The Reads! (Updated)

I read because, if I didn’t, I would feel stupid.  That’s the only reason. And I read because, you know, it’s important.  Think of reading as little knowledge darts inside your brain pan, enlarging your brain naturally, not unnaturally like some of those pills you get on the internet.  Anyway, here is a list of the stuff I’m reading.

James Baldwin Short Story Collection:  I don’t think I like James Baldwin.  I mean, he’s alright, but I’m not in love with the guy.  Yes, I know, I know. Black people are supposed to like what all other black people have done. Solidarity and all that.  Blah blah blah. I don’t care.  James Baldwin’s writing is emotional and insightful and describes the black experience artfully and intelligently.  The brother can play with words.  But, I mean, let’s be real. I don’t like his stories. I just don’t.  Is it my fault or his fault?  Well, I’ll be happy to take the blame. I can’t connect to James Baldwin’s stories because I connect to them too well.  It’s like going to a movie and then realizing that the movie is about you. You know the plot, you’ve seen it before.  There are no surprises and you don’t learn anything. You sort of just sit in the chair and go, “Yes. I agree.”  That’s what I’m doing with James Baldwin. I’m going, “Yes, that is what being in an African-American house with a stepfather that you hate is like.”  I’ve been in an African-American household with a stepfather that I hate. I don’t need to read stories about being in an African-American household with a stepfather that I hate. I’ve got better things to do.  I’m going to try and push through this collection, though, and then work on some of his essays.  The brother has something to say. I need to be receptive to it.

The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith: I enjoy reading economic books, for some damn reason. It’s engaging, the discussion of money and the movement of resources from the bottom 99% to the Herman Cain’s of the world. I honestly can’t tell you why I enjoy it.  Maybe because capitalism is a slow moving horror story and I like reading about death and destruction. The Affluent Society deals with the many issues with a society that is too rich and doesn’t have enough problems.  A particular quote sums up the ideas of audience, appeal, and the introduction of new ideas.  “Audiences of all kinds most applaud what they like best. And in social comment, the test of audience approval, far more than the test of truth, comes to influence comment.”  The concept is that an audience wants reaffirmation of what they like. They don’t want to hear about things they don’t like. This causes new ideas to be harder and harder to introduce to a population.  Galbraith coined the term “Conventional Wisdom” to give us a vocabulary.  New ideas are rejected until old ideas no longer hold up to scrutiny.  It’s a good read.  Lots of references to Adam Smith and all that jazz.  I’d be lying if I said that I completely understand all of it. But, I mean, I’m not here to impress you guys.  That is a side-effect, though.

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness by Toure’: First, I think it’s a bit weird to go around saying your name is Toure’ and that’s it.  I know names are brands now, and that we sell ourselves the minute we meet other people. Still, in writing and presentation, Toure’ comes off as a preachy dick.  In the first page of his book, he talks about how he was at this high end fundraiser for Obama in 2008, with Oprah hanging on his arm and shit. Fuck you, Toure’. What? Are we in high school now?  Bobby asked me out to the prom and gave me his Letter Jacket! I can’t wait to make all the other girls jealous!  The sad part is that, yeah, Toure’ is a smart brother and he has some good things to say.  Here’s one of them.   “A lot of Blacks are silently excommunicated from Blackness inside the borders of race while being seen as only Black outside the race.”  That is truer than anything I’ve read in five years.  Being a Black person is hard.  It is a strange movement.  You can work all your life, do all the right things, achieve all your goals and then become ostracized for it by your own people.  It’s frustrating, and no one better than Toure’ can describe the frustration. He’s smart, talented and well received by White and Blacks, which means he is rejected by blacks for it.  Is he still a pretentious jerk?  Yes. But he’s earned it, I think. He wears it well.  And as long as you don’t care about what other people think about you, pretention feels a lot like arrogance and arrogance feels very similar to self-confidence. And there ain’t nothing better than a smart, well received, well educated, self confident brother.  That’s what I’ve been reading.

Update: You’ve probably noticed that Toure’s name is crossed out in that section. That’s because the part I was referencing was the preface, writing by Michael Eric Dyson. He was the dick, not Toure’. And, after reading deeper, it turns out that Toure’ has some pretty good things to day, without sounding like Michael Eric Dyson, who sounded like a dick. Anyway, this little adventure confirms what I always knew to be true. Reading Prefaces is always a waste of time.