Five in Five: Saturday, January 27
- I was walking along today, listening to the Atlanta Monster podcast, when I peeped over my shoulder and was startled by a creeper on the path. Seeking to defuse the threat of him, I married him 18+ years earlier and fell in lockstep with his gait;
- Atlanta Monster is a podcast exploring the murders of young black boys in Atlanta in the late 1970s. The fear and threat of that scary season reached as far as Billings, Montana; I remember watching the news as the numbers of deaths rose. In this podcast, listeners learn how Wayne Williams was eventually caught and imprisoned for two of the murders — and then it goes further, to question whether Williams was actually responsible. I’m all in on this storytelling that seeks to upheave easily accepted prison sentences. Even more, I learned from this podcast, as I listened today, that it wasn’t until the 1946 Democratic Primaries in Georgia (and other states, too, I do believe) that blacks were allowed to vote. My mom still isn’t over stuff that happened in 1946, so how on earth can those who call today’s discussions “race-baiting” rather than “an attempt to acknowledge deep and continual racism” think that black Americans should just “be better” (read: “act more white”) and “get over” (read: “stop being rightly pissed as fuck”) the systemic quashing of their every chance not to get ahead but just to get onto the playing field? Without the right to vote in primaries, blacks had zero chance at representation and influence;
- This past fall, I taught a literature class that was loaded with students who were bright lights — absolutely burning up the discussions, always apologetic if they missed a post or a deadline. Currently, I’m teaching that same class again, and students this semester are, so far, “a bit more messy.” They are still getting up to speed with expectations, of course, but it’s interesting that weaker students come at the teacher harder, complaining that things are confusing or that the deadlines aren’t clear. I struggle sometimes to stay even-keeled and not reply: “Strangely, 35 students last semester all found the class clear and straightforward.” Anyhow, I’ve been musing about how strong students apologize when it’s not necessary and weaker students blame when responsibility could be taken. Can I end this one with a shrug and a sigh about human nature?
- I heard on the radio yesterday that Minnesota is one of the states with the fastest-warming temperatures in recent decades (with cities Minneapolis and Mankato two of the top five fastest-warming spots in the nation). Blech. If Minnesota doesn’t have claims to frigid temperatures, what does it have? Big mosquitoes and silent grudges, that’s what.
- So the public library is super nice and buys me books when I ask it to. Oh, okay: it buys books, and they aren’t actually just for me — but I am very good at using the form for requesting new materials be bought, which makes it feel like certain books are “mine,” at least for a few weeks. So a while ago, I requested the library purchase Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties since it was nominated for the National Book Award and has been getting rave reviews all over the place. The other day, My Personal Library Dude brought it home for me, and I am not disappointed. What I really like is how Machado’s writing feels so unique and wonderfully weird, but there’s no sense that she’s trying to be these things. More, it’s like she is perfectly able to express on the written page what her brain feels like, and it’s a wondrous place to visit. Mind you, her book has eight (??) stories in it, and I can only read one or two at a time, as the cumulative effect is too much. My favorite so far, and I’m only halfway through it, is “Especially Heinous,” a story that uses 272 fictional recaps of Law and Order: SVU episodes to take readers on a slow screech off the rails with Detectives Stabler and Benson. Although there are some crabby reviews of this story on Goodreads, it’s making me snort with laughter and feel pangs of envy that Machado could create an oddball structure that is achieving itself perfectly.
Examples of episodes:
“Or Just Look Like One”: Two underage models are attacked while walking home from a club. They are raped and murdered. To add insult to injury, they are confused with two other raped and murdered underage models, who coincidentally are their respective twins, and both pairs are buried beneath the wrong tombstones.
“Hysteria”: Benson and Stabler investigate the murder of a young woman who is initially believed to be a prostitute and the latest in a long line of victims. “I hate this goddamned city,” Benson says to Stabler, dabbing her eyes with a deli napkin. Stabler rolls his eyes and starts the car.
“Sophomore Jinx”: The second time the basketball team covered up a murder, the coach decided that he’d finally had enough.
“Uncivilized”: They found the boy in Central Park, looking like no one had ever loved him. “His body was crawling with ants,” Stabler said. “Ants.” Two days later, they arrest his teacher, who as it turns out had loved him just fine.
“Misleader”: Father Jones has never touched a child, but when he closes his eyes at night, he still remembers his high school girlfriend: her soft thighs, her lined hands, the way she dropped off that roof like a falcon.
Typing Time: 15:39, which is a pretty healthy five minutes
Editing Time: 12:11 because I had to go find those Machado excerpts, and reading them as I copied and pasted cracked me up all over again, and also I had to scream and gnash teeth while fighting this blog template’s desire to enumerate every last thing whenever I hit Enter. This report brought to you from the hells off the html editor