Wednesday, September 30, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt seven)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

Day by day, tweet by tweet, the country came to grips with the fact that presidential statements—which used to really mean something—were now just the misinformed and misspelled rants of an elderly Fox fan. No one was going to turn off Trump’s TV set or stop him from tweeting. This realization sunk in for me on February 17, the first time he lobbed an “enemy of the people” grenade at the media. Up until that point I thought that Spicer and chief of staff Reince Priebus, old Washington pros, people I trusted to some degree, would intervene before things got that bad. I was wrong. Spicer and Priebus knew that the Stalinist “enemy” language was dangerous, but they didn’t stop it from happening. After leaving the White House, Priebus’s successor, John Kelly, said, “the media, in my view, and I feel very strongly about this, is not the enemy of the people. We need a free media.” Yes—but he should have said that while working for Trump. Kelly also commented, in his post-West Wing life, that “you have to be careful about what you are watching and reading, because the media has taken sides. So if you only watch Fox News, because it’s reinforcing what you believe, you are not an informed citizen.” Another veiled critique of the president—but past the point when it mattered.

I asked people like Hope Hicks why aides didn’t step in when the president used morally reprehensible rhetoric to disaparage the free press. The answer basically boiled down to: “He’s the president.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt six)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

The president’s first time cribbing from Fox & Friends was less than a week into his presidency, on Thursday, January 26. He was glued to Fox & Friends First, the 5 a.m. hour that preceded the main event, from a cozy corner of his White House residence. Host Abby Huntsman (whose dad would go on to be Trump’s ambassador to Russia) read a short news items about Chelsea Manning, whose thirty-five-year prison sentence had been commuted by Obama before Turmp took over. Manning had penned an op-ed for The Guardian that predicted “darker times ahead” under Trump. She also criticized Obama’s stabs at compromise with the GOP. Fox only mentioned the latter part.

Manning is “slamming President Obama as a weak leader with few permanent accomplishments,” Huntsman said, while the words “UNGRATEFUL TRAITOR” appeared at the bottom of the screen. Fourteen minutes later, Trump tweeted that “ungrateful TRAITOR Chelsea Manning” was calling Obama weak. “Terrible!” he said.

Monday, September 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt five)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

Nauert interviewed with Tillerson at the State Department after his confirmation. Though he remained skeptical, Trump was sold, and the deal was done. She gave up a $500,000-a-year job on Fox for a $179,700 government salary but gained a much higher profile and a big new challenge, fielding sensitive questions from some of the toughest reporters in the world. She mostly held her own: She could be snippy at times, but was careful not to alienate the press corps the way Trump and Spicer did. Her hardest relationship was with Tillerson, who rarely let her travel with him and ignored her advice. He dismissed her as a “White House spy.” “Rex disliked anyone POTUS endorsed,” an insider said.

After one year, Tillerson was fired through a presidential tweet and Nauert remained. Circumstances changed. Nauert was welcomed into new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s inner circle; he promoted her to “acting undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.” In one year, she went from Fox anchor to high-ranking State Department diplomat, traveling the globe, counseling the leader of the free world.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt four)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

In my estimation, the say-anything president lost the benefit of the doubt somewhere between January 21, when he said that the skies became “really sunny” right after his inaugural address, when in fact it remained cloudy with occasional sprinkles, and January 24, when he claimed that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally in the election that he won. He proved that his words were worthless, yet they were taken so seriously by his converts, and thus they remained newsworthy.

This was true in 2017 and it remained true in 2020. So much of what came out of Trump’s mouth was inaccurate, illogical, or incoherent. But Fox’s show still generally took his words seriously. Segments were centered around his point of view, even when his point of view made no sense. On Fox, his failures were treated gently. His lies were ignored almost completely.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt three)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

