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The Last Summer of Reason by Tahar Djaout

The Last Summer of Reason by Algerian writer Tahar Djaout is the Muslim 1984/Brave New World dystopian novel—and, alas, a chronicle of a murder foretold: the author’s own by the Armed Islamic Group (al-Jama’ah al-Islamiyah al-Musallaha) in Algiers in 1993. The manuscript of the novel told by Boualem Yekker is a bookseller in a society in which Islamists are extending banishment of any literature other than the Qu’ran, was found after Djaout’s murder. It includes memories of when Boualem had a family and women were not forced to cover everything except their eyes by wearing burquas, and people (like Djaout) were not being murdered for insufficient Islamist zeal and outright denunciation of the spreading intolerance. He dwells on the past because the future has been annulled. Nothing other than the Last Judgment is licit to speak about (even dreams are illicit, though not yet monitored by the thought-police).

One might think the ban on spare tires (as interfering with God’s will about whether a car should continue onward) is a satire, though within a few years the Taliban in Pakistan banned razorblades and transistor radios. The rationale for Djaout’s own murder was justified because he “wielded a fearsome pen” against enforcement of Islamists’ understanding of God’s word.

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Because he lacks the talent to write books and lacks any glamour, Boualem hopes that he will be left alone, though when some children throw stones at him, he realizes this is wishful thinking. This is followed by the “Prepare to die” phone calls. Books had been his refuge, but, now, owning any other than the Qu’ran is evidence of lacking faith that it contains all the licit knowledge in the world.

Boualem induces three rules for “approved knowledge”:

  • Science has the right to pay attention only to those questions not settled in The Book.
  • Any scientific result and any scientific discovery must be challenged by The Sacred Text in order to find justification for them there (or be rejected).
  • Our religion is the source of all knowledge Any scientific or moral law, any legislation decreed in the time preceding this religion, when humanity was steppe din darkness, lies, and barbarism is null and void.

Enjoyment of anything other than murdering the insufficiently righteous and martyrdom are suspect. The beaches are deserted, because swimming is not recommended in the Qu’ran. Television broadcasts only sermons and pseudo-documentaries dismissing any claims to knowledge other than from the Qu’ran. Weather forecasts are presumptuous and impious and long gone.

Boualem is appalled that “God should have to put up with such despicable representatives” as the Vigilant Brothers (the AIG in power). But “most devastating was the paralyzing cowardice that had taken hold of everyone, he himself being no exception” (unlike Djaout, though I’m sure he faulted himself for not doing more than what got him killed).

 

The penultimate sentence of the manuscript (though only a draft, it seems complete, if less polished than it might have been had Djaout lived to edit it)—“The course of time has gone crazy, and who dares swear to the appearance of the following day?” — was demonstrated by Djaout’s murder.

The book is not just a warning to non-fanatic Muslims, but to those in any society in which religious fanatics seek to impose conformity to their rigorist readings of whatever Sacred Text they are brandishing on others (including Mein Kampf and Mao’s Little Red Book) in the guise of “social cleansing.” In his foreword to the translation from French by Marjoljin de Jager, Nobel Prize-winning Nigerian (Christian Yoruba in origin) writer Wole Soyinka draws attention to Christianist fanatics, in particular those murdering doctors who perform abortion. Djaout bore “witness from within his own society, from within his own milieu, and in defense of his assailed humanity, but let no one be tempted to narrow the bane of bigotry and intolerance to just one milieu from which this powerful testimony has emerged…. It is only be recognizing that the individuality that we are enabled to recollect, and respond to the face of other individuals, to the fate of hundreds like Djaout, and the fate of hundreds of thousands on behalf of whom that voice has been raised, against whom the hand of atavism is also constantly raised, aiming ever more boldly for a body count that will pave the way of killers to a paradise of their imagining. The most ambitious enemies are the absolutist interpreters of the Divine Will, be they Sikh, Hindus, Jew, Christians, Muslims, born-again of every religious calling.”

