Saturday, December 31, 2016

the last book I ever read (Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya, excerpt three)

from Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya:

In the gas station, he stalked back and forth between the aisles, his back straight, an important man making a decision, letting his fingers rest on bags of potato chips that he knew he’d never had a taste for. He stopped only after the clerk, a boy in dark frames, sent him a sidelong glance.

“You got gas on two?” the clerk asked.

“Yeah,” Job said, in his best imitation of an American.

Friday, December 30, 2016

the last book I ever read (Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya, excerpt two)

from Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya:

Ifi glanced back at the store. Now that it was illuminated, she saw the miniature ark and stuffed giraffes, elephants, and tigers. A train of crucifixes followed a Mother Mary doll. What kind of prostitute owns such a store?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

the last book I ever read (Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya, excerpt one)

from Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya:

This was the fourth of the residences Job had occupied since his arrival in the United States at nineteen years of age. Before this, a basement apartment with a separate entrance. At every month’s end, the old man had cornered Job to make sure he paid the rent on time: We’re all living under the foot of the Man, right, man? He’d also lived in a closet of a room in a dormitory-style men’s residence hall, complete with communal showers. It was a place where walls were so thin that he was troubled by the most intimate of sounds: tears, passionless sex, and yes, farts. One of his homes had been on the topmost floor of a building scarred by the scents of mingled garlic, curry, and stockfish, regarded with collective disgust by guests of this nation, international students like himself, unlucky in their ability to smell American.

All of these places had been available to Job then. When he found the advertisements tacked to bulletin boards in campus buildings or in the American Classifieds, he needed only to tell them that he was a medical student who commuted to UNMC three times per week for his studies. The thin voice on the other end of the telephone would dismiss the accent. He needed only to arrive for the interview in scrubs, and the eyes would forgive the dark skin. But that was long ago.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt ten)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

Mingo's daughter Amanda shook on her knees, her family absent. Her bouquet had shed its petals. She gripped the naked stems, the iron wires the blacksmith had drawn out on the anvil last week, just for her. The wires cut her palms, she gripped them so tight. More blood in the dirt. As an old woman she would read about the Great War in Europe and recall this night. She lived on Long Island then, after roaming all over the country, in a small house with a Shinnecock sailor who doted on her to excess. She'd spent time in Louisiana and Virginia, where her father opened colorful institutions of learning, and California. A spell in Oklahoma, where the Valentines resettled. The conflict in Europe was terrible and violent, she told her sailor, but she took exception to the name. The Great War had always been between the white and the black. It always would be.

Monday, December 26, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt nine)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

It was true. When she told of her escape, she omitted the tunnels and kept to the main contours. It was private, a secret about yourself it never occurred to you to share. Not a bad secret, but an intimacy so much a part of who you were that it could not be made separate. It would die in the sharing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt eight)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

Tennesssee was cursed. Initially she assigned the devastation of Tennessee—the blaze and the disease—to justice. The whites got what they deserved. For enslaving her people, for massacring another race, for stealing the very land itself. Let them burn by flame or fever, let the destruction started here rove acre by acre until the dead have been avenged. But if people received their just portion of misfortune, what had she done to bring her troubles on herself? In another list, Cora marked the decisions that led her to this wagon and its iron rings. There was the boy Chester, and how she had shielded him. The whip was the standard punishment for disobedience. Running away was a transgression so large that the punishment enveloped every generous soul on her brief tour of freedom.

Friday, December 23, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt seven)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

Tennessee proceeded in a series of blights. The blaze had devoured the next two towns on the cindered road. In the morning the remains of a small settlement emerged around a hill, an arrangement of scorched timber and black stonework. First came the stumps of the houses that had once contained the dreams of pioneers, and then the town proper in a line of ruined structures. The town farther along was larger but its rival in destruction. The heart was a broad intersection where ravaged avenues had converged in enterprise, now gone. A baker’s over in the ruins of the shop like a grim totem, human remains bent behind the steel of a jail cell.