Trump was in charge of the television wing of the GOP now and had all the deputies he needed. Rudy Giuliani was at debate camp along with Fox commentator Laura Ingraham and assorted friends. Hannity was at Trump’s beck and call. And Fox & Friends spewed toxic waste at his opponent every day. On October 25, Rudy told Brian Kilmeade that “we’ve got a couple of surprises left,” and added, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton, finally, are beginning to have an impact.” Rudy had heard that FBI agents in New York were in possession of a laptop with a new cache of Clinton-related emails. The agents—some of whom detested Clinton—wanted to crack it open. Rudy alluded to “surprises” again the next day in an interview with Fox’s Martha MacCallum. It appeared as though he was getting leaks from current FBI agents (although he later claimed the info came from “former agents”). And it sure seemed like he was spreading the info on Fox to pressure FBI director James Comey into reopening an investigation in the final inning of the election. If that was the plan, it worked: On October 28, Comey took the highly unusual step of disclosing that investigators were examining the new cache of emails. “I think his decision to publicly reopen the case, rather than investigate quietly, was certainly driven in part by the fear that news of the laptop would leak,” Josh Campbell, Comey’s special assistant at the time, told me in 2019.

Friday, September 25, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt two)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

“What did you do to piss off Trump?”

Ailes was on the phone with Kelly. He knew the answer to his question, but he wanted to hear Kelly’s side of the story. It was July 29, 2015, and the night before Kelly had led with a segment about Trump’s 1991 contentious divorce from Ivana. Kelly confronted a Daily Beast reporter who had just written a story about the time Ivana testified under oath that Trump raped her. Kelly, pointing out that Ivana later recanted, seemed to take Trump’s side in the segment, but Trump was still furious that Kelly covered it at all. Ailes suggested that Kelly give the candidate a call to smooth things over.

She did, but it didn’t help.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter, excerpt one)

from Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth by Brian Stelter:

The Tea Party was an early test of Fox’s political mobilizing power. Democrats tood power; a black man moved into the Oval Office; a woman became the House speaker; and Fox’s biggest stars suddenly stood up and said stop spending out money. Of course, the organizers swore that the movement was all about reining in spending and reducing government, regardless of color or gender. Hannity and Glenn Beck promoted Tea Party events across the country and pushed ahead to a special day of live coverage on Tax Day. “Anybody can come,” Hannity said. “Celebrate with Fox News,” Beck said. The rallies drew large crowds and mirrored Fox’s older, almost-all-white audience. Harvard researchers said Fox said as a “social movement orchestrator,” spreading the word and cheering the Tea Party on. It was a perfect with-us-or-against-us emblem. After a follow-up rally in DC in September, Ailes bought a full-page ad in The Washington Post asking, “How did ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN miss this story?” That was a lie, of course; the rally was widely covered by all the networks. But Fox needed to present itself as the One Real True Source. Murdoch denied reality when he said, years later, “We don’t promote the Tea Party. That’s bullshit.” He claimed Fox merely “recognized their existence.” But the coverage went much further than that. The posturing, the appeals to white identity politics, the screams about media bias—all of it was a foreshock to the Trump quake. I couldn’t help but notice that ten years after the first “party,” when Trump’s tax cuts and policies caused the deficit to balloon to historic levels, there wasn’t any heartland uprising or “Hannity” tea-bagging.

At the height of the Tea Party’s perceived power, I interviewed Paul Rittenberg, the head of ad sales at Fox, who articulated his pitch to advertisers. “People who watch Fox News believe it’s the home team,” he said. He wasn’t labeling the network as “conservative” or calling Fox the voice of the opposition, the way pissed-off Obama aides were, he was just reflecting the point of view of the audience. “Home team.” It was powerful, and pure tribalism.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt nine)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

He succumbed to the Japanese baseball mania. The Hiroshima players were at first called, in English, the Carps, until he pointed out to the public that the plural for that fish, and for those ballplayers, had no “so.” He went often to watch games at the huge new stadium, not far from the A-Bomb Dome—the ruins of the Hiroshima Industrial Promotion Hall, which the city had kept as its only direct physical reminder of the bomb. In their early seasons, the Carp had dismal records, yet they had a fanatical following, something like those of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Mets in their lean years. But Dr. Fuji rather mischieviously rooted for the Tokyo Swallows; he wore a Swallows button on the lapel of his jacket.

