders, a strict dissemination of information based on a worker’s class, and basically any absolute division does not and cannot hold.”
Perhaps these qualms of mine are despite the point. The Deceptive Smiles of Bredmeyer Deed is a tale of one woman’s self-discovery (of romance, family, social responsibility) even in a society that seems resigned to its fate. Dawn is an agent, not of revolution, but of change within the system, and this is something we might legitimately question. If the system is corrupt can any such change be valid? Again, I quote the author, who intends to show: “that change withina system is possible because systems are naturally flawed, systems call for change, yet at the same time people like or require systems too much to ever abolish them utterly.”
The ongoing tensions developed in the book are common to our contemporary electro-collective era: individualism and collectivism, privacy and community, independence and interdependence. We could also add socialism and capitalism. In every opposition there is a question as to which pole is in service of the other. and when is compromise an admission of failure or a sign of success. Susan Scutti’s new novel is both a sci-fi “romance” and a bildingsroman that paints an evocative picture of a future society while provoking discussion of human nature, society and historical time.
Susan Scutti is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Renaissance Began with a Muted Shade of Green,” (Linear Arts Press, 1999) and two novels: “Second Generation,” and “A Kind of Sleep.” She has also published two collections of poetry: “We Are Related” (Three Rooms Press), and “The Commute.” (Paper Kite Press).
She lives in New York City.
Note: I have not mentioned the color illustrations by Sarah Valeri in this review, but the author informs that: “Sarah Valeri did the artwork for the book and heavily influenced it. Informally, we collaborated over the course of a few years. Our process went something like this: she’d read what I wrote and then go paint… I’d stare at her paintings and write some more.”
Roberto Bolano, an Appreciation by Ron Kolm
So you’re a young poet, and you’ve just heard a pretty good reading at Gathering of Tribes on Third Street, and you had yourself a beer or two during the event, which you didn’t pay for because you’re broke and the amount of rent you pay for your East Village walk-up is exorbitant, but you mean well, you’re not a bad person; you’ll drop some extra change in the hat next time you come. And now you find yourself outside on the sidewalk with a gaggle of your friends, who are also poets, trying to decide which local watering hole you should all head for. Let’s say you end up at the Parkside Lounge on East Houston Street, watching your buddies shoot pool — all the while caging drinks from them; obviously you’re still without cash, and the best strategy here is to get one of the folks who’s better off at this moment to buy a pitcher – and you manage to pull that off – heck, maybe you can get him to buy two pitchers; it’s worth considering. And then your friends who have been shooting pool come back to the table; they’ve all lost to the regulars who have better chops, poolwise.
HOW TO TALK LIKE A NEW YORKER
”Lend me your broken heart.There is always a story lurking in the shadow of a thought. My cat, Socrates, was missing. I walked thru the raging blizzard with a lizard on my lips. A rose blew its nose on
The irony of the case Patrick Cariou brought against Richard Prince is that it changes nothing. Prince remains as reclusive an artist as ever, following his own creative bent in his upstate New York studio, while the name Cariou is still only a curio: the man who was able to take Larry Gagosian to court, and actually win. For those unfamiliar with the details of the case, Richard Prince was accused by the French photographer Patrick Cariou of wrongfully pirating imagery derived from photographs taken by Cariou. Prince appropriated some twenty or so Cariou images for a series called “Canal Zone,” which exhibited at Gagosian New York. At around the same time, Cariou was denied the opportunity to exhibit some of these same images at a different New York gallery, as the gallerist who originally wanted to show his photography did not want to exhibit work similar to what was already on display at Gagosian. Disappointed, Cariou did what any civilized person would do in similar circumstances: he sued Prince and Gagosian for damages.
