Monday, November 25, 2013

PILLOW TALK: Twelve Year Ache

You act like you were just born tonight
Face down in a memory but feeling all right
So who does your past belong to today?
Baby, you don't say nothing when you're feeling this way.           
--Rosalind Cash

Karen E. Fields

Each time I have attempted to the read Karen E. Fields's, "Individuality and the Intellectuals: An Imaginary Conversation Between Emile Durkeim and W.E.B DuBois," I get this God-awful headache. The first time it happened, it was back in 2001, when the essay first appeared. Back then, I remember putting the essay down and by the time I picked it again, it was published in Theory and Society, so pick it up again only to have the headache to return, but I was able to get a little further along the second time around before it became unbearable. 

Emile Durkeim

Having only known Durkeim through secondary literature and secondary knowledge, meaning: I never actually read anything by the man, so I decided that I would tackle his Elementary Forms first, which didn't give me a headache at all and was a joy to read, (despite the efforts of that damned kangaroo). 

cover of Field's translation of Durkeim's Elementary Forms 

Now, armed with firsthand knowledge, I was confident that that knowledge would be just what I would need to plow through Fields, but my head still ached, despite that knowledge or perhaps in spite of it; so, I put the essay down again, and I have been picking it up and putting it down for about twelve years now. It was around this time last year that I picked it up to read again; it was on the occasion of its publication for what would be now the third time, and I got a headache, it seemed, just by picking it, so I put it down and left it there until today. Today, I have one of those long and dreadful days ahead of me, filled to the brim with all of the mundane and banal experiences that we have to come to associate with the waiting rooms across my America, and I am taking Fields's essay along for ride, with the hope that the numbness of the day's experience might just be the cure-all to that annoying symptom whose lack of specificity haunts me.

Karen E. Fields, Individuality and the Intellectuals: An Imaginary Conversation Between Emile Durkeim and W.E.B. DuBois

Sunday, November 10, 2013

PROSE: Why I Write Like That

for Anita Walsh, "an old friend"* 

Anita Walsh

Yeah, Anita, I know. I know that I am rather careless on the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, etc.) but much more careful elsewhere. I am not sure why that is the case. Well, I do know why that's the case: It's the Internet, darn it! Who gives a rat's ass? 

Besides my having little regard for Internet content, I am terribly impatient. My mind moves at a very rapid pace, sometimes so fast that my poor fingers just can't keep up with my thoughts, and my desire to get the message out, usually but not always, supersedes the need for me to proofread my message; so, I just hit the damn button and leave the proofreading and copyediting for the readers to do. And there's a reason for that: By the time the proofreading is complete, the desire to share anything with anyone has disappeared. Sorry.

On some level, it's psychological; though, I suspect that others might conclude that it's intellectual, which apparently does not concern me. I know my carelessness creates contradictions that challenge my credibility, since I present myself as someone who cares about usage, grammar, punctuation, and syntax and will take others to task but won't practice what I preach, at least not on the Internet. Just keep rapping away at my knuckles, Anita, I'll eventually straighten up and act right, maybe. 

Man reading Fowler's A Dictionary of Modern English Usage

I am actually starting a new blog, "Our Daily Fowler," mostly for my students to use each day at the beginning of class. Since it's Fowler and my students, I will be not only hard pressed to proofread what I share, but I will also agonize over every word and its placement. Maybe that experience will then translate onto other Internet content that I share with you and others, maybe.

You've been on my ass about this behavior from the onset of our FB friendship, and your concerns don't go unrecognized by me. I think, on some level, I am giving the middle finger to the education establishment, which I stood in awe for decades from afar, until I was invited on stage and then years later backstage and encountered more mediocrity than I could have ever imagined from both sides of my the desk.

Now, lemme me go and proofread this note, despite that I actually dread having to do it and admittedly see no real substantive purpose in having to do it, except for my respect for you as a friend.

Sherry and Roy DeCarava with the photo critic, A. D. Coleman

*The phrase "an old friend" does not mean what it implies. The art historian, Sherry Turner, and wife of the American artist, Roy DeCarava, once described me as "an old friend," on about the first or second day we had actually met. It was in one of her art history courses that she chose to make this distinction between me and my other colleagues sitting around the seminar table. Of course having a stranger call me, "an old friend," caught me off guard but got my critical juices flowin, just as she had intended it to do; besides, my aunt Sis had drilled into me the line, "For you, there's always a stranger, always." I never bothered to ask Sherry what she meant, by referring to someone one she did not know as "an old friend;" instead, I assumed the position. Of course, with her being a specialist in African art, I eventually came to realize that she was telling me that me, that we, she and I, her and me, shared a deeper intimate historical connection from the other people in the room, not at all based on racist identification but rather that of the mind. Despite what my intellect was telling me, she was calling on me to use my intuition in order to see and feel beyond the limits of my intellect. I feel the same way about Anita. When I first met her on Facebook, and I cannot remember how, here was someone who needed no introduction. She wasn't just someone who I happened upon on Facebook, but, instead, was someone who I had the blessing and good fortune of being reunited with, after years and years, generations upon generations, even centuries of being apart. And I don't need Angela Davis to remind me about the "how many more."