Monday, September 21, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt eight)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

Once, an old man revealed to her on his deathbed, with such vividness she felt she was witnessing the act, that he had stabbed another man in the back and had watched him bleed to death. Though the murderer was not a Christian, Sister Sasaki told him that God forgave him, and he died in comfort. Another old man had, like many Kyushu miners, been a drunkard. He had had a sordid reputation; his family had abandoned him. In the home, he tried with pathetic eagerness to please everyone. He volunteered to carry coal from storage bings, and he stoked the building’s boiler. He had cirrhosis of the liver, and had been warned not to accept the daily ration of five ounces of distilled spirits that the Garden of St. Joseph mercifully issued to the former miners. But he continued to drink it. Vomiting at the supper table one night, he ruptured a blood vessel. It took him three days to die. Sister Sasaki stayed beside him all that time, holding his hand, so that he might die knowing that, living, he had pleased her.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt seven)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

A few hours after the operation, a ligature of one of the blood vessels into the lung cavity gave way, and Dr. Sasaki suffered severe hemorrhaging for nearly a week. One day toward the end of that time, as he continued to cough up blood and grew worrisomely feeble, there gathered around him what he construed as a death-watch: his wife, Dr. Hattori, the hospital matron, several nurses. He thanked them, said goodbye to his wife, and died.

Or, rather, he thought he died. Some time later, he regained consciousness and found himself on the mend.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt six)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

On August 18th, twelve days after the bomb burst, Father Kleinsorge set out on foot for Hiroshima from the Novitiate with his papier-mâché suitcase in his hand. He had begun to think that this bag, in which he kept his valuables, had a talismanic quality, because of the way he had found it after the explosion, standing handle-side up in the doorway of his room, while the desk under which he had previously hidden it was in splinters all over the floor. Now he was using it to carry the yen belonging to the Society of Jesus to the Hiroshima branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank, already reopened in its half-ruined building. On the while, he felt quite well that morning. It is true that the minor cuts he had received had not healed in three or four days, as the rector of the Novitiate, who had examined them, had positively promised they would, but Father Kleinsorge had rested well for a week and considered that he was again ready for hard work. By now he was accustomed to the terrible scene through which he walked on his way into the city: the large rice field near the Novitiate, streaked with brown; the houses on the outskirts of the city, standing but decrepit, with broken windows and dishevelled tiles; and then, quite suddenly, the beginning of the four square miles of reddish-brown scar, where nearly everything had been buffeted down and burned, range on range of collapsed city blocks, with here and there a crude sign erected on a pile of ashes and tiles (“Sister, where are you?” or “All safe and we live at Toyosaka); naked trees and canted telephone poles; the few standing, gutted buildings only accentuating the horizonality of everything else (the Museum of Science and Industry, with its dome stripped to its steel frame, as if for an autopsy; the modern Chamber of Commerce Building, its tower as cold, rigid, and unassailable after the blow as before; the huge, low-lying, camouflaged city hall; the row of dowdy banks, caricaturing a shaken economic system0; and in the streets a macabre of traffic—hundreds of crumpled bicycles, shells of streetcars and automobiles, all halted in mid-motion. The whole way, Father Kleinsorge was oppressed by the thought that all the damage he saw had been done in one instant by one bomb. By the time he reached the center of town, the day had become very hot. He walked to the Yokohama Bank, which was doing business in a temporary wooden stall on the ground floor of its building, deposited the money, went by the mission compound just to have another look at the wreckage, and then started back to the Novitiate. About halfway there, he began to have peculiar sensations. The more or less magical suitcase, now empty, suddenly seemed terribly heavy. His knees grew weak. He felt excruciatingly tired. With a considerable expenditure of spirit, he managed to reach the Novitiate. He did not think his weakness was worth mentioning to the other Jesuits. But a couple of days later, while attempting to say Mass, he had an onset of faintness and even after three attempts was unable to go through with the service, and the next morning the rector, who had examined Father Kleinsorge’s apparently negligible but unhealed cuts daily, asked in surprise, “What have you done to your wounds?” They had suddenly opened wider and were swollen and inflamed.