And he won. The court actually ruled in favor of Cariou, and Prince’s and Gagosian’s lawyers are working to appeal the verdict. At the moment of writing this, the works Prince made out of the photographs taken by Patrick Carious have basically been impounded, but some of images are still available on the Internet. “Canal Zone” featured work that looks like this:
In light of this image, isn’t strange that we have to speak of “Canal Zone” in the past tense? Neither Cariou’s, nor Prince’s, the images here are the property of no one. Cariou’s certainly didn’t make them—nor, legally, did Prince. But the legal question that has been raised concerns the issue of “fair use.” Are the works Prince exhibited duly transformative of Cariou’s? The Internet also provides us with images like this—
Such an image makes apparent the work that Prince started with. But can ANYONE really argue that Prince doesn’t create something toto genere different Cariou’s “original?” From tone to content, we’re viewing a completely different work.
Does the case hinge on anything more than insecurity on Cariou’s part? If Cariou had been permitted a solo show, it’s possible that Prince’s appropriations might never have come under his radar. Perhaps the gallerist is to blame, then, for deciding against the exhibition of works similar to ones produced by Richard Prince? Arguably, a savvier gallerist could have turned the situation around to her own favor, as certain collectors would love to possess one of the “originals” from which a Richard Prince derives. But really there’s no one to blame; the case has in no way altered Richard Prince’s reputation, nor has it made Patrick Cariou famous. If anything, it has opened up a legal can of worms that more or less extends from Prince’s long-time creative practice, and even bolsters certain minimalist tendencies in his art. Some have spoken of copyright infringement—but even that is weak, and can easily pass notice. The fact that people pay any attention to case at all, though, signals that something is happening that they can’t quite articulate in terms of legality or creative sanction. And that’s just the issue: underlying the noise that even Prince himself is trying to move away from is the fact that creativity and privitization are butting heads in a painfully undialecitcal fashion.
Prince isn’t setting himself up as the spokesperson of anything; rather, he’s a player in a game that so-called liberal democracy has been playing for some time. Let’s consider the facts of the case, the origins of the complaint. Prince’s importance as an artist rests on how he makes works that are stylistically pure, valuing method over aesthetic results. He’s known to disassociate himself from works he has produced (and even sold), and has openly stated that he exhibits work he does not personally like. This kind of objectivity regarding his own methods and practice makes him suspect in a political climate that values ownership above all other things. And when Prince spoke in court about “Canal Zone,” stating how he constructed the series, and what he intended to result from it, he openly stated that he sought neither to delight, nor instruct, which made him culpable in that the court could not readily identify where Prince’s creative responsibility lay. If Prince had claimed that his appropriation of Carious’ photography was for didactic purposes, “fair use,” would have worked in his favor as a defense. But Prince was not trying to teach through Carious’ photography, so much as he was trying to continue tendencies he already saw implied by such work (which is different than anything contained in individuality of each Cariou’s “originals”).
When put on stand as a defendant, Prince was honest about what he trying to do: to make good paintings. A valid enough response, which should never have entered the context of a court of law. But as the work of Prince comes under fire, his techniques have also become visible to a wider audience. And it would seem that Prince and Gagosian lost their case, not because Prince did not in fact rework exiting materials begun by Cariou, but because the judge who presided over the case thought Prince’s work was bad. For the record, then, let it be known that the methods of appropriation practiced by Richard Prince are strategic inversions of the style made famous by Andy Warhol, especially in the latter’s Double Elvis (1963) and Lemon Marilyn (1962). But Prince’s appropriations are not motivated by Warhol’s working-class yearning to possess what one doesn’t have. Prince appropriates as the result of an acculturated immersion to an environment where everything is reduced to generic types. Hitherto visible mainly to connoisseurs of art, Prince’s appropriations perceptively toy with the established conventions of what art can be, what it’s designed to appear as and what it’s expected to accomplish. The fact that his art has now entered the courts gives his work political ramifications which even Prince does not suspect.
