The Musicophilia Hole

I love music. It’s been part of my daily life and identity for as long as I can remember. I have noticed, however, that my ideas about music and even the ways I engage music have changed over time. Now, this is certainly not surprising. I’m older. Let’s hope I’m a little wiser. My life has changed in some wonderful ways. It makes sense that my ideas about music would change. I do often wonder, however, if there’s a little more too it. I read parts of Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia years ago. Lately, I’ve had a strong desire to dig in again. Sometimes a book comes to me long before I’m truly ready to receive it and I definitely think Musicophilia was one of those books. Now, I don’t expect to uncover the secrets to my current level of musical engagement necessarily, but I’m more and more curious about the ways the brain and music interact. Before I had a

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The Hate U Give: The Movie

I read The Hate U Give in 2017 when it was released. Overall, it was a pleasant read, but I had questions about the author’s approach to her chosen topic—officer involved shootings of unarmed black men. I commented in an earlier post on the difficulty of critiquing fiction that calls itself political. I also noted the glaring absence of Khalil’s story. Unfortunately, the big screen has a way of illuminating a story’s flaws and The Hate U Give was no different. The Hate U Give is a good movie. It is visually appealing. It isn’t boring in the least. Like the book, the story might be a touch too long, but that’s my only general critique. Overall, just as I did the book, I have no problem recommending the movie. The movie, however, does raise the same questions the book did. In fact, the treatment of the black male characters overall has a way of obscuring the point of the

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LGBT+ Fiction, Urban Fiction… I Have Questions

Last week I had some time and stopped by one of my favorite places, McKay’s. It’s really a treat when I have time during the week to go peruse the seemingly endless shelves of books. The store is quieter than it is on the weekend and it’s much easier to browse without having to squeeze by people. During the week, looking through the many books becomes a zen-like experience and this day was no different. Since I had time this particular day, I went down almost every aisle. I looked through the biographies, true crime, mystery, etc. As I was browsing, I turned onto an aisle that I’ve perused before. This aisle usually has nonfiction “cultural studies” titles categorized by cultural group. For example, there’s an African American Studies section and a Native American Studies section. This time, it was LGBT Studies that caught my eye. Right next to the bays of nonfiction titles about the LGBT experience are two

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I’m taking my time with a book and, for the first time, I’m enjoying it. I usually abandon books that take me too long to get through, but Michael Chabon peppers his story with sentences I have to stop and think about. It’s exhilarating.

She is getting old, and he is getting old, right on schedule, and yet as time ruins them, they are not, strangely enough, married to each other.

The Russian’s shoulders hunch, and he ducks his head, and his rib cage swells and narrows. It looks like laughter, but no sound comes out.

For an instant he handles the bones, horn, and leather of the old man’s hand.

Paying attention often requires some sort of empathy for the subject, or at the very least, for the speaker. But empathy, these days, is hard to come by. Maybe this is because everyone is having such a hard time being understood themselves. Or because empathy requires us to dig way down into the murk, deeper than our own feelings go, to a place where the boundaries between our experience and everyone else’s no longer exist.

~ Wendy S. Walters “Lonely in America” from The Fire This Time

Once a person truly dons this empathy, it demands that they keep their mouths closed and disregard everything they think they know. It requires them to listen with an awareness that opens their ears to something they’ve never heard before, something that sounds so unbelievable that, in any other context, they might think it fiction. When they choose to pay attention they may find that boundaries dissipate, but they may also find that, in some ways, the life they live is a fantasy and some wake up every day in hell.

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things

I learned of the book Small Great Things from a black woman perusing a local Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago. She was holding it, planning to buy it because of the good things she’d heard. Other readers she spoke with seemed impressed by the author’s ability to discuss black hair even though she—a white woman—likely had no personal experience with the idea. I forgot about this conversation until I noticed the paperback in Target a few weeks ago. While I had my doubts about the book—writing race and racism isn’t any easy thing—I was now curious enough to give it a chance. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, for me, this wasn’t just a book about a black nurse facing discrimination, but a prime example of the reasons black readers are often skeptical of black stories penned by white authors. I had my doubts about Jodi Picoult’s ability to write a black character’s experience

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He sighed, he moaned. He tugged in fits at the patchy remnant of his brown hair, or chased it with his fingers back and forth across his pate like a pastry chef scattering flour on a marble slab. The blunders of his opponents were each a separate cramp in the abdomen. His own moves, however daring, however startling and original and strong, struck him like successive pieces of terrible news, so that he covered his mouth and rolled his eyes at the sight of them.

~From The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat

Rabbit is a book I definitely recommend. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story like this one. I mean, I’ve certainly read similar ones, but this one seemed so packed with struggle and unbelievable incidents that it could’ve easily been fiction. The facts of the story are heavy, to say the least, but the light, fast-paced approach to the writing had the effect of making the story feel normal. I only wish I walked away with a better feel for who Ms. Pat is, her personality, her sense of humor. I didn’t know who Ms. Pat was before reading Rabbit, so I had never seen her stand-up. I had never seen her or heard her speak. So, I was disappointed and a little confused when I didn’t walking away thinking of Ms. Pat as funny. I mean, there were some moments, but overall, I didn’t really understand why comedy became her career. So, I went searching and one interview was

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Nobody had ever talked to me like this before: not Granddaddy, not any of my regular teachers, and definitely not Mama. In my family, we all moved in the same direction, hustling and scheming and getting nowhere. That was the path laid out in front of me. But now here was Miss Troup–in all her leather-boot and red-fingernail finery–telling me I could go another way. I took a deep breath and gazed at my reflection. You can do anything and be anything, I thought, trying it on for size. But I wasn’t totally convinced I had a place in Miss Troup’s world of “possibilities” and “potential.”

~ From Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat, Patricia Williams