Friday, September 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt five)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

On August 9th, Mr. Tanimoto was still working in the park. He went to the suburb of Ushida, where his wife was staying with friends, and got a tent which he had stored there before the bombing. He now took it to the park and set it up as a shelter for some of the wounded who could not move or be moved. Whatever he did in the park, he felt he was being watched by the twenty-year-old girl, Mrs. Kamai, his former neighbor, whom he had seen on the day the bomb exploded, with her dead baby daughter in her arms. She kept the small corpse in her arms for four days, even though it began smelling bad on the second day. Once, Mrs. Tanimoto sat with her for a while, and she told him that the bomb had buried her under their house with the baby strapped to her back, and that when she had dug herself free, she had discovered that the baby was choking, its mouth full of dirt. With her little finger, she had carefully cleaned out the infant’s mouth, and for a time the child had breathed normally and seemed all right; then suddenly it had died. Mrs. Tamai also talked about what a fine man her husband was, and again urged Mr. Tanimoto to search for him. Since Mr. Tanimoto had been all through the city the first day and had seen terribly burned soldiers from Kamai’s post, the Chugoku Regional Army Headquarters, everywhere, he knew it would be impossible to find Kamai, even if he were living, but of course he didn’t tell her that. Every time she saw Mr. Tanimoto, she asked whether he had found her husband. Once, he tried to suggest that it was time to cremate the baby, but Mrs. Kamai only held it tighter. He began to keep away from her, but whenever he looked at her, she was staring at him and her eyes asked the same question. He tried to escape her glance by keeping his back turned to her as much as possible.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt four)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

When Mr. Tanimoto, with his basin still in his hand, reached the park, it was very crowded, and to distinguish the living from the dead was not easy, for most of the people lay still, with their eyes open. To Father Kleinsorge, an Occidental, the silence in the grove by the river, where hundreds of gruesomely wounded suffered together, was one of the most dreadful and awesome phenomena of his whole experience. The hurt ones were quiet; no one wept, much less screamed in pain; no one complained; none of the many who died did so noisily; not even the children cried; very few people even spoke. And when Father Kleinsorge gave water to some whose faces had been almost blotted out by flash burns, they took their share and then raised themselves a little and bowed to him, in thanks.

Mr. Tanimoto greeted the priests and then looked around for other friends. He saw Mrs. Matsumoto, wife of the director of the Methodist School, and asked her if she was thirsty. She was, so he went to one of the pools in the Asano rock gardens and got water for her in his basin. Then he decided to try to get back to his church. He went into Nobori-cho by the way the priests had taken as they escaped, but he did not get far; the fire along the streets was so fierce that he had to turn back. He walked to the riverbank and began to look for a boat in which he might carry some of the most severely injured across the river from Asano Park and away from the spreading fire. Soon he found a good-sized pleasure punt drawn up on the bank, but in and around it was an awful tableau—five dead men, nearly naked, badly burned, who must have expired more or less all at once, for they were in attitudes which suggested that they had been working together to push the boat down into the river. Mr. Tanimoto lifted them away from the boat, and as he did so, he experienced such horror at disturbing the dead—preventing them, he momentarily felt, from launching their craft and going on their ghostly way—that he said out loud, “Please forgive me for taking this boat. I must use it for others, who are alive.” The punt was heavy, but he managed to slide it into the water. There were no oars, and all he could find for propulsion was a thick bamboo pole. He worked the boat upstream to the most crowded part of the park and began to ferry the wounded. He could pack ten or twelve into the boat for each crossing, but as the river was too deep in the center to pole his way across, he had to paddle with the bamboo, and consequently each trip took a very long time. He worked several hours that way.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt three)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