recollections by Steve Cannon
To begin at the beginning: The idea of starting A Gathering of The Tribes was inspired by the Nuyorican Poets Café opening its doors on East 3rd Street in 1989. A young writer from the Village Voice wrote a long-winded article about all the wonderful things that were in store for the new Nuyorican Poets Café. Aside from having slam poetry contests every Friday night, AN IDEA BROUGHT TO New York from Chicago by the one and only Bob Holman, the café, under the direction of Miguel Algarin, decided they would have open mic readings on Wednesday nights as well on Friday nights after the poetry slam. And since the building consists of four floors, they also decided they would have poetry workshops, publish a literary journal, and furthermore, have space for out of town writers to stay overnight. The only things that came into being were the open mic reading and the slams. Every now and then, they invited a guest poet to read. These activities inspired me to open A Gathering of The Tribes.
The jist of the matter is, I thought it would be wise to get two young writers to edit the magazine and I would work as their consultant, based on my experience of having worked for small literary magazines in the Lower East Side in the sixties and seventies. My choices were Buddy (Barnard Masler) and Norman Douglas. They were in position to do such a thing, since both of them were moonlighting down on Wall Street as I.T. nerds, and making oodles of money. In other words, they were making more than enough to pay for the cost of the magazine, and since they are half my age and palled around with the younger writers, I trusted their judgment in choosing good writers for the magazine; poets, essayists and fiction writers. However, this never panned out for, among other reasons, they took off and went to Europe.
By the time they got back to the states, I’d already published the first issue of Tribes with Gail Shilke as the co-editor. She was half my age and was curatring readings at the Knitting Factory and at the Nuyorican Poets Café. She showed an interest in older writers by featuring them at her readings. Since the Lower East side has always been known, to be multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-everything else, we had to make sure that the magazine reflected all disciplines of art; dance, music, poetry, visual art, etc. from the perspective of diversity and inclusivity; that was our aim then as it is now.
It was Elizabeth Murray who gave Tribes its first check. And it was David Hammons who had an exhibition in Seattle Washington. Part of the deal was, he had to give a certain amount of money from that art piece to a nonprofit, and he gave it to Tribes. We had also put one of his images, a self-portrait, on the cover of the first issue of Tribes magazine. This issue included a round-table discussion with David and the editors of Tribes on his art making process.
Our first Issue of Tribes appeared in the fall of 1991. The release party, obviously, was held at the Nuyorican Poets Café. By this time, we’d put together an assembly of writers, poets and editors whose job it was to solicit material that they would like to see in the magazine. That is: music, poetry, interviews, visual art and essays; the whole shebang. The idea at the time was to cover the Lower East Side and the myriad forms of art being produced here in documentary format, i.e. the magazine. All decisions regarding the final product before publication were madder by consensus. The magazine was never and never will be dedicated to a theme. What we wanted was to publish works of excellence with a focus on diversity. Who decided on the excellence were, and still are, the editors.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. And this made it interesting. Since I’m blind, we had to find someone to run the office and manage the gallery. Since I was writing plays at the time, I also had to find someone to produce and direct the plays. This is where I would like to tell you about some of the characters coming in and out of here and the ups and downs of Tribes over the years.
It was Norman Douglas who got into a skirmish with Gail Schilke, causing her to jump ship from the magazine. Norman was renting the space on the top floor at 285 East 3rd Street (Tribes), and because he lacked a phone, he would descend and use my phone on the second floor on a daily basis. Gail had come over for an editorial meeting with me and Norman interrupted our meeting by using the phone, which lasted about an hour. He refused to get off. Gail got pissed and she threw an envelope of unread manuscripts at Norman’s head and shot out of here, forever. With Gail out of the picture, I found three other young editors to replace her: Jenny Seymore, Melanie Best and Christian Hey. They put together the next three issues of Tribes, choosing the text as well as the visual art.
By this time we had a wonderful young lady running the office whose father founded J Crew: Martha Cinador. Martha was a natural born story teller and proved herself to be very demanding. But she did a wonderful job of running the organization, planning conferences, meetings and communicating well with the other editors.
