". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tremé -- 1st Episode, Reviewed by Larry Blumenfeld

In early March, at his production office in New Orleans' Lower Garden District, Simon is struggling with the fine points of a later episode's script. He's reluctant to draw a strong connection between his former series and Treme. Yet he describes a natural progression of thought. "The Wire was a tract about how political power and money rout themselves," he says. "But there was no place to reference on some level why it matters, emotionally, that America has been given over to those things. This show is about culture, and it's about what was at stake. Because apart from culture, on some empirical level, it does not matter if all New Orleans washes into the Gulf, and if everyone from New Orleans ended up living in Houston or Baton Rouge or Atlanta. Culture is what brought this city back. Not government. There was and has been no initiative by government at any level to contemplate in all seriousness the future of New Orleans. Yet New Orleans is coming back, and it's sort of done it one second-line at a time, one crawfish étouffée at a time, one moment at a time."
Five-screen story at the Village Voice, here.  Larry describes a scene in process of being shot in the Quarter:

A blonde in a pink cable-knit sweater and brown skirt, purse slung over her shoulder, stands before the musicians with two friends, another woman and a man, all three bearing the look of polite excitement common among tourists who happen upon street performers in New Orleans. The trio claps, drops some cash, attempts small talk: They're from Madison, Wisconsin. First time in New Orleans. Came down with a church group to gut houses.

"We saw everything in the news, what was going on in the Ninth Ward," the blonde says.

"Yeah," mutters Sonny. "Yeah, everybody talking about the Lower Nine . . . Let me ask you something: You ever even heard of the Ninth Ward before the storm? So why're you so fired up about it now?"

An awkward pause. Annie jumps in: "A-a-anybody have any requests?"

What about . . . I don't know . . . some-thing authentic?"

"Real New Or-leeeens music?" mocks Sonny. "How about, 'When the Saints,' you know, 'Go Marching In'?"

Annie: "Thing is, traditionally, 'Saints' is extra."

"How come?"

Sonny: "Because every cheesehead from Chowderland wants to hear 'Saints.' "

"He's kidding," Annie quickly adds. "We love to play 'Saints.' "

Several of our New Orleans have subscribed, as of April 1, to HBO, in order to watch Tremé.

'Treme' writer David Mills dies of brain aneurysm --  By Dave Walker, The Times-Picayune, March 31, 2010, 10:28AM


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stupidity Is The Most Powerful Force in the Universe

Roland Barthes said it. "Stupidity is the most powerful force in the universe because there is no answer to it." You create stupidity by taking away the language in which people can carry on reasonable and rational discourse and discussion. This is a prime strategy for dismantling a state, for taking over a state, for the state of civil war.

There has been a concerted war upon rational language and discourse by the right since the days of reagan. It was Reagan's era in which his oval office began changing the meaning of words and re-naming even jobs. By now language usage in this country has become so mal-formed out of rational signification that rationality is nearly irrecoverable, i.e. there is no discourse.

When language itself can no longer be a tool of honest information and discussion because it has been so twisted and so debased, the state itself has become so frayed that it is well on the way to civil war. Their strategies and tactics have been more entrenched every decade since reagan's first bout of administration, and they have workedThese strategies have now worked so well, that as pointed out by Seattle's David Neiwert Seattle's David Neiwert in this article for George Mason University's History News Network, in the minds of the tbaggers&co, 'fascism' means people who stand up to their bullying. As Glenn Beck so infamously declared, the reason the senators were attacked last weekend on Capitol Hill, is because they provoked the crowd by walking through it.

There can be no response that is meaningful to someone uttering that level of stupidity. Today in the NY Times Frank Rich asks:

Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call. out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, that’s the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too.

This, while Frank Rich makes clear, as we know, that what's driving these people is hatred, racial and women hatred. Which is powered by stupidity, the most powerful force in the universe.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It Didn't Seem Worth It To Get Out of Bed

And leave this dream:

Hillary Clinton sings and dances on the picnic table in my paternal grandfather's back yard.

The backyard is as lush with trees, grass, bushes and flowers -- and the huge garden as it ever was when my grandparents were alive.

We discuss the idea of forming a feminist political organization. "We can employ some of the principles that Che Guevarra used," Hillary says. Then she politely attempts to find out whether or not I know who Che Guevarra is, without actually asking me if I do, in case I do know who Che Guevarra is.

I tell her that I don't know much about forming political organizations, but I've been part of many groups and organizations and they all have politics of some kind.