The lot of Drs. Fujii, Kanda, and Machii right after the explosion—and, as these three were typical, that of the majority of the physicians and surgeons of Hiroshima—with their offices and hospitals destroyed, their equipment scattered, their own bodies incapacitated in varying degrees, explained why so many citizens who were hurt went untended and why so many who might have lived died. Of a hundred and fifty doctors in the city, sixty-five were already dead and most of the rest were wounded. Of 1,780 nurses, 1,654 were dead or too badly hurt to work. In the biggest hospital, that of the Red Cross, only six doctors out of thirty were able to function, and only ten nurses out of more than two hundred. The sole uninjured doctor on the Red Cross Hospital staff was Dr. Sasaki. After the explosion, he hurried to a storeroom to fetch bandages. This room, like everything he had seen as he ran through the hospital, was chaotic—bottles of medicines thrown off shelves and broken, salves spattered on the walls, instruments strewn everywhere. He grabbed up some bandages and an unbroken bottle of Mercurochrome, hurried back to the chief surgeon, and bandaged his cuts. Then he went out into the corridor and began patching up the wounded patients and the doctors and nurses there. He blundered so without his glasses that he took a pair off the face of a wounded nurse, and although they only approximately compensated for the errors of his vision, they were better than nothing. (He was to depend on them for more than a month.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt two)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

Dr. Fujii had been relatively idle for about a month because in July, as the number of untouched cities in Japan dwindled and as Hiroshima seemed more and more inevitably a target, he began turning patients away, on the ground that in case of a fire raid he would not be able to evacuate them. Now he had only two patients left—a woman from Yano, injured in the shoulder, and a young man of twenty-five recovering from burns he had suffered when the steel factory near Hiroshima in which he worked had been hit. Dr. Fujii had six nurses to tend to his patients. His wife and children were safe; his wife and one seon were living outside Osaka, and another son and two daughters were in the country on Kyushu. A niece was living with him, and a maid and a manservant. He had little to do and did not mind, for he had saved some money. At fifty, he was healthy, convivial, and calm, and he was pleased to pass the evenings drinking whiskey with friends, always sensibly and for the sake of conversation. Before the war, he had affected brands imported from Scotland and America; now he was perfectly satisfied with the best Japanese brand, Suntory.

Dr. Fujii sat down cross-legged in his underwear on the spotless matting of the porch, put on his glasses, and started reading the Osaka Asabi. He liked to read the Osaka news because his wife was there. He saw the flash. To him—faced away from the center and looking at his paper—it seemed a brilliant yellow. Startled, he began to rise to his feet. In that moment (he was 1,550 yards from the center), the hospital leaned behind his rising and, with a terrible ripping noise, toppled into the river. The Doctor, still in the act of getting to his feet, was thrown forward and around and over; he was buffeted and gripped; he lost track of everything, because things were so speeded up; he felt the water.

Monday, September 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (Hiroshima by John Hersey, excerpt one)

from Hiroshima by John Hersey:

Mrs. Nakamura went back to the kitchen, looked at the rice, and began watching the man next door. At first, she was annoyed with him for making so much noise, but then she was moved almost to tears by pity. Her emotion was specifically directed toward her neighbor, tearing down his home, board by board, at a time when there was so much unavoidable destruction, but undoubtedly she also felt a generalized, community pity, to say nothing of self-pity. She had not had an easy time. Her husband, Isawa, had gone into the Army just after Myeko was born, and she had heard nothing from or of him for a long time, until, on March 5, 1942, she received a seven-word telegram: “Isawa died an honorable death at Singapore.” She learned later that he had died on February 15th, the day Singapore fell, and that he had been a corporal. Isawa had been a not particularly prosperous tailor, and his only capital was a Sankoku sewing machine. After his death, when his allotments stopped coming, Mrs. Nakamura got out the machine and began to take in piecework herself, and since then had supported the children, but poorly, by sewing.

As Mrs. Nakamura stood watching her neighbor, everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step (the house was 1,350 yards, or three-quarters of a mile, from the center of the explosion) when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt fourteen)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Tasan was introduced to Diup Wuluff. Diup was a West African who had made several attempts to create an African theatre in Harlem by drawing upon his extensive knowledge of native African amusement patterns. But he had never tasted the sweet fruit of success with any of his ventures. He possessed original ideas of the native African scene but could not develop and clothe them properly to meet the exigencies of the modern American stage. He had staged impressive exhibtiions in obscure Harlem places. There were parts that came up heaving like the hulk of an elephant or sharp like the menacing horn of a furious rhinoceros, but they were never expertly welded together to make the whole of the performance a triumph. And apparently Diup could not or would not learn the sophisticated tricks.