Each issue was planned the same way. After the final version was approved and the magazine was printed, we held a release party at different varying locations. We never used the same venue twice.
Dora Espinoza, who was the founder of Tribes gallery worked explicitly with her own team which included Norman Öhler, Julio Gonzalez and Renee McManus. Tribes consists of various entities that all primarily function in the same way. Whether it be the gallery or the magazine all sorts of people contribute but unfortunately one group did not bother to make relations with the other. Dora had her own crew running the gallery, and the editors of the magazine did what they did. Unfortunately, the art that was printed in the magazine had nothing to do with the art that was shown in the gallery and visa versa. They lived in two separate worlds. By this time, a young lady by the name of Angela Lucasin, who could type a hundred words a minute, chew gum and have a conversation with you at the same time, was running the office at Tribes. She was a singer songwriter from Canada who also acted in my plays.
Angela was working full time at a coke-headed law firm in midtown and could only come to work at Tribes in the evenings. A young lady named Renee also worked here in her spare time as she was betwixed and between jobs. Angela would show up at five or six in the evening. She would ask what was done in the day. I would tell her what Renee had done and where she would take over. Angela being Angela, she decided things would run smoother if Renee would start leaving her a note, outlining, “I did A, B, and C,” so that we could cut out me and my memory as the middle man. Angela started the ball rolling by writing a note to Renee that very evening, telling her to start leaving her notes, outlining what she had done.
When Renee arrived the next afternoon, I told her Angela had left her a note. She read it in silence, then picked up a ball point pen and wrote over it in bold letters, “UP YOURS!”
When Angela arrived that night, I told her Renee had left her a note. Not only was she fuming, she was beyond fury. She ripped up the note and stormed out of here saying, “It’s either me or Renee. Make your choice.” Since Angela had a full-time job, I chose Renee since she was available during the day and had proven herself to be reliable.
At this time, Dora had returned home to Peru for an emergency in the family so Renee had taken over roles at both the magazine and gallery. Renee was convinced that Dora was taking advantage of the blind guy, yours truly. She 86ed her from the gallery and brought in her friend to curate shows here. However, since I am blind, I didn’t perceive Dora’s actions to be the same as Renee’s accusations. After all, it was Dora who had founded the gallery and I perceived her actions to be positive as she expanded the role of Tribes by supplying visibility for the art world. Some time later, I would have Dora return to run the gallery again after Renee departed the shores and to replace Renee, Liz Reese would run the office…
I didn’t realize at the time, that Tribes would continue to function as the product of this type of dysfunction for years to come. I didn’t know if it’s just the way of artists or my own inclination to think that the universe is nothing but chaos held together by creative passion that makes Tribes constantly go “Bumbity bump bump bump,” yet somehow sustaining and fulfilling its mission, to showcase art of excellence and diversity, from the edges of it all.
