Reading Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders and John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction side-by-side makes for a fun, challenging experience: figuring out how Mueenuddin’s prose violates stylistic conventions and gets away with it. In fact, Gardner’s (and other grammarians’) prescribed sentence constructions often lead to clumsy iterations.
“It feels impossible to talk about race or other kinds of difference,” wrote Roxane Gay recently in the New York Times Sunday Review. “But if we don’t have difficult conversations, we will be able to reconcile neither this country’s racist past nor racist present.” This is a refrain we read and hear so often these days, and yet, the conversations remain hard in coming. Faheem Majeed, in his first solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago this year, is a notable example of conversation between artist, curator, and museum institution that seeks to expand that conversation with a wider viewing public.
Dear Cora, I sat down to read this evening, but somehow my thoughts kept wandering to you, and I’ve put up my book to talk to you. I feel so queer tonight, as if something was going to happen. It’s been coming on all this afternoon. Now to make it perfect I spose that some calamity should occur. But you know I’m not very superstitious.
“I’ve written four books about Britain since the ’50s, and pop culture always played a big part in those books. So they were always sort of very broad, panoramic political and cultural histories. And I always thought it was a really interesting topic: how Britain went from being a country that really prided itself on its economic and imperial dominance to one that had reinvented itself as a kind of cultural power. So, the fact that I do television informed the book to some extent, as well as the work I’ve done for the newspapers. I’d say it’s made me very conscious of how historians like me write a lot about politics but the reality is that for most people, politics doesn’t play a very important role in their lives, whereas pop culture does. TV is part of our common currency in a way that politics just isn’t. I thought this would be a good way to explore Britain’s national experience in the last century or so, as well is how Britain has been perceived.”
In her well-known TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie argues for the importance of a multiplicity of stories, voices, and perspectives in order to do justice to the fullest range of experience and explode reductive stereotypes of people and places. “Stories matter,” she says. “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”