19 March 2007

Notes of a NCAA reject.

My bracket is busted. Let's just say you shouldn't put much faith in badgers; they are very nasty animals indeed. Philip over at Bridge Street Books told me on Saturday that ESPN.com had 3 million entries to their bracket challenge this year and that by the end of round 1 only 62 were still correct. That's amazing attrition.

I was over at Bridge Street picking up a few books. One was The Portable Beat Reader, which I purchased mainly for use in class, because god knows I read enough Kerouac and Burroughs when I was in college myself and really don't need to read much more now (although I suppose I should return to On the Road and give it another chance, this time as a scholar rather than as a sponge trying to soak up whatever I could). I'm trying to find my copy of an incredible reading Ginsberg did of "America" back in the old days at City Lights or the Berkeley Library or somewhere like that. It's rollicking and everyone is having fun.

The other book I picked up was James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. I've come late to the Baldwin party, having avoided him in large part because of an essay he wrote attacking Richard Wright ("Everybody's Protest Novel"), whom I greatly admire. As a result, I really only read a few of his short stories. However, this winter I read Baldwin's No Name in the Streets and was amazed at the power in his critique of racism. So I figured I'd pick up its antecedent to piece together, backwards style, both the prediction of great racial turmoil in The Fire Next Time and the post-mortem Baldwin performs in No Name in the Streets. Even when it proves you correct, it's a very sad thing to have predictions of death and destruction come true.

I haven't finished The Fire Next Time, but I'm already of the opinion that everyone in the United States of America should read this short book.


mysterygirl! said...

Blech-- no On the Road! That book is so masturbatory. But I guess I'm bitter because there's no room for women on the road, except to make sure that the men's physical needs are met in each port. Ah, a life for which we should all strive.

On the other hand, I'm intrigued by your depiction of The Fire Next Time.

Reya Mellicker said...

Don't tell anyone that I'm so uncool, but the beats do nothing for me. At a poetry party way back when, a friend stood up and recited HOWL in its entirety, something we should have been able to admire. Instead, it broke up the party. They're all so pretentious. And mysterygril! is correct - they were pigs.

James Baldwin's work, on the other hand, especially The Fire Next Time is brilliant. Well worth a re-read.

Reya Mellicker said...

"They" being the beats, not my friends.

cuff said...

Reya and MG!: Unfortunately, if we threw out all the pretentious pigs from literature, we'd be left with about half of what's worthwhile...

I'm not sure that reciting Howl in its entirety could do anything but kill a party...it's so damn long. Better to stick to a shorter poem like "America."

Much of Kerouac's stuff is silly and womanizing, but for my money he's overcompensating for the heavy homoeroticism of both his real life and On the Road itself.