Since the 1970s, politicians, publishers, theater and film producers, scriptwriters and academics ( at U.C.Berkeley there is a course called “Black Masculinity” taught by a white man) have made hundreds of millions dollars portraying
black men in the old confederate model. Sexual predators and types who are, in the words of Caitlin Flannagan “cruel to women.” Ms.Caitlin Flannagan is one of those women who is silent about the misogyny practiced in her ethnic group – she’s Irish-American- and uses black men as scapegoats. Jewish, Irish American and other ethnic feminists, who cover up child abuse and cruelty to women occurring in their communities have chosen black men as the villian, presumably because they’re on the payrolls of white men. When Eve Engler located all of the abuse of women in Congo, Haiti and New Orleans, I figured that she got all of her grants from white men. White men manufacture many of the black bogeyman products. One of those is a play by playwright Katori Hall who was the subject of lavish attention from the white male owned media (which includes Ms.Magazine). Just as a black minstrel troupe,McCabe& Young’s Operatic Minstrels gained favor of a white audience by presenting Frederick Douglass as a buffoon in sketch called
“The Senator’s Flirtation,” Ms.Hall did the same for Martin Luther King, Jr., who ,in her play, is presented as a lech who gets into pillow fights with a maid on the eve of his assassination. The play was so silly that even the white men and women who gave it a big build up couldn’t support the wretched thing. A couple of years ago, reading that Ms.Hall had written a play about how black men were responsible for pushing black women to the rear of the bus, I made a comment in Wajahat Ali’s blog, “Goatmilk,” that the next thing you know, someone will write a play about how a black man responsible for assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. I didn’t know that Ms.Katori was writing a play about King. One of her friends read the quote and told her that she’d “made it” because “Ishmael Reed” was “mad” at her. Ms.Hall wrote me and called me a misogynist. I replied to her. Next thing I know I’m being quoted in The New Yorker. While I was in New York last Sept. as a guest attending a performance of
Wajahat Ali’s “The Domestic Crusaders,” which was directed by my partner, Carla Blank, I was in the Holiday Inn
when I got a call from The New Yorker. I was interviewed about the quote. About an hour later, they called to fact check some of my remarks. I then received a call from the interviewer, who said that the interview wouldn’t run because he thought that the interview deadline was the following Monday instead of on Friday the day that the interview was conducted. He suggested that I write a letter that would put my remarks in context. I wrote a letter.It wasn’t published. Here it is.
A lighthearted remark made on playwright Wajahat Ali’s blog,
Goatmilk, about an article I read, describing a play by
Katori Hall means that I’m “mad” at Katori Hall? In response to the remark, Ms.Hall wrote a note to me in which she called me a”
misogynist,” which is like calling you a communist in the old days or claiming that you hated abstract art.
In my reply, I asked Ms.Hall whether she thought that the theaters that produce her work would produce a play about the attitudes toward women held by the ethnic groups to which her male mentors and producers belong. Feminists belonging to some of these ethnic groups report that these attitudes remain a secret. Ms.Hall never answered.
Does Ms.Hall believe that reports of Dr.King’s affairs are new? I
heard rumors when I lived in New York in the mid sixties. John A.Williams, the greatest black novelist of the 20th Century, wrote a book about these affairs entitled, “The King God Could Not Save.”Seeking to silence the minister, J.Edgar Hoover
played the tapes all over Washington of King’s bedroom encounters to presidents and other officials who were conducting their own affairs. If Ms.Hall and her male backers think that Dr.King’s affairs are of interest, fine.
But the timing is kind of tacky don’t you think. Exploitative even, seeing that the play occurs about the time that Martin Luther King’s statue is about to be celebrated at The Washington Mall.But hey. Even bad taste can be art. Maybe one of Ms.Hall’s producers will commission a play about George Washington’s relationship with a slave girl named Venus. Statues and paintings of the first president cover Washington.
In the late eighties, the esteemed writer Diane Johnson predicted that what one critic called “black boogeyman”art would interest “largely white audiences.” Novelist J.J. Phillips calls such work,pathology porn. I suggest that those who’ve made money from the genre had better put some money away because Kathryn Stockett has studied the genre and is making more money, driving a number of writers out of business.
A famous African American writer told me that so much money was made from a theater and literature in which saintly women have to endure cruel black men that some of the writers who milked the theme are In trouble with the IRS. Ms.Stockett will probably drive them into bankruptcy.
They’re dealing with “mainstream” consumers who only appreciate the cultures of others when it’s interpreted by one of their own. Thus, the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Elvis, Eminem, Bill Evans, Al Jolson, the writers of “The Wire,”Harriet Beecher Stowe and now Kathryn Stockett.
I’m really flattered that my few words about a writer makes that
writer famous. For an aging “ cranky, “disagreeable and even “paranoid person” like me, this is really a treat. Sapphire creator of “Precious,” produced by a studio whose executive staff does not include a single black woman,man,white woman,latina,etc.,even called me “mentally ill”.My answer.Her comparing them with me is an insult to all of the 40 million Americans who suffer bi-polar disorders.
author of “Juice!”