So here I am, making good on my word. In my last post I said I would try to keep up to posting twice a month. And here I am posting again for the second time in July. It’s an achievement, really.
Shit I’ve gotten published or posted elsewhere
I did an interview with crime writer Charlie Stella for Neon Grisly. I think my questions were a little on the basic side, but man did Charlie give some great answers. I found it inspiring. You’ll have to read it to find out exactly why, but his story of becoming a writer gave me encouragement to stick to it. Charlie’s also got some great reading recommendations, which I’ve already started on.
Shit I’ve read
This right here is an incredible book. To be honest, I picked it up because of the cover. The bleakness of it just spoke to me as something I’d be in to. I was a little disappointed at first that the story’s told in first person – I don’t know, it just felt like I’d get a better view of the world if it were set in third person – but I got over that pretty quickly.
Much like Dodgers, which I talked about in my last post, this book’s main character is born into a life of crime. Instead of a young black man in Los Angeles – the case in Dodgers – the protagonist here is a young white man in Appalachia. It’s not a life he chose, nor one he’s particularly well suited for. To me, in an age of decreasing social mobility, books and stories about people being stuck are incredibly important.
I’m not going to give a full review here, but I will tell you that the best parts of this book are the protagonist’s reflections on his own life.
Here’s my favorite excerpt:
“There was never a moment in my life when I bought into the idea of light at the end of the tunnel. That old adage rests entirely on the direction being traveled. Out of darkness toward the light, folks might find some sort of hope in moving forward, some sort of anticipation for what awaits them. But my entire life I’d been traveling in the opposite direction, and for those who move further into darkness, the light becomes a thing onto which we can only look back. Looking back slows you down. Looking back destroys focus. Looking back can get you killed.”
I’ve been thinking about that passage a lot since reading it. I’ll talk more later on in this post about that.
Shit I’ve seen
You’ve probably heard of HBO’s new show, The Night Of. It’s about a naïve college student that makes some bad but kind of typical and understandable bad decisions and ends up getting in trouble with the law. I don’t want to say any more than that about the plot for fear of ruining it before somebody gets a chance to watch it, but I think it gives an accurate depiction of what it’s like to get caught up in the criminal justice system – it’s a freakin’ nightmare.
Riz Ahmed, who plays the protagonist, Nas, is great. His facial expressions alone make you empathize with what the character is going through. It’s just one more thing that adds to the very authentic feeling the shows gives off. The kid looks absolutely terrified. He’s seeing some rough stuff and the way he reacts makes you realize that no, there’s no way this kid is ready for what’s in store for him.
Shit I’ve been thinking about/politics
July 2016 is shaping up to be a real month from Hell. In the U.S. there have been more incidents of police shooting unarmed black men (Here’s a story of one I find particularly disturbing). Despite this I still see and hear people claim that police violence against African Americans is not a significant problem and that it’s blown out of proportion by the media.
In Nice, France, a man of Tunisian descent drove a truck through a crowd of people during a Bastille Day celebration and killed 84 people. I watched my Facebook feed fill with Trump quotes and all sorts of nonsense about terrorism before anyone knew anything at all about the attacker. It’s not like it’s just the Trump folks that do things like this either. As the group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting has pointed out, the New York Times also labeled the incident an act of terror with very little evidence. Meanwhile, a U.S.-led coalition strike against ISIS in Syria killed at least 85 civilians and got next to zero coverage on major new outlets.
There’s so much more I could go on about, but chances are you’ve already heard about it. Anyway, I’m familiar with arguments that we’ve actually witnessed a decrease in violence in the world over the last one hundred years. I’m also aware that there have been great strides in healthcare that can help people live longer and healthier lives. Technology helps us communicate better with one another. And shit, we’ve got Netflix. But, like the protagonist in Where All Light Tends to Go, which I mentioned above, I can’t claim in the midst of all of this that it feels like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It certainly feels like – and here’s some evidence that it’s more than a feeling – that things are in fact getting worse, like we’re moving away from the light and not towards it.
I’d actually go further and say that the notion of progress in general, regardless of what’s going on at the moment, is problematic. The idea of permanent progress, at least. As much as I would like to agree with Martin Luther King Jr. in saying that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice, I just don’t see it. I see some steps forward and then I see some steps backward. In fact, I don’t see any sort of arc leading anywhere at all.