When Maxim Tasan made contact with Diup, the latter was destitute and willing to sell his talents for any fee. He supplied Tasan with details of the various native African pastimes. And one above all fascinated Tasan—the Society of African Leopard Men. Tasan thought that nothing could be more original than staging a leopard dance in Harlem. Harlem had witnessed many curiously native African things: dances of African masks, fetishers and medicine men in an orgy of supernatural manifestations, totem-taboo extravangazas, festivals of circumcision, and rituals of obscure primitive phallicisms. But Harlem had never had a leopard dance. And that was Maxim Tasan’s choice.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt thirteen)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“It is the Ku Klux Klan stringing up your people and not the Comintern,” shouted Tasan. “The whole goddam colored race should be grateful to Soviet Russia and the Comintern. Look what we did for them in the Scottsboro case. We summoned the United States before the bar of the world to be judged and condemned for degrading and outlawing its colored minority. Yet their treacherous ungrateful Uncle Tom boot-licking leaders try to poison the minds of the people and turn them against the Communists. I wish I had the power to turn loose a band of Cossacks among them to teach them a lesson.”

“The Cossacks are far away,” said Alamaya, “but the Ku Klux Klan is right here. I wouldn’t be surprised if you made a deal with them to ginger up their persecution of Aframericans, just as you supplied the Fascists with materials to conquer Ethiopia. Blackmail and gangsterism are Communist tactics just as they are the Fascists’.”

Tasan grimaced. “You will find that out in Ethiopia.”

Friday, September 11, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt twelve)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

After lunch she went to the Second Avenue apartment and took out of her trunk the envelope with the Emperor’s letter and the photographs and put it in her handbag. She returned to the office to work on the indexing of some lists of names and addresses. But when she placed her bag on the desk, she imagined that it might develop wings and fly out of the room. She imagined that somebody might come in and pounce upon it. She imagined the funniest things and, feeling that the bag was not safe unless she was holding it in her hand, she could not work. Nervous and scared she seized the bag, holding it tightly, as if it were an eel trying to wriggle out of her grasp, and rushed out of the office.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt eleven)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“That is the Trotskyite point of view, comrade,” said the Frenchman. “I too used to think that Trotsky was right in his attacks upon Stalin as an unscrupulous and diabolical dictator. But I am convinced now that Trotsky is wrong. He is too purely intellectual, too much of a theorist. Trotsky is not a practical statesman.”

Flagg excitedly thumped the table. “I am not a Trotskyite. Trotsky is a Communist. I am not a Communist. Trotsky believes in the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, even though it is crucifying him. I don’t believe in any dictatorship. But Trotsky is a great intellect and I believe he should have the right to speak to the world. Jerusalem had its Jeremiahs and Troy its Cassandras. But the Stalinites are making use of the Popular Front to silence and persecute all those who are opposed to them. They make tools of the near-sighted liberals to do their dirty work. They have revived the Inquisition; they have a blacklist of organizations and individuals: teachers, ministers, labor leaders, ordinary workers, doctors, publishers, editors, artists and writers—all those whom they cannot dominate or influence. My dear Sir, the Popular Front is a fraud and the prostitute of Stalin. God save the world from the Popular Front.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt ten)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

It was a small dinner party at Mrs. Witern’s. She never had many people to dinner, because of the state of her husband’s health. Besides Bunchetta and Seraphine, there was Mrs. Abigail Hobison, who was accompanied by Mr. Hall Ming, a young Chinese, and Mr. Montague Claxon. It was a plain dinner, hot broth in cups, a platter full of appetizers (olives, celery, pickles, shrimp, miniature frankfurters), mashed potatoes, boiled carrots and grilled filet of beef.

No kind of liquor was served before or during the dinner. Mr. Witern was once a connoisseur of wines and liquors but he could no longer take any alcoholic drinks because of his physical condition. Out of consideration for him, Mrs. Witern never had any with meals. As his right side was entirely paralysed, Mr. Witern ate with his left hand only. The butler had his meat cut into small pieces before it was placed before him.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt nine)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“She must be sex crazy to put on such an exhibition in such a place,” said Peixota. “It’s a rotten dive, raw and slimy like the afterbirth of a cow.”

