Feb 012010

Over the weekend I read Michael Slater’s tiny 104-page biography of Charles Dickens. In the same mail delivery, I received Peter Ackroyd’s 1144-page biography of Dickens. I spent a lot of time just looking at the two books side-by-side on my bed (where I read) wondering about the disparity between the two. I haven’t finished the Ackroyd book yet (check out his novel Chatterton). I also read Theodor Adorno’s essay (in his books of essays called Prisms) on Kafka which was brilliant as usual and made strange sense out of Kafka’s desire to have his papers burned and to remain obscure. And then I read a dreamy, odd, surprising William Faulkner story “Red Leaves” about Indians (probably Chickasaws), slaves and human sacrifice. (For an interesting thematic variation, see D. H. Lawrence’s human sacrifice story “The Woman Who Road Away.”) I had earlier read something about this: the Chickasaws were one of the Five Civilized Tribes forced to move to Oklahoma by Andrew Jackson in the Trail of Tears episode (as in how America invented Ethnic Cleansing). The Chickasaw had African slaves which they took to Oklahoma with them. After the Civil War and Emancipation, the Chickasaw refused to give up their slaves since they believed they weren’t governed by American legislation. If I remember correctly, the actor Don Cheadle had an ancestor who was a Chickasaw slave. This is mentioned in Henry Louis Gates’s book In Search of our Roots.


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