Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the last book I ever read (Brendan I. Koerner's The Skies Belong to Us, excerpt eight)

from Brendan I. Koerner's The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking:

As could be expected, no one from the Carter administration contacted Holder to discuss the deal he proposed to the Associated Press. But one person did take action upon reading the published interview: Eldridge Cleaver.

Despite his comfortable circumstances in France, which included a vacation apartment near Cannes, Cleaver had quickly wearied of life in exile. Suffering from writer’s block, he had switched creative gears and tried to establish himself in the world of fashion, designing a pair of men’s pants that featured an external pouch for the genitalia—a codpiece, more or less. “All these designers are concentrating on the bottom, you know?” Cleaver explained to a group of curious Harvard students who came to visit him in Paris in 1975. “They’re all accentuating your ‘boo-boo,’ you know? They’re not concentrating on those areas that really differentiate a man and a woman. This is what I’m trying to get away from.”

When Cleaver failed to move his pants past the prototype stage, he sank into a deep depression. He was disturbed by his children’s growing preference for speaking French instead of English, and by how his son, Maceo, loved soccer but didn’t know the first thing about American football. Many of Cleaver’s activist friends were gaining real power back in the United States, becoming mayors, state legislators, even congressmen. “So I contacted these old friends and said, ‘Hey, remember me? How about helping me get back home?’” Cleaver would later recall. “Surely, if the astronauts can come back from the moon, I could stroll through California again.”

But no one could make Cleaver’s attempted murder charge disappear. His friends advised him to “settle down and become a black Frenchman and enjoy all those French pastries.” Despondent over the prospect of living the rest of his life in France, Cleaver retreated to his Cannes apartment and contemplated suicide.

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