Cora couldn’t tell what feature of the landscape had persuaded the homesteaders to plant their futures, fertile earth or water or vistas. Everything had been erased. If the survivors returned it would be to confirm the resolution to try again somewhere else, scurrying back east or ever west. No resurrection here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt six)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

Jasper wouldn’t stop singing. Ridgeway shouted from the head of their little caravan for him to shut his mouth, and sometimes they halted so Boseman could climb into the wagon and clout the runaway on the head. Jasper sucked the scars on his fingers for a short interval, then resumed his crooning. Quietly at first so that only Cora could hear. But soon he’d be singing again, to his lost family, to his god, to everyone they passed on the trail. He’d have to be disciplined again.

Cora recognized some of the hymns. She suspected he made up many of them; the rhymes were crooked. She wouldn’t have minded it so much if Jasper had a better voice, but Jesus had not blessed him in that department. Or with looks—he had a lopsided frog face and oddly thin arms for a field hand—or with luck. Luck least of all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt five)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

Ethel thought a slave was someone who lived in your house like family but was not family. Her father explained the origin of the negro to disabuse her of this colorful idea. Some maintained that the negro was the remnant of a race of giants who had ruled the earth in an ancient time, but Edgar Delany knew they were descendants of cursed, black Ham, who had survived the Flood by clinging to the peaks of a mountain in Africa. Ethel thought that if they were cursed, they required Christian guidance all the more.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt four)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

“I don’t get where it says, He that stealeth a man and sells him, shall be put to death,” Cora said. “But then later it says, Slaves should be submissive to their masters in everything—and be well-pleasing.” Either is was a sin to keep another as property, or it had God’s own blessing. But to be well-pleasing in addition? A slaver must have snuck into the printing office and put that in there.

“It means what it says,” Ethel said. “It means that a Hebrew may not enslave a Hebrew. But the sons of Ham are not of that tribe. They were cursed, with black skin and tails. Where the Scripture condemns slavery, it is not speaking of negro slavery at all.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt three)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

No wonder the whites wandered the park in the growing darkness, Cora thought, her forehead pressed into the wood. They were ghosts themselves, caught between two worlds: the reality of their crimes, and the hereafter denied them for those crimes.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt two)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

To hear his valet Prideful tell it, James confined his erotic energies to specialized rooms in a New Orleans establishment. The madam was broad-minded and modern, adept in the trajectories of human desire. Prideful’s stories were hard to believe, despite assurances that he received his reports from the staff of the place, with whom he’d grown close over the years. What kind of white man would willingly submit to the whip?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, excerpt one)

from The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead:

When the music started and the dancing commenced, they appreciated the extent of their gratitude for Jockey. Once again he picked the right day for a birthday. He had been attuned to a shared tension, a communal apprehension beyond the routine facts of their bondage. It had built up. The last few hours had dispelled much of the ill feeling. They could face the morning toil and the following mornings and the long days with their spirits replenished, however meagerly, by a fond night to look back on and the next birthday feast to look forward to. By making a circle of themselves that separated the human spirits within from the degradation without.

Friday, December 16, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt fifteen)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

The blues don’t jump right on you. They come creeping. Shortly after my sixtieth I slipped into a depression like I hadn’t experienced since that dusty night in Texas thirty years earlier. It lasted for a year and a half and devastated me. When these moods hit me, usually few will notice—not Mr. Landau, no one I work with in the studio, not the band, never the audience, hopefully not the children—but Patti will observe a freight train bearing down, loaded with nitroglycerin and running quickly out of track. During these periods I can be cruel: I run, I dissemble, I dodge, I weave, I disappear, I return, I rarely apologize, and all the while Patti holds down the fort as I’m trying to burn it down. She stops me. She gets me to the doctors and says, “This man needs a pill.” I do. I’ve been on anti-depressants for the last twelve to fifteen years of my life, and to a lesser degree but with the same effect they had for my father, they have given me a life I would not have been able tto maintain without them. They work. I return to Earth, home and my family. The worst of my destructive behavior curtails itself and my humanity returns. I was crushed between sixty and sixty-one, good for a year and out again from sixty-three to sixty-four. Not a good record.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt fourteen)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

This was the first time where an illness would sideline a band member into missing shows. Danny Federici had contracted melanoma and now needed serious medical treatment. Danny had been misdiagnosed early on and the cancer was now moving through his system. He had been quietly receiving care for a while but could no longer keep it from the band, and so began a long and difficult journey. Charlie Giordano from the Sessions Band was tutored for a few shows by Dan, then quietly stepped in to take over the organ duties while Danny was treated.