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Djaout himself, shortly before his murder wrote: “It is useless to repress fundamentalism if the Algerian school continues to prepare for us new packs of fundamentalists who, in their turn, will take up arms in ten or fifteen years.” The Christianist assault on science and history curricula in the US is analogous, even with the faith-based policies of the Bush junta not occupying the executive branch of the US government. Our own Vigilant Brethren have not been as successful as the Taliban, but there is a strong stream of intolerance for difference and tolerance for slander in American history, especially from Donald (Don the Con) Drumpf.

 

(The manuscript was more finished than either Carson McCullers’s memoir fragment, Illuminations and Night Glare or the manuscript which Ralph Ellison had been unable to finish in decades. The Last Summer of Reason is a manuscript that had to be published in protest against his silencing.)

 

©2010, Stephen O. Murray

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Season of Migration to the North

The back cover of Tayeb Salih.’s novel Season of Migration to the North, first translated into English in 1969 (having been published in Arabic three years earlier) has an assertion from Edward Said that it is “among the six finest novels to be written in modern Arabic literature.” This made me want to know what he thought were the other five. The history of the novel in Arabic is short and dominated by Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006), winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1988.

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In 2001 the Arab Literary Academy in Damascus was less equivocal than Said in judging it “the most important Arabic novel of the 20th century” I am dubious about the accolade from Said, and even more that this book by Tayeb Salih (1929-2009) is the best, though the Arab novelists other than Mafouz whom I read write in French (Abdellah Taïa, Tahar Ben Jelloun) or English (Laila Lalami), and Mohammed Choukri’s For Bread Alone is generally classified as “autobiography.”

Though it has some lyrical passages (and some that strike me as ‘florid’), there is much in the very disjointed short book that seems to me unbelievable. The jagged fragmentariness may be anti-narrative “modernism” rather than incompetence, though I suspect the latter.

The book opens well, with the return from postgraduate studies in England (of English poetry) by the narrator to his natal village on the Upper Nile in downstream from Khartoum.

The never-named narrator’s grandfather is among the most respected village elders, a spry octogenarian. During the narrator’s seven-year absence, a man not native to the village has bought land, married a beautiful local woman with whom he has produced two sons. Mustafa Sa’eed has aided villagers in co-operating to end dependence on provisioning by riverboats. He refuses office, but is relied upon for advice in improving the lot of the village. (It may be a backwater, but socioeconmic change has been occurring in what is not “timeless” rural life.)

The narrator is very curious about this man who in some ways has taken on the role of rural-urban liaison that should have been his by virtue of his elite/foreign education. Slowly, the narrator learns that Mustafa Sa’eed was a wunderkind, the first student from the Sudan to become a success in the colonial metropole. Along with publishing a number of books on economics, Mustafa Sa’eed was both figuratively and quite literally a “lady-killer.” English women in extravagant numbers swooned and were ravaged by him. The body count — and I mean corpses, not conquests — seems ludicrously high to me.

Many committed suicide after being “corrupted” by the Sudanese Superfly, and he eventually killed a woman who repeatedly rejected him (double penetration: phallus and knife). No one else in the village knows of the triumphs, crimes, and prison term of Mustafa Sa’eed in England.

About midway through the short (169-page) novel, Mustafa Sa’eed disappears in a sudden flood. The narrator suspects that this was suicide, I suspect that he went off to start yet another life.

Mustafa Sa’eed had gotten his affairs in order and left a sealed letter for the narrator with the key to a room in his house that somehow was built without anyone else having seen the room or its contents (in a village house???). The letter also asks that the narrator look out for his two sons. His widow, Hosna, is in her husband’s judgment quite competent to make economic decisions.

