I guess I assumed that a graduate program full of artists dedicated to seeing beyond the world’s masks would be better on the race front—that despite all my previous experience with white-majority institutions the workshop would be an exception. What can I tell you? In those days I must have needed that little fantasy, that little hope that somewhere shit might be better.
Like I said: I was young.
Wearily, moving his feet because he had nothing else to do, Christopher went on down the road, hating the trees that moved slowly against his progress, hating the dust beneath his feet, hating the sky, hating this road, all roads, everywhere. He had been walking since morning, and all day the day before that, and the day before that, and days before that, back into the numberless line of walking days that dissolved, seemingly years ago, into the place he had left, once, before he started walking.
The passengers know nothing, and, even if there is finally some understanding or feeling of unease, what can they do? They realize that they have been flying for too long, dawn is breaking. There have been no announcements, or, worse, there has been an ominous announcement that causes panic. At some point, the passengers, perhaps coming out of sleep, know.
But now, unexpectedly, and for the first time since Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill met in Yalta, to divide up postwar Europe, Crimea is prominently in the news. Watching the uprising in Kiev, and then seeing Russian troops fan out across the Crimean peninsula, inspired in me a complicated response. First, and altogether selfishly, I was glad that the obscure place I had been writing about had achieved relevance. Simultaneously, I was, like most people, frightened and disturbed by the violence and chaos that gripped Ukraine and that threatened to escalate into something far worse. In fact, because I was familiar with Crimea, had visited the place, and had friends there whose safety was in jeopardy, I was especially apprehensive. But there was something else, too, which on its face may sound as self-interested as my happiness at Crimea’s newfound prominence but which is actually a feeling of wider scope: I felt frustrated that world events conspired to undermine my designs for the book.
But to hell with them and with all that, O.K.? Here’s to you, old dears. You got this right, every one of you.
I’ve read MIDDLEMARCH lots of times, but it never told me what to do, and it certainly didn’t tell me what not to do. And if it did tell me not to do something, I didn’t not do it. We make our own mistakes, and learn from our own experience. But reading is part of your experience. If you love literature, literature is part of your life. It’s not an external thing.
Recommended Reading: Maria Konnikova on “flow” and first-person shooters.
Middlesex author and Pulitzer Prize winner (and Year in Reading alum) Jeffrey Eugenides has a new story out in this week’s issue of The New Yorker. Titled “Find the Bad Guy,” it may well be the first New Yorker story to show a character playing Words with Friends. Sample quote: “She had her arms around me, and we were rocking, real soft-like, the way Meg did after we gave her that kitten, before it died, I mean, when it was just a warm and cuddly thing instead of like it had hoof and mouth, and went south on us.”
Perhaps inspired by the news, first reported a few years ago, that mad scientists in the Indian army plan to weaponize superhot chilis, Lauren Collins ventures bravely into the world of extreme heat. As a warning to readers who fancy themselves tough, she quotes a doctor who makes clear that these peppers aren’t just hot — they’re lethal.