One evening on one of Danny’s short returns to the band, he stepped into my dressing room before the show and sat in the chair opposite me. He basically explained things weren’t looking so good. At one point he seemed to run out of words and, gesturing silently, moved one palm over the other, trying to tell me what I already knew. His eyes filled and finally we sat there looking at each other . . . it’d been thirty-five years. I gave him what assurances I could that might ease his mind. We stood up, held each other for a long moment and went out and played. Not long thereafter, Danny appeared with us for the last time, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 20, 2008. In the band we all knew this was it. We wouldn’t see Danny onstage again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt thirteen)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

The Rising had its origins in the national telethon we were invited to be a part of the week of September 11. I wrote “Into the Fire” for that show (it remained incomplete, so I performed “My City of Ruins,” the song I’d written a year earlier for Asbury Park). Of the many tragic images of that day, the picture I couldn’t let go of was of the emergency workers going up the stairs as others rushed down to safety. The sense of duty, the courage, ascending into . . . what? The religious image of ascension, the crossing of the line between this world, the world of blood, work, family, your children, the breath in your lungs, the ground beneath your feet, all that is life, and . . . the next, flooded my imagination. If you love life or any part of it, the depth of their sacrifice is unthinkable and incomprehensible. Yet what they left behind was tangible. Death, along with all its anger, pain and loss, opens a window of possibility for the living. It removes the veil that the “ordinary” gently drapes over our eyes. Renewed sight is the hero’s last loving gift to those left behind.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt twelve)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

After our divorce was final, I took a few days and visited my parents, gave them the news and listened to my mom hector me with “Bruce, three years, your limit! . . . Whaaaaa!” They loved Julianne, but I was their son. I stayed awhile, having my wounds treated with home cooking and sympathy, then headed back to New Jersey. My dad drove me to the airport. Ten minutes out he turned to me and said, “Bruce, maybe you should move back home for a while.” I was tempted to mention that I was a nearly forty-year-old self-made multimillionaire and the prospect of moving back into an eight-by-twelve-foot room in my parents’ house, still holding my stuffed Mickey Mouse, was . . . not impossible, but not likely. Nevertheless, when I looked over at my pop, his suspendered girth squished between the wheel and the driver’s seat, all I could say was, “Thanks, Dad, I’ll think about it.” The old man finally wanted me around the house.

Monday, December 12, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt eleven)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

The songs of Nebraska were written quickly, all rising from the same ground. Each song took maybe three or four takes to record. I was only making “demos.” “Highway Patrolman” and “State Trooper” were recorded only once each. “Mansion on the Hill” was first, “My Father’s House” last, with the song “Nebraska” serving as the record’s heart. I tapped into white gospel, early Appalachian music and the blues. The writing was in the details; the twising of a ring, the twirling of a baton, was where these songs found their character. As in The Night of the Hunter, I often wrote from a child’s point of view. “Mansion on the Hill,” “Used Cars” and “My Father’s House” were all stories that came out of my experience with my family.

