I’ve come to expect offensive portrayals of blackness during Halloween, but this past year’s trend of impersonating Trayvon Martin seemed unusually cruel. I’ve never understood why certain white people love black face. I can only imagine those who love blackface or find the use of “blackface” funny enjoy dehumanizing blackness. Blackface has been used for racial parody since the early 1800s, and slowly over the years Halloween has become a season for racial parody within a larger social framework that thrives on dehumanizing blackness for its own survival. Blackness as monstrous. I’ve been thinking about this as a concept more and more, especially this Halloween as I perused photos of people who could not have possibly seen and understood Trayvon Martin as a human being.
What I desired, and what I continue to desire, is the willful shape. I desire not those words that do the work of building, of containing, of safeguarding, but those which Ukrainian-Brazilian bad girl writer Clarice Lispector desires when she writes “I want to grab hold of the ‘is’ of the thing,” in Água Viva. I began to feel Lispector’s “perfect animal” of Near to the Wild Heart inside of me; I became a bad, bad girl.
* A.L. Major *
I’ve been told by more than one writer friend that to write a novel you must every day chain yourself to your chair for as long as necessary. So that’s what I do. I sit. On average I might spend eight hours sitting—though four of those hours I’m probably checking Facebook. A few months ago a friend posted this article by Susan Orleans about the perils of sitting and how sitting can cause obesity, high blood sugar, blood pressure, excess body fat. While reading, my initial thought was, “Wow. This is proof! My job is killing me.” I became overwhelmed by a certain kind of panic that felt to me very American— only those who live in privileged countries, after all, have to the time to worry about how many hours they are sitting during the day.
“I think the idea that writing makes people feel better is usually mistaken. Finishing a book, or a story, or an article, is an accomplishment and that should bring a measure of joy and/or relief, but I think when people set out to write about painful experiences they delude themselves when they claim that they will feel better at the end of the experience. They might feel better by virtue of finishing the book or the story, but I don’t think that means they will feel better about whatever was ailing them when they started out. I just don’t think writing cures despair. Melville says as much in his diaries, and so does Shakespeare’s speaker at the end of the Sonnets: ‘Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.'”