Ah! but regardless of her competencies and wishes not to be remarried, a lecherous old man is forced upon her. The narrator’s best friend reminds him ” how life is run here: Women belong to men, and a man’s a man even if he’s decrepit.” The narrator coulda/shoulda married her (he only has one wife), but leaves for Khartoum. Hosna does what she said she would do, and there is a second knifing in bed, this time without other penetration.

The narrator returns and goes into Mustafa’s room, where he finds more about Mustafa’s life in England, but nothing about Mustafa’s life (and marriage) in the Sudanese village.

IMO, the novel is padded with lists and with documents from Mustafa’s English period of corrupting and being corrupted (in a rather Victorian and very sex-negative mindset) with too many too large lacunae (the narrator’s romantic/domestic life in both countries, for instance).

What happens and what it is supposed to mean are both confusing (and I don’t blame myself). Salih himself wrote some other novellas, married (and stayed married to) a Scottish woman, worked for the BBC and UNESCO, and did not return to live in the Sudan (in which civil wars and genocide have been raging most of the time since 1955, the year before independence from England, though there was a hiatus from 1962 to 1973, the time during which Salih wrote the book). I don’t know enough about him to hazard a guess about whether Mustafa’s lethal conquests are fantasy or exaggeration of experiences of African students in the era leading up to decolonization (followed by betrayals as shown in the novels of Ghanian/Igbo writer Chinua Achebe; Man of the People, his fourth, also first published in 1966, and the first of Achebe’s with a first-person narrator, though his previous ones had conflicted characters in colonial and postcolonial situations)

©2019, Stephen O. Murray

 

Great Sopranos I Have Heard

I don’t know why there isn’t an opera about Maria Calllas. (There is a pretty great movie with Fanny Ardant playing her in her last years in a film directed by Franco Zeffereli, who directed her onstage.). Her weight loss to look better and thereby injuring her voice is tragic. Her fixation on Onassis is tragic. I subscribe to the rap that her voice became shrill early on, but that she was a great actress. (She can be seen in the title role of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s sriking “Medea,” a non-singing role).

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I’m too young to have heard her live, but have heard some other divas who protected their voice, including Joan Sutherland, Margaret Price, and Christine Brewer.

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Sutherland was aptly called “La Stupenda.” She had a stupendous voice. Producing beautiful sound seemed enough for her, but she did do some acting, too.

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(getting CDs signed, 2010)

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I like big, beautiful sound, as produced by the more than ample Jessye Norman and by Christine Brewer (both American-born, in 1945 and 1955, respectively), both of whom I had the luck to hear multiple times (including Brewer’s “Alceste” in Santa Fe). Brewer was a student of the great Wagner soprano Brigit Nillson, whom I never got to hear live, alas.

I’ll always remember the great Catalan soprano Monserrat Caballeé enthroned in Rossisinig’s Semiramade in a gown that continued at least a yard below her feet and looked in proportion (not the one pictured below).  Caballé is a legendary for her girth as for the beauty of her voice, a voice that she carefully preserved for decades.

Margaret Price also produced a lot of beautiful sound. I’ll always remember her saying that Mozart felt good in her throat. I heard each of these three sing Strauss’s “Four Last Songs,” some of the most ravishing vocal writing ever done.

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I heard a pretty sensational version of one of Dame Joan’s signature roles by Olga Borodina, whom I thought of as a Verdi soprano, not a bel canto one (she more recently did QEI here in “Roberto Devereux,” an opera without any inspiration in my view).

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The very pure-voiced Dawn Upshaw (1960-) is best known for her best-selling rendition of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony, but has done a wide range of contemporary parts and earlier French one. I have not heard Jessica Rivera often enough (though I had an extended conversation with her at a reception after the première of John Adams’s “Flowering Tree.”)

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I think that I heard Leontyne Price sing in the park. I’d have put her no my list, except that I just listened to a live performance of Trovatore with Franco Corelli in which she sounds shrill to me. Her case is under advisement.

