Monday, August 31, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt thirteen)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Garth leaned down and whispered firmly into my ear, “I told him we’re Republicans. Black. Republicans. Got it?”

“What? What are you talking about? Why are we naked?” I had many questions, but this seemed the most pertinent.

“Contamination, dog,” was Garth’s answer.

“Contamination from what?” I must have yelled on that last word, because just then out of the turquoise bush beside me hopped an Easter bunny, clearly startled. Albino and obese, it darted its nervous red eyes in confusion at the scene.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt twelve)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“Little Debbie,” I called to her, but my delusion just giggled and kept skipping around. Skipping and chewing, swallowing then whistling. This was a girl whose feet didn’t touch the ground. Literally, they didn’t touch the ground, floating a good two inches above it yet still managing to make those lovely tapping sounds. Little Debbie’s shoes may have missed the floor, but her crumbs didn’t, and the more she skipped around, the more her crumbs fell where I could come eat them later. Skip, Little Debbie. Dance! If it would help, I would be her beige Bojangles. For that pastry good stuff, I would bug out my eyes and hop up and down the stairs with her in blackface just like Louis Armstrong had done for Shirley Temple. I didn’t care about principles, and I didn’t even care that this was surely all a hallucination. I wanted some of that sweet stuff too. Bite off her head and scoop the cream filling out of her neck with my hands.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt eleven)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Nathaniel Latham was a Morehouse Man, and to me this said everything about him. This is a distinctive breed, one possible to identify without the sight of a college ring or knowledge of its academic history. There is the entrepreneurial optimism, visible in his buoyant steps, there is the near-religious belief in the self and a refusal to acknowledge that any obstacle could thwart him. The Morehouse Man is a uniquely American creation and shares the young nation’s traditional certainty that the days ahead will be greater than the days behind. His clothes are crisp, conservative but energetic, ever waiting for that magazine cover that will one day reflect on his success. The Morehouse Man, at his finest, is America at is finest. Once, while sitting at a dusty cafĂ© in Accra, I looked past my dog-eared copy of The Garies and Their Friends to see the red polo shirt, perfectly trimmed dreads, and platinum watch of a Morehouse Man sitting at the table next to me. What struck me about the scene was not seeing such a familiar sight thousands of miles away at a little burger stand in West Africa. No, what I found most impressive was that even so far out of context I could recognize the Morehouse Man, which a conversation with this brother soon confirmed.

Friday, August 28, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt ten)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

I am bored with the topic of Atlantic slavery. I have come to be bored because so many boring people have talked about it. So many artists and writers and thinkers, mediocre and genius, have used it because it’s a big, easy target. They appropriate it, adding no new insight or profound understanding, instead degrading it with their nothingness. They take the stink of the slave hold and make it a pungent clichĂ©, take the blood-soaked chains of bondage and pervert them into Afrocentric bling. Parroting a vague “400 Year” slogan that underestimates for the sake of religious formality. What’s even more infuriating is that, despite this stupidity, this repetitious sophistry, the topic of chattel slavery is still unavoidable for its American descendants. It is the great story, the big one, the connector that gives the reason for our nation’s prosperity and for our very existence within it. But still, aren’t there any other stories to tell? So many have come to the topic of slavery because they think the subject matter will give them gravitas, or prizes, or because they find comfort in its familiarity. To be fair, something so big (nearly 20 million slaves kidnapped), for so long (from A.D. 1441 until the end of the nineteenth century) is nearly impossible to dance gracefully with. But still. That is the source of my love for the slave narratives: they are by their nature original, even when they draw on the forms of earlier literary sources. They are never duplicitous, because they all have one motivation: to document the atrocity of chattel slavery and thereby assist in ending it. Their artistry is surprising, considerable, devoid of pretension and with passion in its place.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt nine)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

“They took my badges. They took all my badges, and my clothes. And they took my French horn too,” he told me. Saying who “they” were wasn’t necessary. They were the beasts at the door. They were the unthinking. They were the elementals of destruction we both knew intimately. We looked at each other, relaxed. He knew who I was, and I knew who he was too. He was the Boy Scout guy. He was Garth Frierson. Garth sat down Indian style on the floor, continued slowly turning through the pages in his book as if he was looking for someplace to escape to. I sat down, joining him, and did the same with my own book. We locked the library up together from that afternoon until high school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt eight)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

In sixth grade a little effete frog named James Baldwin whupped my ass. He was a foot shorter than me, but he hung with hulking eighth-grade girls, who towered over both of us the entire time, taunting. It was by the bushes in the asphalt driveway of my apartment building and it was because I’d gotten lazy. I had a whole plan for getting home unmolested, it involved shortcuts along the train tracks and alternating building entrances, but it’d been two weeks since the last attack and I let my guard down. I bought a Reggie bar at the drugstore before heading toward my building: they must have monitored the corner, followed me. I didn’t fight back, because if I did the ladies would have really hurt me, and the only thing more humiliating than getting my ass kicked by this little shit would have been getting my ass kicked by a gaggle of girls, even ones as prematurely huge as these postpubescent vultures. I had never even met James Baldwin, but it didn’t matter, he attacked me anyway. I was different. He was puny, weak, but I was weaker. Kids have to feel like they’re more powerful than someone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

the last book I ever read (Mat Johnson's Pym, excerpt seven)

from Pym: A Novel by Mat Johnson:

Never had my own footsteps seemed so loud. Fortunately, the closer I came to the source, the louder its inhuman breath seemed to boom. Turning the corner, I saw the beginning of the beast, a massive black form in the shadow. As I inched closer, I could see that whatever it was was sprawled out, legs before it as it sat leaning against an ice wall. Heading forward in my slowest gait, I could see its chest heaving in the shadow, shuddering from the effort. Then as I came even closer, I saw the creature push a massive hand into its side and remove a small, high-fructose-corn-syrup laden Little Debbie snack cake and shove half the thing into its mouth.

“Damn Negro, you about scared me half to death. Why you creeping like that?” Garth managed. I say “managed” because he had a good amount of pastry in his jowls at the time. Hearing his voice, Angela and Nathaniel came up behind me. Angela used her adrenaline-fueled energy wisely: by giving Garth a good unwarranted kick in his leg before turning around and stomping back in the direction of our starting point. Nathaniel offered a smile and a shrug before he followed her.