I finally got around to listening to Jordan VanHemert’s new CD, I Am Not A Virus. I like it quite a bit. The video above is only the first track. i have been listening to the entire thing on Spotify and recommend it. It is also on YouTube.
I’m still working on my own burn out. This Sunday afternoon finds me exhausted despite only having done the usual Church stream thing this morning. Eileen and I have had a couple of days alone while Jeremy, Elizabeth, and Alex are off gallivanting. It was a pleasure. I like having them around but it was fun to have just the two of us here for a change.
I finished Caste by Wilkerson and The Parable of the Talents by Butler.
Wilkerson does an excellent job of understanding America as a caste system. Surprisingly, once you start looking into this, the idea of U. S. slavery as an expression of caste is quite old, dating back to the 19th century. It is a clear way to think about the experience of living in the US right now. Wilkerson points out that we who are alive now did not invent this situation. We inherit and perpetuate it. She compares it to buying an old used house. This metaphor is a good one, because it clears away some of the accusations of historical culpability and reframes the idea that our caste system arbitrarily based on skin color is like a flooded basement in an old house. We ignore it at our peril. We who are alive did not create the problem but it is up to us to fix it. Highly recommended.
Octavia Butler (1947-2006) is my new hero. The Parable of the Talents is the middle book of a projected trilogy. Unfortunately Butler only completed two of the projected project before her death. I am now reading the first book, The Parable of the Sower.
These books were written in the 90s and projected into future beginning around 2020. Butler gets a lot of stuff right. As Gloria Steinem writes in her introduction to The Parable of the Sower, “If there’s one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it’s one written in the past that has already begun to come true.”
Butler is a huge talent. Her abilities easily rival Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. LeGuin. I’ll probably read all of her work before I’m done.
Speaking of good clear prose, Elizabeth and I are reading George Saunder’s new book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: in which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and life.
Saunders has been using Russian short stories to teach advanced writers at Syracuse U for twenty years. This book is the fruit of that work. It is teaching me to read better. I am a fan of his work anyway. Here are some cool sentences from this book:
“We live, as you may have noticed, in a degraded era, bombarded by facile, shallow, agenda-laced, too rapidly disseminated information bursts.”
“To write a story that works, that moves the reader, is difficult, and most of us can’t do it. Even among those who have done it, it mostly can’t be done.”
This morning I was reading in Richard Rutherford’s enlightening Homer (2nd edition). He mentioned an essay by T. S. Eliot called “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” I waddled over to my T. S. Eliot section and pulled out his essays and read it.
Believe it or not, it helped me think not only about music, but about the evolution of what Herbie Hancock calls Jazz. I have wrestled with Jazz as a living art. But I am evolving a different understanding of how Jazz can still be art being created at this moment. For further explication, listen to Herbie Hancock’s music and Jordan VanHemert’s new CD. Jes sayin’