Though I approve of her taking on new music, I am not a fan of Renée Fleming. I only heard Elizabeth Soderstrom well after her peak, but admire her. I did not hear Mirella Freni , Lucia Popp, or Renata Tebaldi live, though am pretty sure from recordings that they were among the great ones.  . Kiri Te Kawane, good, but not great. Scotto, I’m not sure about, though she was a great recorded Mme. Butterfly and the Youtube video of the last scene of “Suor Angelica” is very impressive. “Bubbles”(Beverly Sills) was before my time, though I enjoyed her hosting Met telecasts after she topped singing.

I was impressed by Patrice Racette in Paul Moravec’s “The Letter” at Sanda fe. She definitely could act, as well as sing. I’d like to hear her non-operatic  “Diva on Detour.”Longer ago at Santa Fe, I heard Alessandra Marc sing a beauiful Ariadne, but I’ve been told that she quickly ruined her voice.

[The only great tenor I’ve heard live is Placido Domingo, though John Aler is a contender; the only bass Samuel Ramey, though Eric Owens and Simon Estes are contenders.]

©2019, Stephen O. Murray [photos I’m not in are from WIkipedia]

The Great Orchestral Conductors I Have Heard

I have cohabitated with one of the best symphonic orchestras in the country, San Francisco, for decades. They have made it possible for me to hear many of the best conductors, either visiting ones or music directors (two of my top nine).

Herbert Blomstedt (1927-) was underappreciated here [San Francisco, 1985-95] and criticized for not programming enough new American music, though he premiered work by John Adams and Charles Wuorenin and programed music by Roger Sessions. Brahms and Bruckner are particular Blomstedt strengths. The most transcendent experience I recall of his ten-year tenure was a concert performance of “Fidelio.” (B kept trying to inflict work by Reger on SF audiences.)

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Blomstedt in Dresden, 2005, photo by Alexander Böhm)

Pierre Boulez was an amazing conductor of Bartók and Mahler et al. I heard him lead the Cleveland Orchestra in “Rite of Spring”, the first time I heard it live. New York underappreciated him (though I don’t think that Cleveland did). I think Zubin Mehta and Alan Gilbert have been apt punishments of New York Philharmonic philistines.

Charles Dutoit, when allowed to conduct, was especially great with Berlioz, Debussy, Fauré, Franck, Ravel,and Stravinsky—indeed most French and Russian music. (The last concert of his I heard, in LA, included a ravishing Enigma Variations.) That he was a womanizer was known to most (as were James Levine’s diddlings of black boys).

Erich Leinsdorf was underappreciated in Boston (three hundred years of Seiji Ozawa there seems fitting karmic penalty!). I remember a mesmerizing performance of the “Brahms 5th (Schoenberg’s transcription) here and a more than compelling Brahms 3rd symphony in Prague. I love his Prokofiev symphonies and Cosi fan Tutti with Leontyne Price.

James Levine is familiar from many Met telecasts. He brought its orchestra here with the great Welsh soprano Margaret Price (whose remark that Mozart feels good in the throat I’ll always remember). In addition to her rendition of the 4 Last Songs, the program included Strauss’s “Don Quixote.”

I don’t recall what I heard Ricardo Muti perform here with the Philadelphia Orchestra, though I was impressed, as I am by many of his recordings, especially of Verdi. I am also impressed at the commitment he made to the Chicago Symphony, the best orchestra in this hemisphere.

(photo by Andreas Praefcke, Muti in Salzburg, 2008)

Eugene Ormandy left warm feelings in Minneapolis before his long tenure in Philadelphia. His recording of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was what Logan Zahn, the conductor of my high school orchestra aspired to. Ormandy premiered astringent Shostakovich. His recording of the Berlioz Requiem opened romantic music to me. I heard him conduct the SFS in a program of the Brahms symphony 2, Prelude to the afternoon of a faun, and La mer.

Esa Peka Salonen, the incoming music director here, is all but condemned to conduct Finnish music. I don’t remember which Sibelius works I’ve heard him lead, along with his own.