I wanted black bedtime stories. I thought of the records of John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson, music that sounded so good with the lights out. I wanted the listener to hear my characters think, to feel their thoughts, their choices. These songs were the opposite of the rock music I’d been writing. They were restrained, still on the surface, with a world of moral ambiguity and unease below. The tension running through the music’s core was the thin line between stability and that moment when the things that connect you to your world, your job, your family, your friends, the love and grace in your heart, fail you. I wanted the music to feel like a waking dream and to move like poetry. I wanted the blood in these songs to feel destined and fateful.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt ten)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Now, after the unrelenting seriousness of Darkness, I wanted more flexibility in the emotional range of the songs I chose. Along with “gravitas,” our shows were always filled with fun, and I wanted to make sure, this time around, that didn’t get lost. After some time recording, we prepared a single album and handed it in to the record company. It consisted of side one: “The Ties That Bind,” “Cindy,” “Hungry Heart,” “Stolen Car,” “Be True.” Side two: “The River,” “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” “The Price You Pay,” “I Wanna Marry You” and “Loose Ends.” Everything, in one form or another, with the exception of “Cindy,” appeared on the final version of The River or later on Tracks, our collection of “outtakes” released in November of 1998. That first version of The River was completely engineered and mixed by Bob Clearmountain. It sounded beautiful, but as I spent time listening to it, I felt that it just wasn’t enough. Our records were infrequent and by now I’d set up my audience to expect more than business as usual. Each record was a statement of purpose. I wanted playfulness, good times, but also an underlying philosophical seriousness, a code of living, fusing it all together and making it more than just a collection of my ten latest songs. (Though, that worked out pretty well for the Beatles.)

Saturday, December 10, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt nine)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

I’d gotten to know Patti Smith a little through our work together on “Because the Night.” When I visited her during one of her performances at the Bottom Line, she gave me the name of a South Jersey photographer and said, “You should let this guy take your picture.” One winter afternoon I drove south to Haddonfield, New Jersey, and met Frank Stefanko. Frank had photographed Patti at the beginning of her career. He worked a day job at a local meatpacking plant and continued to practice his craft in his spare time. Frank was a rough-edged but easygoing kind of guy. My recollection is he borrowed a camera for the day, called a teenage kid from next door to come over and hold up his one light and started shooting. I stood against some flowery wallpaper in Frank and his wife’s bedroom, looked straight into the camera, gave him my best “troubled young man,” and he did the rest. One of those photos ended up on the cover of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Frank’s photographs were stark. His talent was he managed to strip away your celebrity, your artifice, and get to the raw you. His photos had a purity and a street poetry to them. They were lovely and true, but they weren’t slick. Frank looked for your true grit and he naturally intuited the conflicts I was struggling to come to terms with. His pictures captured the people I was writing about in my songs and showed me the part of me that was still one of them. We had other cover options but they didn’t have the hungriness of Frank’s pictures.

Friday, December 9, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt eight)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Vini could be the warmest, most soulful guy inn the world one minute, truly kind, and then go completely postal within seconds. As time passed this wore on some of the band members who bore the brunt of the Mad Dog’s wrath. Danny had taken his lumps. Steve Appel, Mike’s younger brother, who helped out on the road, took a pop in the eye, and so did countless strangers who’d stumbled across the Dog’s intemperate side. Going out with Vini was risky business. One night we headed to a second-floor beach bar. As I was climbing the stairs to the entrance I saw a body tumbling by me on its way back to floor one. It was Vini. He was being thrown out before we even managed to get in! The accompaniment of Big Danny stepping in at the right moment and altering someone’s attitude occasionally saved us from trouble. Vini showed up at a gig one night all bruised and scratched up. He had his enemies, and someone had found out Vini rode his bike home down the boardwalk to Bradley after the gig every night at three thirty a.m. Some vengeful soul had stretched a thin wire from the railing across the boards right at bicycle tire level. Mad Dog hit it at speed and got launched head over handlebars into an ass full of splinters, cuts and bruises.

Then . . . he took it one step too far. One afternoon he managed to drive Clarence Clemons around the bend. C went off, strangling the hell out of Vini’s skinny neck, holding him down on the floor and smashing a heavy stereo speaker inches from his head in an attempt to bring the enlightenment. Vini got up, ran out of the house and made a beeline to my garage apartment in Bradley Beach. He looked like he’d just escaped a hanging but had spent a few moments too long dangling, eyes popping, legs shaking, at the end of the rope. He showed me huge red welts around his neck, screamed that Clarence had tried to murder him and uttered the immortal ultimatum, “Brucie, it’s him or me.” Not the best way to sum up your grievances on E Street, but it was my band, my town, I was mayor, judge, jury and sheriff, so I calmed him down and told him I’d look into it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt seven)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

