If you’ve ever wandered the stacks of a library and thumbed through the books just looking for something interesting, maybe it took you a shelf or two — maybe even a series of shelves, ’cause even when publishing was thriving and not so much about it books, there was of course the catering to privilege — but surely something that spoke to you appeared. Something like, “Unlearning Hemperkin’s Rules for Optimum Snobbery.” Maybe the words were in a book that didn’t even have its cover sleeve anymore, something as tattered for the passing of time as it might have been for being read so much. I think blogs can be sort of like those particular volumes, except of course that they’re an ongoing process.
And that ongoing process isn’t always so big with the going. Some of my favorite bloggers came and went in an instant; I don’t think it was due to a waning attention span, at least not in and of itself. Life is hard, and if you’re not getting paid from some soft-ish perch to write about what it’s like for those folks on the rocks, written word upkeep means having to occasionally tear pieces of yourself off for fuel — metaphorically, of course.
One of the perennial Zeitgest narratives is about apathy; it’s usually more about “care more!” than the reasons people become apathetic. Having to deal with basic human selfishness is hard enough, but there’s also the manifest destiny of privileged comfort. Blogdom has a lot of greatness to offer, but at its generalized best its landscape also has these smiley commerce- and privilege-driven ideals that are nice to disconnect from for a bit.
Have you ever started a post and thought, Nah, this is really not substantial enough. (?) The idea that everything needs to have the utmost weight can be pretty counterproductive — at least when it comes to blogging, which in the long run seems to do well with the occasional sense of lightness.
So in the vein of lightness, this post is partly to show the cover of the first edition of Emily Dickinson’s collected poems. Dickinson’s poetry was, of course, extremely lighthearted. I think one of the original blurbs for this book was “In these pages, the glass is always half full … of delight!” And okay … probably not, though it isn’t at all uncommon for her writing to have this whimsical approach to wisdom — like, isn’t it funny to be wise in this particular world?
I was surprised by the kind of craftsmanship and design that went into the cover of something published in 1889. While this particular publication of her work featured tweaks to Dickinson’s poetry she didn’t sign off on, the cover really does evoke a sense of her poetry. Flowers that are a bit wilted, but hanging on.
I think she was a great writer, but I don’t think all of her poetry successfully communicates beyond herself (and not just because of the difference in vernacular from the late 1800s and now). Some of her poems are probably a bit more tentative than others, and yet they’ve all been around long enough to be part of the canon and blindly esteemed as Literary. Apart from that, it’s pretty cool that someone can be a great writer and not always be great at creating work that clearly connects with people.
The blogosphere tends to get a little quiet this time of year, with the holidays and all — but I wanted to offer up a few worthwhile links. For instance, the Magic Mulatto blog offers up fiction by Brett Coleman that mentions a story I can’t believe hasn’t been turned into a typical holiday special (excerpted): “He didn’t notice that Greenfield was reading a copy of Derrick Bell’s ‘Space Traders’, or maybe he didn’t care. In the story, an advanced race of extraterrestrials descend to earth and offer the American government the solution to all of their economic and environmental woes in exchange for all of their Black citizens. The political hand wringing over the decision that ensues reveals the racism just below the surface in the halls of governance and in society in the neo-liberal era. Greenfield had been wondering what his fate would be in such a scenario, being ‘biracial’ and all. Would he be sent off to the mothership with the Black folks? And would that be so bad? Or would the aliens have some criteria for who was and wasn’t Black? Maybe with their advanced technology they had some way of determining exactly how much of one’s genetic makeup was Black and had some cut-off above 50%. In that case, people like him would be well off the hook. Like a lot of Black people in America, Greenfield’s father’s ‘blood’ was as much Irish and English as it was African. He wondered if the aliens subscribed to the ‘one drop rule.’ If so, he and a whole lot of ‘White’ folks would be screwed. But he figured probably not. They were rational beings, surely not swayed by primitive human customs. Maybe they’d leave it to the biracial people themselves to decide if they were Black or not, if they wanted to stay or go. There was no way of knowing really. And Kenny couldn’t know just how much was riding on the answer to his question, having not read ‘Space Traders.’
And then there’s antoinettebowmanslog.wordpress.com, whose latest post is “There is no ‘Ha’ in Hair” (an excerpt):
I have somehow missed the joke as I don’t find afro wigs/hair hilarious. The same way I don’t find dreadlock rasta hats ‘fun’ or ‘cool’.
Thanks for reading, and may this sometimes arduous season find you strong and well.
Robert Pinero art
You should check out anything by the blogger of Lila as… Jane Do-It-All like, for instance, the blog Lila as… Jane Do-It-All. Lila’s got quite the intellect and devotes it to the idea that “we all need to be more introspective and work on ourselves.” It seems like a simple enough idea, but I sometimes wonder if people only do anything like that when they’re in a nice place — and even then it’s easy to focus on exteriors. Oddly enough, while working on one’s self may be easier some places than others, introspection is probably an uphill endeavor anywhere. On janedoitall.wordpress.com, Lila manages it ebulliently.
I’ve been a little remiss in blogging lately, but in addition to other posts coming your way soon — if you’re reading this on a mobile device while you’re walking along the street, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORLD AROUND YOU. I’d like for you to be okay (and no, not just to keep reading my blog), so take care of yourself, huh?
You will? Okay, good. That’s what this guy likes to hear:
There’s smiling by the serene waters of a lakeside village. Or in some welcoming place tailored to what you look like. And then there’s smiling in what’s generally considered a not so nice place. The kind of smile I’m writing about isn’t because someone’s simply passing through that spot, either. No, it’s the one that emerges on the face of someone for whom that not so nice place is ordinary.
I see this sometimes, and it always gives me pause. It’s far from unusual to see two or more people smiling in camaraderie over something anywhere that isn’t supposed to be a great place to live, but, being by one’s self and smiling is a different matter altogether. It requires one to stand out. It’s an old, mushy sentiment that smiles are contagious, but any such transference usually happens when people are already in sync anyway. But what if you’re not in sync, or you’re not that reflection of a part of the world someone else wants to see smile back at them when they look in the mirror?
Sometimes a business will have someone whose job it is to stand out on the street and hand out fliers. Usually people with this job have cultivated a light stoicism, but a while back I saw an exception to that. I passed behind a woman whom was doing this job just as a bus inched past her at a red light. She smiled warmly and waved emphatically to the passengers. I’m pretty sure not one of them waved back. Blank stares all around. After that, the woman was all slumped shoulders and there was a twinge of regret.
It could be said that such a level of unabashed enthusiasm is rarely met well on any plain in a society where people are trying to get through the day with minimal being one-upped. Someone I knew once expressed the sentiment that in a particularly ‘good’ neighborhood, people will extend themselves with enthusiasm because they can afford to. If you can’t buy your way in to such a place on any long-term basis, you’ll shuffle off stage quickly enough. And if you can, well, some kind of obvious positivity is a hallmark of the good life.
But that’s the good kind of neighborhood that isn’t so terribly concerned with being cool. A gentrified neighborhood would have likely offered the same blank stares for someone who didn’t look the right way. Back on the other side of the tracks, though, there’s usually enough reasons to remember why one goes about stoically or with the equivalent of a samurai’s mask–a face that’s supposed to be formidable. The by-one’s-self smiles seem to be like a flower in concrete. Rarer and stronger perhaps than one from some garden, but there’s always the chance of being trampled on.
As hard as they may be to sustain, I think the world of smiles that appear so keenly where it’s hard to keep smiling. Makes me always want to check my own face–that it’s not hardened like one of those old samurai masks.
All Robert Pinero art