Georg Solti’s biggest accomplishment was his recording of the Ring. I think that the recording he made of the Verdi Requiem with the VIenna Philharmonic, Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarroti, and Martti Tavela is the greatest recording ever. I also love his recordings of “The Damnation of Faust” and of fellow-Hungarians Bartók and Kodalay. (Did he record any Szymanowski?) I think he played the Shostakovich 5th and Mendelsohn 4th (Italian) when he guest-conducted the SFS not long before his death. Joshua Kosman called Solti “the last of old-school [Promethean autocrat] maestros.” Calling attention to “the marked by ferocious intensity, slashing attacks and powerful, larger-than-life sonic outbursts

And some very good ones

I thought Leonard Bernstein performances (the only time I heard him live was rehearsing Marilyn Horne’s Carmen at the Met) were too much about him, a penchant shared to a lesser extent by Michael Tilson Thomas. When MTT is on, he’s on. I especially remember a thrilling performance of Janacek’s “Glaglolgtic Mass” from before he was music director. I like his Copland but resent his foisting “Suntreader” on SF audiences multiple time and not programming Lou Harrison since his death (or Virgil Thompson or Karol Szymanowski or Francis Poulenc or Darius Milhaud ever that I remember!)

I think Gustavo Dudamel, another Bernstein admirer without the personal history MTT has, overrated, though I liked an all-Argentine program (highlighted by Angel Romero doing a concerto by Lalo Schiffrin) at the Hollywood Bowl and his support for Christine Brewer’s rendition of the Four Last Songs in Disney Hall (my first visit there, before GD was LA music director). I don’t remember what he performed here before becoming LA music director….

I’ve heard (Sir) Simon Rattle conduct Birmingham, and Berlin, orchestras (he was music director of both ensembles). His performances of his specialties, Britten and Mahler, underwhelm me. I liked the Berg 3 Pieces an Schoneberg 5 in his performance, though.

Daniel Barenboim was a great pianist and is a near-great conductor (way better than Ashkenazy, Domingo, or Rostropovish on the podium). He introduced me to Bruckner with the Chicago Orchestra’s performance of the Bruckner 9th.

Berkeley-born Kent Nagano’s reputation seems in some eclipse. I remember Messiaen coming to Davies to hear him conduct the Berkeley Symphone (Illuminations of the Beyond, I think) and Elliot Carter to hear him and John Browning’s Barber? (I”Interventions for Piano and Orchestra?) And a rare performance of the insane Busoni piano concerto. He is music director in Hamburg and Montréal.

Neither SFS guest conductors James Conlon (music director of the LA Opera) nor Krystof Urbanski (born in 1982, music director of the Indianapolis Symphony, principal guest conductor of the Tokyo Symphony) has ever disappointed me. Nor has James Gaffigan, who was associate conductor here from 2003 to 2006 and is chief conductor in Lucerne).

I got to chat with long-time and much-recorded Baltimore Symphony (1985-98) and Zurich’s Tonhalle (1995-2014) David Zinman after the première of George Perle’s (still unrecorded?) second piano concerto. His recording of the Górecki 3rd symphony with soprano Dawn Upshaw must be the best-selling recording of 20th-century concert music!

I only heard Witold Lutoslawski conduct Lutoslawski, though I had dinner with him (and many other people). I found him genial, though a greater composer than a conductor.

I don’t recall hearing Kurt Masur (music director of the New York Philharmonic, 1991-2002) conduct live. He was quite probably among the great ones, as Carlo Maria Giulini (music director ot the LA Philharmonic, 1978-84, of La Scala 1953-58), and Claudio Abbado certainly were.

The conductor I most revere on disc (especially his Beethoven), but am too young to have heard live, is Otto Klemperer. I’d liked to have heard Dmitri Mitropoulos, Fritz Reiner, George Szell, Bruno Walter… and Mahler conduct, too! Mahler led the NY Phil from 1909 to 1911, so I missed him by a long stretch!