I was called in to see Charles Koppelman, head of A & R, to review the album. We played a good piece of the first side and I was immediately informed the album was unreleasable. Mr. Koppelman said the musicianship was simply not up to snuff. He asked me to meet him down at a Columbia studio in a few nights and he’d show me what some “real” musicians could do with these songs. I am sure he meant well but I explained I could not do that. I told him this was my band, I was committed to them, I thought the record sounded great, I was proud of it and wanted it released as is. Mr. Koppelman was blunt in his assessment of my prospects. If I insisted on the recording being released as it was it would most likely go in the trash heap, receive little promotion and, along with me, disappear. What could I do? I liked it the way it was, so I fiercely insisted it remain unmeddled with, and what Mr. Koppelman promised was exactly what happened.

When we toured to promote The Wild, the Innocent, few even knew it had been released. I hit one Texas radio station where I was told a representative from my record company had visited and, while promoting several new Columbia recordings, literally told them to remove mine from airplay, adding, “The songs are too long.” This was a new twist. My own record company trying to get my records off the radio. It was only the beginning. A battle royale broke out between rock ‘n’ roll drill sergeant Mike Appel and the new powers that be at CBS. Mike sent all the executives coal in a stock for Christmas. Ho, ho, ho.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt six)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Dylan was preeminent amongst these types of writers. Bob Dylan is the father of my country. Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home were not only great records, but they were the first time I can remember being exposed to a truthful vision of the place I lived. The darkness and light were all there, the veil of illusion and deception ripped aside. He put his boot on the stultifying politeness and daily routine that covered corruption and decay. The world he described was all on view, in my little town, and spread out over the television that beamed into our isolated homes, but it went uncommented on and silently tolerated. He inspired me and gave me hope. He asked the questions everyone else was too frightened to ask, especially to a fifteen-year-old: “How does it feel . . . to be on your own?” A seismic gap had opened up between generations and you suddenly felt orphaned, abandoned amid the flow of history, your compass spinning, internally homeless. Bob pointed true north and served as a beacon to assist you in making your way through the new wilderness America had become. He planted a flag, wrote the songs, sang the words that were essential to the times, to the emotional and spiritual survival of so many young Americans at that moment.

I had the opportunity to sing “The Times They Are A-Changin’” for Bob when he received the Kennedy Center Honors. We were alone together for a brief moment walking down a back stairwell when he thanked me for being there and said, “If there’s anything I can ever do for you . . .” I thought, “Are you kidding me?” and answered, “It’s already been done.” As a young musician, that’s where I wanted to go. I wanted to be a voice that reflected experience and the world I lived in. So I knew in 1972 that to do this I would need to write very well and more individually than I had ever written before. I’d saved a few dollars playing her and there since I got back and for the first time in my life I stopped playing with a band and concentrated on songwriting. At night in my bedroom with my guitar and on an old Acolian spinet piano parked in the rear of the beauty salon, I began to write the music that would comprise Greetings from Asbury Park.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt five)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

We had three days to get to California. We had no extra money for motels and no camping gear, so we would not be stopping. We would drive in rotating shifts around the clock, pausing roadside only for food and gas. I didn’t drive . . . at all. I had no car, no license; at twenty-one my transportation was a bicycle or my thumb. I had hitchhiked everywhere I went since I was fifteen years old and had gotten very comfortable with it. When I say I didn’t drive, I mean I DID NOT KNOW HOW. I could not safely operate a motor vehicle. My old man never had the patience to teach me, and after one sprint spinning and jerking my way through the Freehold Raceway parking lot, Tex himself had thrown up his hands and quickly quit too. I was completely incompetent behind the wheel. I was not counted as one of the drivers for this trip. That’s why we were glad to have the extra guy. There would be no “racing in the street” for me for a few years.

