Weekend Reading: December 9, 2016

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Screening Room: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

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In the 1970s, James Baldwin started working on a book about his three friends who had been martyred for the civil rights cause: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. The book was never finished. The spectacular and burningly relevant new documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, threads the pieces of that elegy through a skein of dramatic footage.

I Am Not Your Negro is opening this weekin limited release, followed by a full roll-out in February. My review is at PopMatters:

An elliptical film, I Am Not Your Negro is partially a history of the Civil Rights struggle from 1955 to 1968, framed by these three men. It’s also an unpacking of Baldwin’s take on white America’s inability to come to terms with race and racism, with which it remains obsessed but also, of which it remains ignorant. There is anger aplenty in the film, but Baldwin’s observations indicate the confusion that might be inevitable in trying to understand the “vast, unthinking cruel white majority”…

The trailer is here.

Writer’s Desk: Don’t Stop Now

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The great Walter Benjamin once postulated the 13 rules necessary for the writer to make a go of it with their craft. It’s a smart, detail-fixated, and lengthy list, which you can review in full here.

They’re not all for everybody—”Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial” is a tad on the fussy side—but the following items seem relevant to just about any ink-stained wretch out there:

  • “Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo.”
  • “Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.”
  • “Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.”

It is likely that a broader belief in the concept of “literary honour” would serve the writing classes well.

Weekend Reading: December 2, 2016

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