[Gary Bukovnik, who has a phenomenal memory of concert programs, helped me remember specifics of what we heard, including in Prague.]

©2019, Stephen O. Murray

Summary of my treatment plan

Having survived nine rounds of chemotherapy (two different kinds), I am headed to autologous transplant of my stem cells.

First, I have ten consecutive days of getting two shots neupogen to stimulate white blood-cell production. (My blood hasnot been tested since last Monday, so platelets and red blood-cells may have crashed.

Then, a temporary (Quinton ) catheter is going to be installed to filter/spin blood(apheresis, the stem cell collection) for 2-3 days.

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Then the stem cells are going to be shipped off to UC-Davis and enhanced (this is the clinical trail part, of which I am the fifth patient).

Then, hospitalized for BEAM chemotherapy with four double daily doses of cytarabine and of etoposide, plus a starting dose of carmustine and and closing one of malphalan,

I assume it will take a few days for those drugs to make me feel really terrible and am told it takes 10-12 days for the start of recovery of (first white) blood cells. I’ll be receiving my enhanced stem cells immediately after the heavy-duty chemo (which aims to eradicate any hiding traces of lymphoma).

 

And then I’m likely to feel very weak and to have an immune system with no immunities (eventually, I will have to be vaccinated for the childhood illnesses I had, plus polio and more).

And then I may be healthy? It’s hard to conceive that from here…

 

Eric D. Walrond: Afro-Caribbean pioneer writer

The 1926 collection of short fiction Tropic Death by Eric Derwent Walrond (1898-1966) was one of the most lauded “New Negro”/”Harlem Renaissance” books. Years ago, I read something by Walrond in either The New Negro or The Harlem Renaissance Reader and wondered what happened to him. I couldn’t find any other books by him and wondered if he died young like Wallace Thurman and Rudolph Fisher (each of whom published two novels before dying in 1934).

Walrond, who was born in Guyana and raised in Barbados and Panama, resided in the US between 1918 and 1929. Many expected him to write the Great Negro Novel and his successful application for a Guggenheim fellowship looked forward to novels in the plural, but none came, and Walrond published little after leaving Harlem. Most of the fiction he wrote, including all eight (of the total ten) stories from Tropic Death included by Louis J. Paranscandola in his collection of Walrond writings, are set in the Caribbean (including coastal Panama). There are four earlier stories set in Harlem included, with the earliest fiction also set in the Caribbean and most of the late fiction also set there (along with a pair on racism in the “Mother Country”).

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Although there are flashes of violence, there is very little plot in any of the “stories.” They are heavy on (fetid) atmosphere, long on discrimination by skin coloration (with lighter-skinned lording it over darker-skinned), tropical rot (the “tristes tropiques”), and renderings of West Indian dialect that are difficult to decode (more difficult than the Black English Vernacular is writings by Fisher or Zora Neale Hurston). Opening at random for an example of the dialect: “Wha’ Oi doin’? Ent um is de troot, ent um?”

Walrond frequently indulged in what some might consider “prose poems” or “lyricism,” but strikes me as spewing lists and perpetrating purple prose. An example from Walrond’s most famous “story”: “He was back in Black Rock; a dinky backward village; the gap rocky and grassy, the roads dusty and green-splashed; the marl, in the dry season, whirling blindly at you; the sickly fowls dying of the pip and the yaws, the dogs, a -rowing, impotent lot; the crop of dry peas and cassava and tannias and eddoes, robbed, before they could feel the pulse of the sun, of their gum or juice; the goats bred on some jealous tenant’s cane shoots, or guided some silken black night down a painter’s gully—and then only able to give a little bit of milk; the rain, a whimsical rarity.” This long sentence has way too many adjectives for anyone reared on Hemingway. It is not empty verbiage, but is typical in being evocative but providing details that don’t advance understanding of the characters or relate to what any of them is doing (the story records a young islander crossing on a boat to the mainland and meeting his father who is ailing, probably having leprosy, the prototype of tropical rot).

