Writing the Novel

Our beloved ex-president Barack Obama once said of the role of the U.S. in the contemporary world–that we, Americans don’t have to stress about controlling the entire narrative in a world that requires cooperation of diverse nations to function well. America in the 21st century can only write a paragraph; moreover, if the paragraph is composed well, then it’s job is done.

British Indian novelist, Amit Chaudhuri makes a similar claim on the value of the paragraph in a novel. He writes that he prefers the singular paragraph, not only over the much-touted “strong beginning,” but also over the cogency of the narrative superstructure that serves as the cache of the novel’s mainstream actions.

There is Something About the N-Word

A good introduction by Jelani Cobb to the complex historical, emotional, and racial ecology in which the “N-word” is mired:

The epithet has the upper hand. While the highest stage of celebrity may be recognition by the first name, the epithet has achieved a new standard: recognition by first letter. Pity nefarious, nephritic, nihilist, nepotistic, nascent, neophyte, all N-words, but none freighted enough to be the N-word. Not niggardly either–it’s in the vicinity but unrelated. The N-word is so potent, so evocative, and so enduring that even without five-sixths of its  letters we still know whom and what it’s about.  The conventions of polite conversation seek to delete not only those vowels and consonants but the entire obscene history that the word conjures–and the complex, contradictory ways in which the subjects of that history have sought to come to terms with it.

The Root Cause of Poverty in America is a “Mind-Set?”

The United States of America has earned the shameful notoriety of having the highest level of poverty in the developed world. While ignoring structural issues that create and sustain poverty in this country, Ben Carson, the newly appointed head of HUD, claims that the poor are poor because they don’t have the “right mind-set” to overcome economic adversity.

Scholars, on the other hand, refute this half-baked theory by reversing the correlation: Poverty causes the mind set to weaken, not the other way round as is well argued in the ground-breaking book Scarcity.

The Specter of Communism in America

A specter of Communism lurks in the harsh yet hidden structures of unequal and exploitative power structures of America:

[There] has always been a gap between the narrative of American greatness and the realities of people’s lives. What American Communists, at their best, pioneered was to show how effectively grass-roots movements can challenge the racism, state violence and economic exploitation that people face in their daily lives, and connect those fights to a broader vision of a just world.

Teaching Children about Communism

Communism for kids.jpgIn America, the word “communism” is not simply misunderstood but monstrosized, hence radically othered.

M.I.T. Press has recently published a primer on Communism for children. It’s a translation of German scholar Bini Adamczak’s book.

The conservative/alt-right media has, as expected, excoriated the book without perhaps reading it, according to the book’s American translator, Jacob Blumenfeld.

Far from being a wicked endeavor to brainwash children into normalizing genocide, gulag-running, praise Satan and destroy Western civilization (which is an ongoing project undertaken by real Satanic forces anyways), the book, according to Blumenthal is a “critique of of the history of Communism.” But the critique is “immanent” meaning it begins by accepting the premises of what it seeks to criticize.

An immanent critique one could say is the polar opposite of monstrosizing.

 

Saudi Arabia as a Modern Gilead

 

Mona Eltahawy, author of the courageous book on the violence of deep patriarchy in Saudi Arabia, writes a great piece in the NYT on Saudi Arabia as a modern Gilead.

Gilead is the city made famous in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Gilead is synonymous with women’s reproductive labor camp, a place of the distant future (overlapping with the U.S.A.) where women are properties of men.

The point about Saudi Arabia as a gender-repressive regime is significant in light of President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. He trumpeted the kingdom as glorious.

Muslim Gilead