Sunday Book Talk Open Thread: Toni Morrison, Who Left A Legacy

The Washington Post collected memories of Morrison from “eight black female writers & thinkers” — including a best-selling author named Michelle Obama:

… For me and for so many others, Toni Morrison was that first crack in the levee — the one who freed the truth about black lives, sending it rushing out into the world. She showed us the beauty in being our full selves, the necessity of embracing our complications and contradictions. And she didn’t just give us permission to share our own stories; she underlined our responsibility to do so. She showed how incomplete the world’s narrative was without ours in it.

It’s a thread running through “Beloved” and “Sula” and “The Bluest Eye” and all of her work — that black stories, particularly the stories of black women and black girls, are worthy of examination and celebration. Again and again, she was unapologetic about that fact, deliberate in proving that our stories are rich and deep and largely unexplored. We belong, she showed us, not just in paperback books but in textbooks, not just in a publishing house but in the White House. And on their own, our stories are more than enough to inspire a Nobel laureate…

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Afternoon Open Thread with More Mountain Goats Content

The Mountain Goats (who you may remember from such posts as this one) played a free show in East River Park yesterday. This was great for me, since none of the other tour dates worked out. It was a beautiful day with lovely weather. The concert was very good, as well.

The Mountain Goats play at East River Park

Really just a perfect evening. This was the first time I’d seen them at a venue that had seats, which is important since Millennial fans can no longer stand for three hours straight.

Anybody else been doing outdoor summer activities?

A couple of songs they played below the fold. Studio versions, of course. Open thread!

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Open Thread: Time Travel As Cultural Barometer

Leon Trotsky once wrote, “Art, it is said, is not a mirror, but a hammer: it does not reflect, it shapes.” I suspect that this phenomenon is more intense in works of speculative fiction* than, say, spy thrillers. These stories are well-positioned to plumb and amplify the pressing issues and paranoias of their times; more to the point, they often offer high-concept utopian solutions, be they progressive or reactionary.

So I was amused to see the Guardian ask: Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?

In 2016, I sat down with my co-author Max Gladstone to write our novel This Is How You Lose the Time War, which follows two time-travelling female spies as they fall in love. That same year was also when I first heard people speaking earnestly and frequently about feeling as if they were in the wrong timeline, as the Brexit referendum results rolled in and Donald Trump was elected US president.

[…] But our novel is just one of several recent stories of queer women time-travelling. There is Kate Heartfield’s Nebula-nominated novella Alice Payne Arrives and its sequel Alice Payne Rides, which see two 18th-century women – lovers – become embroiled in a war. There are also Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade, Kate Mascarenhas’s The Psychology of Time Travel, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

[…] I wrote to each of these authors in anticipation of this piece and it turns out we were all drafting our books in 2016.

The article is a quick and a good read. I haven’t picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War yet, but it’s near the top of my list. I did read two books last year that featured time-traveling lesbians, though, just chewing through a random pile of space opera.

This article reminded me of a fun piece on Doctor Who**, which found that the Doctor was significantly more likely to overthrow the government during the Thatcher era. Read more

RIP Toni Morrison

We’ve lost a giant.

Thread here for any remembrances, or just literary fandom.

I’ll start: the writing speaks for itself. Others speak of her unparalleled commitment to other writers, of color, of course, but also to anyone driven to the vital act of committing words to paper:

I just retweeted that one.  Then there’s this:

And with that, over to you.

Images: Toni Morrison lecture at West Point Military Academy in March, 2013. photo credited to West Point.

Toni Morrison signature.

Late Night Open Thread: The Trump / A$AP Rocky Conundrum

Normally I would have been relieved not to be required to have an opinion on rapper A$AP Rocky’s innocence or guilt. But I did wonder, as a very white person and an old one at that, if Trump’s indignant ‘appeals’ to the Swedish justice system went beyond You don’t understand our folkways! He’s a celebrity! He has money! Eugene Scott’s report at the Washington Post was illuminating:

A$AP Rocky, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, has been accused of beating a man in the street on June 30 in central Stockholm.

In a video of the alleged assault, the rapper and those with him apparently threw a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

Another video posted to A$AP Rocky’s Instagram account claims that the men followed him for four blocks and had repeatedly been asked to leave the artist alone…

Trump, a celebrity before he was a politician, appears to give more credence to the words of black musicians than he does black people working in policy and advocacy. He tweeted that he got involved with the effort to release A$AP Rocky after a request from Kanye West. Last year, he demonstrated his commitment to sentencing reform by commuting the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after Kim Kardashian West advocated for that.

He views entertainers as the most influential voices in black America. That could be in part because Trump does not have a black person working in a senior position in his White House. Some of the people the president mentions most when addressing issues like criminal justice reform and the black unemployment rate are hip-hop artist Kanye West and conservative activist Candace Owens, supporters of the president with no expertise in these areas…
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