I worry, though, that all of the women she suggests be a part of this organizations don't have the resources she does. "Clothes, and drycleaning, shoes and so on, are expensive."

Hillary says, "I'll get a government subsidy for our drycleaning!"

Then my husband insisted I get up so we can get going with the day: Raffetto's (founded 1905), Chinatown, Gourmet Garage, Morton Williams supermarket.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Goodness - Our Nice Lady National Public Rhetoric Is Alarmed!

Today, officially, National Public Radio is alarmed by the levels of violence by the teabaggers, the rightwing, the extreme xtians, the anti-choicers, the anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant factions of the rethuggers.

Finally. TODAY. As if this just began this last weekend as they wilded their way over Capitol Hill. Death threats, killings of doctors who perform reproductive health surgeries for women, killing gay people, women, people of color, chasing down Indian women and raping them as sport,  lynchings, threats of worse, breaking windows, shooting at offices, flying planes into public buildings, running truck bombs into public buildings -- My goodness, today they noticed these things have been going on in this nation by these people, and have been going on, and increasing in numbers for many, many years. Today they notice and mention it. Today they noticed that the violent rhetoric is everywhere and has been amping up for many, many, many years. TODAY. Today, they mention it. Today they noticed the enormous numbers of private militias possessed by these people. TODAY, and they mentioned it. Today. Shame on them.

Do you think any of them received death threats themselves today?

I wonder because today is the first time since Reagan was elected that I've hear NPR talk across the board about this vicious, violent, high-volume factions of extremists. Everyone, from the pundits on the local station here (the largest NPR affiliate in the nation, bigger than D.C.'s headquarters), on their prime time talk shows, to every other program too, including Fresh Air. Just the way the rightwingers in the rest of media talk every day to their talking points memo, howling the same lies and meanesses and threats to anyone who isn't with them. (Today Frum got booted from his cushy neocon think tank position because his "Waterloo" opinion.) That no one has been arrested for these domestic terrorist acts of vandalism and threats and attacks probably means that everyone else is too afraid of them too, to do anything.

Doncha just love it too, that the so-called respectable rethugz speak with one tongue that these actions and language are not appropriate, and then with the other tongue word vague threats to the dems 'if they try to politicize this." WTF? Refuse to reap what ya sowed much?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An open letter to conservatives

From Russell King.

This. Is. Perfect.

And, why yes -- one of them showed up immediately frothing at the mouth, howling how it is all lies and besides this is really democrats and liberals, not him, while, of course, not bothering to provide a single fact or even a made-up example.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So-called "Health-Care Reform"

Ireally is a big give-away to to the Insurance racketeers and Big Pharma. I will be forced to hand over money to the racketeers but they aren't forced to pay for procedures or even checkups, as far as I can tell. Judging by our income (though not by our expenses, living in the middle of the most expensive real estate in one of the most expensive cities in the world) this is going to be a chunk.  Which we couldn't afford before, so how are we going to afford it now?  But never mind that for now.

The rightwing xtremists are howling that this is socialism and communism. They went wilding over Capitol Hill this weekend and not a single one was arrested.

The rightwing howling is only going to increase in volume, violence and viciousness in these next days.  I'm finding myself kind of wanting this to happen and happen very fast, because finally what they are will be scaring people who have been at least partly sympathetic toward these insane mobsters, including the media and pundits.

Some have been seeing frightening parallels to Germany and Austria in the 30's as it is. I'm seeing more people starting to speculate that this might happen here. It will happen too, if the crazies, of which there are a whole lot, have their way. They aren't talented at thinking things through -- that if they get what they want, they themselves might be, could be, sorry -- that they too could become targets.

But perhaps I may be, could be, just possibly, seeing slight indications that more people are waking up and starting to see this, even on that very conservative institution of National Public Rhetoric radio.

Chicano friends from Vaquero's high school days were visiting in NYC this week. Their son, now a major, is in the reserves; He had taken a break in NYC on his way home from active duty. He went through the Airforce Academy after high school graduation. He started his Air Force career the week of 9/11. He's flown many, many missions to Iraq and Afghanistan.

His parents left New Mexico some years ago and live in Colorado -- the same suburb as my close relative, in fact.  But this relative wouldn't know them, have anything to do with them -- they're Mexicans, probably illegal. But this is not so! Their families have been living in the Southwest, particularly New Mexico since the days when this was still part of the Spanish Empire, New Spain. They are descended, then, from people who were well entrenched in the reigion for more than three hundred years before any of these anglos showed up to build their McMansions in the Denver suburbs.