Peixota’s first reaction to the place was not unfavorable. It had appeared to him like a big carousing depot for disoriented young people, of which it was regrettable there were so many in Harlem. And he was inclined to conjecture that the Sufi perhaps had a special grudge against the owners and was overstepping his license as a popular agitator to hurt their business. He was opposed to bigotry and would combat it in a Sufi Abdul Hamid as much as in a Maxim Tasan. He could not apprehend what disgusted the Sufi about the establishment, for his eyes were not keen nor his ears sensitive to detect the secret signs and suggestive erotomania of the underworld.

Monday, September 7, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt eight)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Peixota said that had he felt convinced about the Emperor making such a statement, he would wash his hands of the organization. But he would believe that Haile Selassie could be so discourteous to Aframericans. Alamaya said that even if the Emperor had said anything, he believed that the newspaper item was an exaggeration. He continued to explain why Ethiopia considered itself an African and not a “Negro” state and said that “Abyssinian” was also objectionable and never used. And just as many thousands of Aframericans considered “Negro” an offensive word and even banned it in conversation and in print, so the Ethiopians preferred to be designated by their ancient original name, “Ethiopian.”

The others were in agreement with Lij Alamaya. Dorsey Flagg said that Koazhy was not just a fool eccentric, when he took an African name and declared that Aframericans and Africans should abolish the word “Negro” because it did not originate among the Africans, but was of European creation. He pointed out that other peoples and countries had changed names, Ireland to Eire, Persians to Iranians. The largest circulating New York daily newspaper never used the word “Negro” but “colored” instead, and it looked better in print than “Negro,” sometimes with a large and sometimes with a small “N,” which was favored by the other newspapers. It was awkward to see a newspaper print, “Mrs. Ada Jones, Negro.” Such a rule was not followed in printing the names of Spanish, Italian, Jewish, or Mongolian people. He, Flagg, was not partial to “colored”; he preferred “Aframerican.” The Rev. Zebulon Trawl suggested that the Aframerican churches should call a national conference and decide upon a name. Dorsey Flagg questioned whether the churches were representative enough to deal with such a matter and thought the Aframerican colleges more suitable. Pablo Peixota thought both churches and colleges might work together, but he considered the first more important, as most names had a religious origin and churches played a primary part in the naming of people.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt seven)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“It was the first nation to embrace Christianity—long before Rome—and every Ethiopian is proud of the fact. You know the legend. It was the eunuch of the Queen Candace who fanatically fell in love with Jesus, and as he was a person of great authority, he secceeded in converting the Ethiopians to Christianity. Before then, they were pagans, each man possessing many wives, like the other Africans and the Arabs.”

“It is a lovely story and your voice was so beautiful in telling it, Tekla, but—h’m—you’re not sorry that the Ethiopians were converted from the Barbarism of many wives to the civilized practice of one wife, are you?”

“Not at all. I’m a good Christian.”

“That’s nice. It seems silly to me that a man should want a lot of wives. How can he love all of them unless he’s an abnormal sexomaniac. It would be more natural for a woman to have many husbands.”

Saturday, September 5, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt six)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“I’d like you to tell me why you and your people are interested in Ethiopia. Why you are making sacrifices to defend the country. Is it just because they are a colored people like you?”

“Not at all. The Chinese and Hindus are colored, and we don’t have exactly the same sentiment for them that we have for Ethiopia. But Ethiopia is African and our people have their roots in Africa. It is the same sentiment that different white Americans have for Europe. They can’t feel just the same way about Africa and Asia, because their roots are European. It is a natural human feeling. If a native state can maintain its existence in Africa and hold its head up among the white nations, it adds up to the self-respect of the colored Americans. For Africa is the land of their ancestors, who were brought here in a state of degradation. When an African people do something that is fine and noble it also gives our people hope and courage to fight race and color prejudice here and strive to lift themselves up in a noble way. I don’t know if you will understand me, but a people live by tradition and self-respect as much as they do by food and drink.”

