Thirteen years before I was born they killed almost everyone in my family. Though I was always told not to worry about it, I did worry about it.
My father, a perceptive man with a degree in history who could tell a pretty good story, might have sat down and tapped out an illuminating account but he is dead now too and can’t do much these days. Before the end, when he could have been writing this all out, he was busy reading several newspapers every day, walking the dog, napping. I am the last one in my line left to tell the story, including how they killed nearly every one of us, continue to kill so many of us.
My father left it to me, in his final, grandest joke, to grapple with the increasingly slippery ghosts of this story.
We do not give a rat’s perfectly formed buttock for men who grapple with slippery ghosts, I know that as well as anyone. I myself smirk whenever I pass such a man. You will hear no cluck from me if you slam this heavy tome shut now. I will try to make it worth your while, that’s all I can tell you.
Life goes on, and, even if it won’t, this is a true golden age for episodic television, great actors are performing well-crafted dramas that move with insight and cunning from one emotionally fraught moment to the next, gathering momentum as they go. We binge watch now, many of us, and are relieved, on demand, of everything else while we do.
So I’m writing the account my father, a dreaded and articulate man, might have written if he ever wrote anything down. A hesitant hunt and peck typist who occasionally gave long speeches in front of groups, he never prepared his remarks on paper. He prepared them carefully in his mind, you could hear that at once from the organization of his talks.
He’d glance down at notes, but they’d be a few words on the back of an envelope to remind him of where he was in his thoughts. He had this wonderful facility, like the way the Romane (Gypsies) have always learned music. See the shape of the song clearly in the air, in the mind, let the flourishes fall where they’re called for. The matter of style.
Style is also how the most unspeakable civilities are carried out, routinized, turned into mere artifacts of history. Read Dred Scott and you will appreciate the power of style to carry the day. That Chief Justice, smoothly working the levers of the law to assure everyone that under our law, and with the best of intentions on everybody’s parts, a Negro is still a Negro.
(that’s it for tonight, boys and girls, end of first stab)