Again I’m in the position of wanting to write quickly so that I can spend time reading. It looks like Gerald Vizenor is my flavor of the month. He is amazing. I find it difficult to say exactly why since his ideas are so wide ranging. In the introduction to Fugitive Poses he draws on time as a visiting professor at Tianjin University. While there he taught The Red Pony and Being There. He ran into some censorship problems since the only way for him to get his students access to books was to have a few pages photocopied to be read each day in class. This allowed the censors to monitor every word he was having them read. The photocopier “broke down” around page 90 in Being There due to some explicit sexual description.
Two pages later he describes provoking a censorious reaction in Elaine Kim, chair of The Comparative Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Shadow Distance: A Gerald Vizenor Reader was featured in a locked glass cabinet where faculty and their recent publications were displayed.
Kim ordered the removal of the book cover because, “I feel an obligation to the women of this department who are always subjected to sexual harassment in the media. I to am sick of naked ladies—and men too, for that matter–in the media.”
Here is Vizenor’s description of the above cover: “The cover of Shadow Distance is a color reproduction of an original painting by German artist Dirk Görtler. The expressionistic montage of totemic and trickster scenes from Bearheart [a novel by Vizeno], on the right, a portrait of the author an a Conoco truck stop sign in front of a bear. An androgynous nude trickster figure faces the bear, the omega letter is painted on the back of the trickster. The word muralts, a neologism, mounted on the truck stop sign over the head of the trickster, and omega, the end, are ironic, not erotic.”
There’s more by Vizenor but he did not include a picture of the book as I have.
Two pages later Vizenor sent me scrambling to get my Modern Library Thomas Jefferson as he delves in some detail in Jefferson’s odd contradictory writings both about Native Americans and Blacks.
I’m only on page twenty of this book and my head is reeling.
Vizenor combines an amazing erudition with the perspective of the trickster and he calls them: “storiers.”
Just for fun I have linked the lecture I listened to this morning to begin with a couple stories he tells during the Q and A.