“There’s a difference between writing and politics. In politics, if somebody shouts at you, you get very angry, and you decide you want to get revenge, but as a writer, you go through pain and you can use that pain. It doesn’t mean you’re not feeling it, but you can analyze that pain to make you better as a writer.” —Michael Dobbs quoted in Alexandra Wolfe, “Weekend Confidential: Michael Dobbs--The British Politician and ‘House of Cards’ Creator Prefers the Writing Life,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28-March 1, 2015
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Friday, August 18, 2017
“Admiration, n.: Our polite recognition of another's resemblance to ourselves.”— U.S. journalist, satirist and short-story writer Ambrose Bierce (1842 – 1914?), The Devil's Dictionary (1906)
Thursday, August 17, 2017
“When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don't repeat it.” — Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant (1913-1983), quoted in Creed and Heidi Tyline King, I Ain't Never Been Nothing but a Winner: Coach Paul Bear Bryant's 323 Greatest Quotes About Success, On and Off the Football Field (2000)
This past week, guess who did repeat his mistake?
One hint: the man that Spy Magazine once aptly called a “short-fingered vulgarian.”
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.”— African-American poet-editor Claude McKay (1890-1948), “America” (1921), in Selected Poems of Claude McKay (1953)
As I thought of this past weekend’s horrifying events in Charlottesville, Va., I came across this poem. It was written at a particularly low point in this country’s history, after Jim Crow had become entrenched not just at the state and local level but, at the behest of southern-born President Woodrow Wilson, through much of the federal government.
Personally, I favor setting monuments to prominent Confederate figures in a historical context rather than removing them. But the ugly hate and violence displayed in the town that Thomas Jefferson called home demonstrates not merely that these sculptures give tangible form to the inexpressible sorrows of a region that suffered much in a war fought 150 years ago, but also that they hold special potency to all too many bigots today.
This is the “bread of bitterness” that Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay assailed nearly a century ago. Our job today is to assure that the venom of the “tiger’s tooth” in America then will be drained for good.
For those despairing of America’s true place in the world, it would do well to recall the Jamaican-born McKay’s own ideological journey. A Communist when he penned these lines, he eventually turned against what was widely regarded as the political and social order of the future. Despite all the problems he still perceived in race relations, he nevertheless became an American citizen in 1940.
(For more about McKay and the poem "America," please see this post from the Workman Publishing blog featuring a conversation with school librarian and author James Klise.)
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
“Shyness is often seen as just a shrinking away from the crowd, a retreat from social life. But it also involves redirecting our social instincts into other areas, like writing. We write partly because we feel that other kinds of dialogue have failed, and that we need to speak at one remove if we are to speak at all. Writing draws, just as shyness does, on what the French call l’esprit de l’escalier: that conversation we carry on in our heads after the other person has gone.”—Joe Moran, “Do Shy People Make the Best Writers?”, The Daily Beast, March 11, 2017