C was telling me that where she works nobody knows this. Her anglo co-workers keep venting about dirty illegal Mexicans. Nor are they fastidious about letting her know that they don't mean her and her family are undocumented workers from Mexico. They are shocked and call her a liar when she tells them, in better Englsh than her co-workers use, the history of the Southwest (she was an English major in her undergraduate work). She asks them, "Why is Colorado called Colorado? Do you know this is a Spanish word that means red?" They don't believe her. This is what the thugs and the xtians have created -- not only do we deny science in favor of creationism, we deny history as it happened, despite all the documents. No wonder you can't convince these irrationalists that Obama was born in the U.S.A.  This is only going to be enforced by how the Texas Board of Education is rewriting the texts for social studies / history.  No history of Spanish speaking peoples in the U.S. is to be included.

Their son is wonderful. He thinks things in this country are about to turn around.* He's living in Spokane now, and starting work on a master's, thinking about law school. He'll be re-activated again though, in a few more months, flying missions in Afghanistan.

O. works for the post office (he was the only chicano in their high school college track -- V. says that the history teacher in particular was always bullying O, and sneering at him for being of Mexican descent. C. works in the hospice care taking community. They both went to college. So has their daughter, and their son, I described above. They are very well educated, very well informed about everything from the current political crises to latin music, literature, history. They are loads of fun to be with, and they are very nice, but with sabor and spice of all kinds, including wit and senses of humor. The best kind of company, in fact.

On each of these counts they are as different from my 'anglo' relative as you can get.

History. It's personal.

* I wish I could share his sense -- I just don't see how it can as long as the media is owned by the corporatistas and the monopolies are allowed to continue throughout our so-called economy. But he's very young, and he has energy, and I hope he and his friends are able to overturn what has been wrought here in the last 40 years.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eric Foner Speaks to TBoE's Changes to the Curriculum's Textbooks

In The Nation, here.

This is his concluding paragraph:

"Clearly, the Texas Board of Education seeks to inculcate children with a history that celebrates the achievements of our past while ignoring its shortcomings, and that largely ignores those who have struggled to make this a fairer, more equal society. I have lectured on a number of occasions to Texas precollege teachers and have found them as competent, dedicated and open-minded as the best teachers anywhere. But if they are required to adhere to the revised curriculum, the students of our second most populous state will emerge ill prepared for life in Texas, America and the world in the twenty-first century."
Eric Foner has studied and written extensively the lies of how the era popularly known as "Reconstruction" has been taught, and how the lies have been transmitted down the decades in our schools' history classes -- which includes much calumny and distortion of President Grant's personal life and career. These long campaigns of mendaciousness have only begun to be corrected in these later years -- in the eyes of the crazy rightwing and rethugs. So imagine what they changed in the textbooks in these areas.

Also Peter Watts, the award winning Canadian profession / Science Fiction writer, was convicted of assaulting a border security guard earlier this year, when trying to cross back into his own country of Canada, from the U.S., where he'd been helping a friend move house.

All we can hope for now is that the judge is as fair as PW judged the judge to be, and gives the lightest sentence possible, and then suspends it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tremé -- NY Times Magazine Preview Article

"The HBO Auteur" by Wyatt Mason.  Hmmmmm.  We know Wyatt.  He was a member of the same class as V in the Cullman Scholars and Writers Fellowship at the NYPL.

Read it here.

Reading the Past and Present

In terms of Haitian matter I've been reading the new book edited -- and autographed -- by the magnificent Prof. Laurent Dubois and Julius S. Scott, Origins of the Black Atlantic: Reweriting Histories (2010 - Routledge). Its ToC includes the not-so-easy-to-find seminal essay on the military aspects of the Haitian Revolution, "African Soldiers in the Haitian Revolution," by John K. Thornton, which we wish so much we'd read while working up the Haitian Revolution for The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.  At times it feels nearly like we've entered an alternate historical world, how much more easily hard-to-obtain materials are available, even in a year or two after you could have used them.  When I first began swotting up West African history and culture toward the end of the 1980's, there was so little available in English, and particularly published by U.S. publishers, particularly in trade -- especially when you went to the religions.  Is that ever different now!

I'm also reading Thornton's 1998 work, The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatiz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684 - 1706.

Coincidence?  Not really, I suppose.  Kongo and Angola are looming ever larger for the future.

