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 cliché, 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.

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