Friday, September 4, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt five)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Dorsey Flagg was not in the least agitated about the attempt to oust him from the Hands to Ethiopia committee. When Piexota told him of Newton Castle’s threat and the opposition to his membership, he declared that he was not worried and that no intrigue of unscrupulous Communists could scare him to resign or prevent him serving the cause of Ethiopia. Aside from their personal friendship, Peixota desired Flagg to serve on the committee precisely because he could be influential in allying the reluctant intelligentsia to support the Hands to Ethiopia organization. Even without his actually doing anything, the name of Dorsey Flagg on the committee meant a lot. His father had been a prominent Republican office-holder, a friend of Frederick Douglass and also of Booker T. Washington; a maternal uncle was a well-known bishop of the African Methodist Church. And so besides being a college professor, Dorsey Flagg was of real importance in those Aframerican circles that cherished every item, even the dead straws of traditional value. And although he was called a rough-neck intellectual on account of his propensity often to imbibe too much and show the effects of it, he was nevertheless welcome in exclusive Aframerican circles. However, he had drawn the fire of the Communists and the powerful Popular Front because, in an article widely publicized in the colored press, he defended some students who were formerly Soviet-minded but had come out against the Soviet Dictatorship and the Communist International. And worse, he declared that Leon Trotsky was a ruthlessly honest man and one of the greatest intellects of his time, even though he did not partake of his views.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt four)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

“Poor Tekla!” Seraphine drew closer and leaned against him. He was thinking about the party. Would he be invited to any more like it? A crowd of people coming together to drink and amuse themselves as best they could. And a few phrases spoken about Ethiopia, his country—ten million people fighting with medieval weapons against a nation of over sixty million, with colonials, with modern war machines, planes and tanks and gas. How long could they stand it, his people? In Menelik’s days it was different—the rifle and the spear were mighty weapons. But Haile Selassie was Menelik. He had tried to modernize Ethiopia, but the time was too short . . . The Italians were killing off his people, overrunning his country . . . And he was drinking cocktails at a party in New York. But people must amuse themselves to keep from going insane. Even under the terror, the soldiers at the front and the civilians behind the lines, both getting bombed and gassed just the same, they had their relaxation: cards, jokes, laughter, music, wine, women . . .

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt three)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Seraphine did not possess the beautiful regular features of her mother. But she was an arresting type with an extraordinary personality. Her father was a reddish person and so covered with freckles, he looked like a cinnamon sandwich. He had been nicknamed “Red” at college. Seraphine’s skin was so fair that her appearance was suggestive of an albino. She had inherited her father’s hair, which was a coarse dark-dull red. Her eyes were strange, the right one slightly bluish and the other of a chameleonlike yellowish tint. She was slender but taller than her mother.

In training Seraphine her mother had put a great deal of emphasis upon her making a competent hostess. She pushed her into the company of older people and to converse with them. Above all Mrs. Peixota impressed upon Seraphine’s mind the value of being always in the company of persons who were outstanding to some line and bolstered by an economic asset, a business or a decent job. And so even when she was in high school, Seraphine was always seen at affairs with people older than herself. She was often escorted to parties and dances by doctors or lawyers or other persons of prominence. She never gave much thought to the youngsters of her own age and so was not popular among the younger set. They often referred to her as black Peixota’s white daughter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt two)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Castle took the Sovietist Labor Herald from his briefcase and opened it out on the table. A full page was devoted to the monster demonstration. At the top left there was a photograph of the Emperor of Ethiopia, to the right one of Lij Tekla Alamaya, in the center the people were pictured massed before the church, and at the bottom the speakers were shown grouped on the platform. There was no photograph of Professor Koazhy and no mention of his speech. The accompanying article was dignified and sympathetic, with a forthright denunciation of Fascist Italy’s war against Ethiopia and an indictment of the governments of Great Britain and France in abetting Italy. The article concluded with the statement that Soviet Russia is the only nation interested in the fate of and fighting for the rights of small nations and minorities and colonial peoples.

Standing shoulder to shoulder Alamaya and Peixota read the article. It was the first time that Peixota had read the Labor Herald. He was impressed by the tone of the article and the fine display of pictures. Still he was not convinced that Dorsey Flagg should be ousted from the committee. He said that so soon after organizing a united group, they should not allow themselves to be divided by the Fascists and Communists. He could not see what colored people had to gain from either.