The Kongolese Saint Anthony is a difficult book for me to read. Its difficulty is not caused because it is a history of one of the few well-documented with primary source text documents in the history of the Kingdom of Kongo. The difficulty is that everyone, who is Kongolese, bears Portuguese, i.e. European names. So I keep visualizing the characters in Portugal, which is such a different geography from the Kongo, there on the edge of Europe, bounded by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

This difficulty is reminiscent of the perceptual shift problems I experienced reading Vernor Vinge's wonderful SF work, A Deepness in the Sky (1999) with the 'Spiders,' their culture and civilization. My trickster mind insisted on perceiving them as humans, and their world earth-like. Vinge had wonderful play with this, which play enriches the reader's experience of reading, not only the novel, but the world. So much so did Vinge play with this that the humans on the space ships seem more alien, less human, than the 'Spiders.' He must have so enjoyed knowing how readers who wanted to comprehend his novel as completely as they could, couldn't have that total immersion reading experience. We have to consciously remind ourselves what we are "seeing" on the page isn't what it really is.
It's a teaching experience for the reader as well, teaching the reader that her perceptions can so easily be wrong, and insistently wrong, even when she knows better.

The State of K

M. is in Haiti. She brought three enormous bulging bags of food. She seems to have managed something to get them off the street, into a kind of a house.  That is something really big, as it is now the rainy season, and it's raining.  During the wind-and-rain storm here, I kept thinking about this, and were they, of course.  It's astonishing M has any fingers left.  She's chewed her nails right off.  Until the earthquake and the death of all her daughter's caregivers (K is only 6), I've never seen M. bite her nails.  M, went fully prepared psychically to live on the streets where K was living, to protect, defend, care for her, until the endless tangle of papers can be executed, so K can come to the U.S. (which is why she wasn't here in the first place ... U.S. immigration does everything it can to keep yet one more Haitian coming here).

It seems confirmed, what M and Mz were so afraid was the case, the man with whom K was staying was beating her.

A brick had fallen on one of K's big toes. It hasn't been healing in the dirt and the wet. The nail is gone. "It looks awful," M says, but Mz doesn't know exactly what this means, but it does seem infected.

K is eating and eating and eating.

Mz sent along a pink bear back pack for K that he bought for $10 in Chinatown. K adores it.

In the meantime Mz is both distraught and depressed, with both his wife and steo-daughter in this dangerous situation.

Also, many thanks to our other friends who keep twittering, like Richard Morris, and our grad students, who provided so many other kinds of assistance, and keep us up to date daily with news straight from Port au Prince and other parts of this striken nation, filled with such beautiful people.

All thanks to our friends who have contributed to Rescue K effort.

The effort continues, and all contributions are welcome.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Texas Board of Education Strikes Again Against Education

We can expect that Texas high schools won't be taking the Postmamboist approach to history anytime soon.

Among the many counter-historical factual implementations of The Texas Board of Education as to what can and cannot be in their state's textbooks, they also forbade inclusion of Spanish-speaking people and the histories of them -- and presumably how they came to be a part of the U.S. population in the first place -- from history textbooks. One of the minority opposing members of the board had to leave the process over this, she was so disturbed because, to paraphrase her, "They want the history of the U.S. to be all white people, all English speakin, only."

The Texas Board of Education also hates Jefferson because he was anti-capitalist.  It's cognitive dissonance to the max, sharing a Jefferson hate with people I despise. My reasons for the hatred are very different -- for the reasons they probably approve of Jefferson -- it's because he did approve of inter and intra state slave trade, among other reasons.

This reminds all over again why Texas was never an option as a place to base myself when younger.

In the meantime, at UCLA, Himself the Vaquero's there because of the English - Comp Lit Graduate Dept., which is sponsoring this symposium, Ports of Call -- Cultures of Exchange.

He's giving a keynote address at noon today, California time, on the history of Cadiz and the New World ports of Havana and New Orleans -- the Spanish connection, and all that means, including the African.

The Dept. Chair is of Tunisian background, and the whole grad dept. slants strongly to Middle eastern literature. But if you're kid growing up in Texas you won't even know this nation has loads of voters whose relatives came from these other countries. They may well not know these other countries even exist -- the Middle East is Israel, Palestine and 'Arabs.' Soon even Iraq and Afghanistan will fall off the primary media radar too, as the situations there drag ever on.

It sux evermore to be U.S., doesn't it?

At least tomorrow an amiga and I will go to Church uptown and hear some great music.

In the meantime it storms wind and rain.

