Going to Meet the Man

Apparently I’m so boring that I put my computer to sleep and can’t wake it up.

I’ve had it for less than four days now; I apparently have some serious attention-holding issues.

I managed to present my paper in class last night, despite rushing around trying to finish it up and my computer doing its Sleeping Beauty act. More impressively, I managed to get through class without giggling at “erection,” the notion of one’s sexuality being determined by his ability to get one, and a myriad of other sexual comments. White Impotence and the New South was the title, although mis-named–it wasn’t actually the New South. It was on James Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man.”

I did have to hiss at Michael “Don’t laugh” from the corner of my mouth as I read. Had she emitted even a mere giggle, I would have lost it, and I was nervous enough already.

Apparently I “nailed” the topic (as opposed to Jesse, the main character, who wasn’t able to nail his wife due to his little…problem), and The Bear really didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the story. I’ve spent days on it, and it all ran together towards the end.

It’s a horrible story, an absolutely frightful one, but incredible nonetheless. There’s a lynching and castration, and an eight year old white boy’s passage from childhood to manhood. There’s strong implication that he actually gets his first erection while watching the castration. He grows up, becomes sheriff, and does his “duty” during the time when African Americans are just beginning to register to vote. In fact, the entire story takes place on a day of registration, and it provides both the backdrop and the reason for the story.

That was the bright, shining moment of my week. Seeing The Bear’s fist around his pen, hitting the table as I read my paper aloud. “Good good good.” I could hear him muttering between my really deep breaths as I skipped over the N word.

I didn’t think I would. Not my words, but Baldwin’s, and I had decided that in order to respect the writing, one must respect the words.

But I still chickened out.

“Why do you write about such garbage?” my dad asked while I was at the house yesterday.

That’s a good question. Why do I write about anything I write about? My official answer is that everyone with a bit of knowledge about the Black Arts Movement or Jazz or the Harlem Renaissance knows about the big players: Gil Scot Heron, Langston Hughes, Dizzie Gillespie and Jelly Roll Morton. It’s a difficult place from which to form an arguable thesis when you are simply wowed by the brilliancy of the words and sound.

“Langston Hughes, a prolific writer, was an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance.”

No kidding.

Whether it’s Shakespeare or Baldwin, Chekhov or the doors, I want to write about the unseen, I think. Things missed, overlooked, or ignored because they’re too trivial or too ugly or too silly to look at.

There’s also that part of me that writes to figure out who I am.

But most importantly, I think, I write because some things just need to be told.

But for now, I’m off to see The Nose.

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