Monday, December 5, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt four)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Just a brief year or two after Jimi Hendrix played the Wha?, the Castiles played regularly on Saturday and Sunday next door to the Fugs on MacDougal Street. The Mothers of Invention were around the corner at the Warwick Theater. Steve and I caught Neil Young promoting his first solo album, his signature black Gibson plugged into a tiny Fender amp, blowing out the walls of the Bitter End. Nobody paid us much attention with the exception of a small group of a bridge-and-tunnel teenybopper girls who latched on to our band and showed up regularly. This was the big world, the free world; in Greenwich Village in 1968, I could walk with my freak flag held high and nobody was going to bust me. It was a world I could call my own, a little piece of my future beckoning.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt three)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Also south, down Route 9, stood Freewood Acres, the first subdivision any of us had ever seen. What distinguished Freewood Acres was not just its “first ever” status as a planned community but the fact that it counted as its inhabitants descendants of Genghis Khan: Mongolians. It was a long ride from the Russian steppes, but due to the grace of Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of Leo of War and Peace fame, they’d arrived locally in the late forties after the war. Alexandra had a foundation that assisted in getting them out of the Soviets’ reach, so, persecuted by Stalin and rabidly anti-Communist, they settled in Monmouth County. It was Siberia or New Jersey, a close one, but they were sprung from Stalin’s cages and ended up literally on Highway 9. Their children became my classmates at Freehold High.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt two)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

Bart would shortly give up the sticks for good and join the marines. Rushing in one last afternoon, a goofy grin on his face, he told us he was going to Vietnam. He laughed and said he didn’t even know where it was. In the days before his ship-out, he’d sit one last time at the drums, in his full dress blues, in Marion and Tex’s dining room, taking one final swing at “Wipe Out.” He was killed in action by mortar fire in Quang Tri Province. He was the first soldier from Freehold to die in the Vietnam War.

Friday, December 2, 2016

the last book I ever read (Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, excerpt one)

from Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen:

In this house, due to order of birth and circumstance, I was lord, king and the messiah all rolled into one. Because I was the first grandchild, my grandmother latched on to me to replace my dead aunt Virginia. Nothing was out of bounds. It was a terrible freedom for a young boy and I embraced it with everything I had. I stayed up until three a.m. and slept until three p.m. at five and six years old. I watched TV until it went off and I was left staring alone at the test pattern. I ate what and when I wanted. My parents and I became distant relatives and my mother, in her confusion and desire to keep the peace, ceded me to my grandmother’s total dominion. A timid little tyrant, I soon felt like the rules were for the rest of the world, at least until my dad came home. He would lord sullenly over the kitchen, a monarch dethroned by his own firstborn son at his mother’s insistence. Our ruin of a house and my own eccentricities and power at such a young age shamed and embarrassed me. I could see the rest of the world was running on a different clock and I was teased for my habits pretty thoroughly by my neighborhood pals. I loved my entitlement, but I knew it wasn’t right.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

the last book I ever read (The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty, excerpt twelve)

from The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty:

Black people don’t even talk about race. Nothing’s attributable to color anymore. It’s all “mitigating circumstances.” The only people discussing “race” with any insight and courage and loud middle-aged men who romanticize the Kennedys and Motown, well-read open-minded white kids like the tie-dyed familiar sitting next to me in the Free Tibet and Boba Fett T-shirt, a few freelance journalists in Detroit, and the American hikikomori who sit in their basements pounding away at their keyboards composing measured and well-thought-out responses to the endless torrent of racist online commentary. So thank goodness for MSNBC, Rick Rubin, the Black Guy at The Atlantic, Brown University, and the beautiful Supreme Court Justice from the Upper West Side, who, leaning coolly into her microphone, has finally asked the first question that makes any sense: “I think we’ve established the legal quandary here as to whether a violation of civil rights law that results in the very same achievement these heretofore mentioned statutes were meant to promote, yet have failed to achieve, is in fact a breach of said civil rights. What we must not fail to remember is that ‘separate but equal’ was struck down, not on any moral grounds, but on the basis that the Court found that separate can never be equal. And at a minimum, this case suggests we ask ourselves not if separate were indeed equal, but what about ‘separate and not quite equal, but infinitely better off than ever before.’ Me v. the United States of America demands a more fundamental examination of what we mean by ‘separate,’ by ‘equal,’ by ‘black.’ So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty—what do we mean by ‘black’?”