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Is Why Academia Needs Postmamboism

Someone needs to inform Brian Reed, MA/Ph.D. program at the University of Washington, of Postmamboism. It could cheer him immensely, providing a whole new perspective for scholarly work post Postmodernism.

(3) The theory canon seems to have closed, a little like the opera canon, or Scripture. I finished my Ph.D. in 2000, the same year that Hardt and Negri's Empire was published. Since then, judging at least by these 520 files, no new name has emerged that has rock star-like charisma or widely-worshipped intellectual oomph. You hear a great deal about Judith Butler, Slavoj Zizek, Homi Bhabha, Walter Benjamin, Gloria Anzaldua, and other thinkers who were already staples of "Introductions to Literary Theory" courses back in the mid-1990s. Otherwise, the name dropping has become quite field specific. Insofar as one can identify any new profession-wide theoretical trends, they tend to position themselves at the intersections between literary study and psychology or the natural sciences. Arriba trauma studies, affect studies, ecocriticism, and cognitive poetics! Oh, image-text relations are also huge. Generally as a pretext for analyzing The Watchmen, Maus, or Neil Gaiman's Sandman comix. Or to talk about World of Warcraft.

(4) A surprisingly large number of students and professors maintain that we have moved into a new literary period, variously called post-postmodern, post-9/11, or post-ironic. There also appears to be a truly remarkable degree of agreement concerning the Great Books of the present day: Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Blood Meridian, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, and Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Thomas Pynchon, too, is cited over and over as the harbinger and presiding genius of the New Period. I've read these books (including all of Pynchon's novels), but I never expected the emergence of such a matter-of-fact way of narrating the present moment in US literature, and I certainly would never have selected such a narrow, narrow cast of characters to represent the 21st century. Heck, this list doesn't even include David Eggers or William Vollman, neither of whom, despite their obvious points of contact with Wallace et al, were mentioned by a single applicant. If advocates of a diverse curriculum don't want to end up fighting old battles all over again, they might want to hurry up and generate a counter- or alternative narrative PDQ. Please! I don't want to have to read twenty more ecofeminist critiques of The Road next year, too.

UCLA gets its first shot of post-Braudelian, Postmamboist perspective tomorrow.

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Vaquero got re-routed to Denver on his way to LA. A passenger seemed to be having a heart attack, but he doesn't know. Thus when he called again, once set down at LAX, this guy who ate a little sandwich at JFK about 4:30 this AM our time, hasn't had anything to eat since and it was 7:30 PM our time. The person picking him up couldn't do it, since he then had a class to teach.

Class  had to go it without V. today.  When I got out of the subway a young urban male handed me a promotional card outside of a CD store front start-up -- "All CDs 3 for $28 -- Get 20% Off ALL DVDs All Blu-Ray's -- BEAT THE DOWNLOAD"

After almost a week of spring-like, sunny weather, the temps dropped and it's supposed to rain throughout the weekend. Still, the squirrels were frolicking like mad creatures -- chasing each other, rasslin' with each other, tumbling down the embankment all tangled up, and generally having a high old time. The birds are beyond noisy. Last Friday I saw the first teensie shoots of snowdrops and so on.

Since then, last Friday, at least four more stores have closed in my general neighborhood. All of them sold either inexpensive products or provided essential services like food that were a bit less expensive than everything else around them. The man-pedi places just are not doing the business either. More hair stylist places close down every quarter too.

Made dinner out of this fabulous left over soup based on inspiration provided by a soup made by Premium T's mom.  I added orzo pasta.  Additionally crusty bread, plus cheese, and red wine.
O, and I trapped a mouse dead. eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

ETA: The odious downstairs neighbor who was killing us with her cigarettes, quit smoking when we left for New Orleans, and she hasn't had a cigarette since. Digits xxxxx xxxxx ed that this is a permanent thing. That would be several, large steps ahead!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Los Angeles -- Here He Comes

March 11-13, Los Angeles: UCLA "Ports of Call -- Cultures of Exchange" conference.

Vaquero's keynote is Saturday (the 13th) at noon.  He'll speak about his longtime favorite subject, the dancing girls of Cádiz, in the context of postmamboist Braudelianism.

Conference schedule at

I get to stay home. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Today Was About Dr. Joseph Roach

Joseph Roach, Yale University: “ The Return of the Last of the Pequots: Disappearance as Performance” (cosponsored by Atlantic Studies, Center for the Humanities).

It was at the CUNY Graduate Center, sponsored by the English Dept. and the Atlantic Studies Dept.  V. was the discussant, 4 PM. free, and open to the public.

