Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow, and upon seeing the Iowa caucus results, reportedly crawled back down the hole without bothering to look at his shadow. As a result, your Groundhog Day weather forecast calls for excessive warmth with moments of stark surrealism.
Forthwith, please accept this assortment of long reads, poems, and various diversions to curl up with over the weekend…
February is African-American History month, so my first recommendation is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essential 2014 essay The Case for Reparations. It’s worth revisiting, especially in light of Coates’ recent disagreement with Bernie Sanders over the issue. In this long essay for The Atlantic, Coates painstakingly details the long history of white supremacy–how the American economy was built on slavery, how the dream of Reconstruction was brutally crushed by a systematic program of terror, and how in the twentieth century, segregation and economic stagnation for blacks were maintained through housing policies that included red-lining and discriminatory lending practices. It’s an article well worth your time.
White flight was not an accident—it was a triumph of racist social engineering.
In a fascinating conversation in Guernica magazine, translator Katrina Dodson interviews Ann Goldstein, who’s translated all of Elena Ferrante’s madly popular Neapolitan series of novels. Goldstein talks about the difficulties of conveying the sense of setting, about Ferrante’s affinity with Jane Austen and Clarice Lispector, and the appeal of the Italian author’s raw emotions on the page:
[The Neapolitan series is] so much about what it’s like to be a writer, to fail as a writer, to look at your books and feel that you haven’t done anything. Whether you’re a writer or not, you can imagine looking at your life and thinking, “What have I done?” What she’s doing in these books is asking, “What does my life mean?”
The Hypnerotomachia Poliphili is one of the world’s strangest books. Published anonymously in 1499, it’s possibly the world’s first postmodern novel. Printed with gorgeous woodcut illustrations, it’s a dreamlike account of one man’s obsessive pursuit of his beloved. In a strange and luminous essay for The New Inquiry, Monica Datta describes the book’s history as well as a bizarre
1993 1992 novel it inspired, Polyphilo by Alberto Pérez-Gómez.
In an essay for 3 Quarks Daily, Jalees Rehman reports on how German philosophers are responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. Some are insisting on a shift in thinking:
we should focus on Verbundenheit (“connectedness”) instead of Verantwortung (“responsibility”). Demanding that those of us who lead privileged lives of safety and reasonable material comfort should feel individually responsible for the suffering of others can lead to a sense of moral exhaustion.
Over at Okey-Pankey, weird-fiction master Jeff VanderMeer gives us a microscopic look into Jeb Bush’s psyche as his poll numbers keep plummeting:
Jeb at 4% surges, seethes, wallows, balks, pirouettes, coughs, blushes, skips, hunches, winces, bears witness ceaselessly to his brother wiping his glasses clean on the skirt of a late-night talk show staffer during commercial. Evil omen.
In a perceptive essay for Aeon, Tiffany Jenkins turns some of our notions about secrets upside down and argues that keeping–and divulging–secrets is an essential, if painful, part of childhood.
keeping a secret exerts a physical toll, weighing people down: secrets are burdens that impact negatively on body and mind
Sun Ra is a fantastic and mythic hope, a cosmic embrace, that refuses the familiar narrative of slain black bodies.
Top illustration is a “Carte de Tendre” from the novel Clélie by 17th century French novelist Madeleine de Scudéry. Scudéry is regarded as the author of the world’s longest novel, Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus, which contains nearly 2 million words.
Photo of Ta-Nehisi Coates by Eduardo Montes-Bradley, CC BY-SA 4.0, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.