There are some lurid (tropical Gothic) death and destruction (The Vampire Bat, the Black Pin), but there is a lack of character development or plot development and of ending (rather than stopping). I don’t know why anyone took Tropic Death as presaging putting together a novel, even a stream of consciousness one. Waldron was a writer of vignettes, not of sustained narrative.

The journalism Paranscandola included is more interesting to me, and certainly easier to read. Walrond wrote for newspapers in Panama, then for Marcus Garvey’s organ Negro World and after Garvey’s notorious meeting with the Ku Kluk Klan Grand Wizard, Walrond wrote for and was business manager of Opportunity, the periodical of the Urban League, edited by Charles S. Johnson. In contrast to Garvey and W. E. B. Du Bois (whom Walrond despised as having a “superiority complex” and as being “ashamed he is not white. He hates to be black. In his writing there is a stream of endless woe, the sorrow of a mulatto whose white blood hates and despises the black in him”!), Johnson believed that writers should “tell it like it is” on the ground for “the Negro multitude,” rather than produce uplilft propaganda about the refinements of a small elite (as in the novels of Du Bois protégé Jessie Fauset, one of which Walrond excoriated in a review included in the collection).

Walrond was admired by the Thurman/Hughes/Hurston group (and its prime sponsor, Alain Locke, editor of The New Negro) that rejected providing antiseptic narratives of the triumphs of the “talented tenth” and wrote about the joys and sorrows of ordinary black people. Later, from Great Britain, Walrond wrote lauditorily of Richard Wright’s work. Although I welcome the availability of the book reviews Paranscandola included (including a mixed one on Nigger Heaven, characterized as “a deeply subjective studyt from an exotic Nordic viewpoint of an ebony Paris [that] yet has its moments of racial fiedelity and abiding reality” and “a frontier work of an enduring order”), it is frustrating to find in the bibliography but not in the book reviews that were published in The New York Herald Tribune of books by Fisher, Thurman, and Hurston, and Locke’s collection of plays. (I also with that Paranscandola had included the 1954 “Success Story” that he briefly discusses in his very illuminating introduction.)

The volume contains some interesting pieces and answers the question “What happened to Eric Waldron after Tropic Death?” (His promise fizzled in British exile and he reunited with Garvey there, after sharing an apartment with Countee Cullen in Paris.) I guess the fiction is important in the development of Afro-Caribbean literature, but little more than a footnote to African American literature, though it may appeal to tastes less spartan than mine when it comes to “lyrical” effusions. I much prefer Fisher’s short fiction.

©2004, Stephen O. Murray

Update: lymphoma roars back

Things came crashing down again. I had a PET scan Monday 1/21 at Mission Bay, then a visit to my cardiologist Tuesday (through rain). I felt a bit week when I got home. Wed. morning, on the way to the toilet, I slid or my legs gave way. I didn’t pass out, but there was a thud, and soon my bathroom was filled with firemen (eight, I think).

 

I wanted to be taken to UCSF where I had an appointment with my oncologist on Thursday, but UCSF was refusing to admit anyone, and I was put in CPMC. There, I was knocked out, something was dropped down my esophagus. Besides taking pictures, it sealed off an ulcer.

 

The PET scan revealed more and new lymphoma, and treatment began even before test results were interpreted. It seems that cancer is pressing against nerves, accounting for considerable pain. I’m getting some morphine product for pain and using a walker to get around. A physical therapist came to Millbrae and I have some exercises that I do—quite pathetically.

 

My numbers are presumably collapsing (neutrophenia) as I’m de facto returned to isolation. Another round of chemo will follow a week of recovery. I feel that there was no consideration of different therapies as I was hurtled literally from my toilet (without pants or shoes) into this chemo (with retuxin, that has so far not messed me up as much as prednasone did).