Joseph Roach is a performance studies pioneer. Among his books is Cities of the Dead, the splendid study of the street theater of New Orleans: Mardi Gras Indians, second lines, jazz funerals, parades and carnival. Joe's a Postmamboist, also.

It was so interesting.  Dinner and company afterwards was even more so.  An excellent time was had by all.

You know, it's indescribably rich, to be on the faculty of any school here in NYC.  You can walk a few blocks, jump on the subway, and be at any of these forums and conferences and discussions that are held at all these colleges and universities all semester, meeting your peers, talking, getting scholarship and instruction that might take an entire year distilled into a couple of hours or a weekend, and still sleep in your own bed.  Sometimes I become so acutely aware of the cultural value of this city in which I live that I can hardly bear it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Narrative Power: Encounters, Celebrations, Struggles edited by L. Timmel Duchamp

Aqueduct Press (03/15/2010).

I want this book.

Adults, as a rule, also like to hear the same stories, although they prefer that the stories have some differences – the human brain loves to detect differences. The popularity of familiar stories that reinforce the status quo is not limited to television and popular literature: historians repeat themselves.

Horatio-Alger stories thus become the narrative for male public figures who rise to success from poverty; for women, the story is more problematic, because female public figures are anomalous. In either case, the politics of the narrator inform the story being told. In narratives about women, as Joanna Russ has pointed out in her classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, the narrator may simply deny that the woman actually accomplished anything worth noting. —from Eileen Gunn's introduction* to Narrative Power __

It is commonly said that history is written by the victors: the narrator chooses the events that will be part of the story, and the narrative explains their meaning. In fiction, narrative conventions and clichés make writing and reading familiar stories easier, but also impede writers’ efforts to tell unfamiliar stories. This volume asks: Is narrative inherently dangerous? Empowering? Or even liberating? A mix of established and new writers join several scholars in considering the politics of narrative manifested in fiction, history, and science.

Table of Contents
1. Going to Narrative: Introduction by Eileen Gunn
Part I. Narrative and History
2. Carolyn Ives Gilman, “Telling Reality: Why Narrative Fails Us”
3. L. Timmel Duchamp, “Lost in the Archives: A Shattered Romance”
4. Ellen E. Kittell, “Patriarchal Imperialism and the Narrative of Women’s History”
5. Rebecca Wanzo, “The Era of Lost (White) Girls: On Body and Event”
Part II. Narrative Politics
6. Lesley A. Hall, “Beyond Madame Curie? The Invisibility of Women’s Narratives in Science”
7. Wendy Walker, “Imagination and Prison”
8. Lance Olsen, “Against Accessibility: Renewing the Difficult Imagination”
9. Alan DeNiro, “Reading The Best of A.E. Van Vogt”
10. Andrea Hairston, “Stories Are More Important Than Facts: Imagination as Resistance in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth”
11. Susan Palwick, “Suspending Disbelief: Story as a Political Catalyst”
12. Rebecca Wanzo, “Apocalyptic Empathy: A Parable of Postmodern Sentimentality”
Part III. Narrative and Writing Fiction
13. Samuel R. Delany, “The Life of/and Writing”
14. Nicola Griffith, “Living Fiction and Storybook Lives”
15. Eleanor Arnason, “Narrative and Class”
16. Rachel Swirksy, “Why We Tell the Story”
17. Claire Light, “Girl in Landscape: How to Fall into a Politically Useless Narrative Rut and Notions of How to Get Back Out”

This book sounds essential, as well as fascinating. I've been thinking particularly, lately, of the area of narratives and women as discussed in the TOC #6, "Beyond Madame Curie? The Invisibility of Women’s Narratives in Science.”

This has been provoked by reading Richard Holmes's The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (2009).* Among the figures given a great deal of text in what the author himself declares a 'narrative' history, is Caroline Herschel, the 'comet sweeper,' sister of one of the founders of modern astronomy, William Herschel.

Caroline's early story, in the bosom of a denying, cold family, who, with the exception this brother, evidently chose her to be the in-house slave and scrub, makes one's heart sore. Particularly, considering how many Caroline Herschels there had to have been, who didn't have the eventual comfort and rescue by a loving brother.

* Which is a most fortunate fiction - non-fiction pairing with my endless audio book listening that is Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. O'Brian wrote a well-received biography of the 18th century natural philosophy and botonist, Joseph Banks, who is also featured in Holmes's The Age of Wonder -- Joseph Banks: A Life (1987).