NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 70

revisionism, have been black males. The most offensive character in Wright’s Native Son is a black male. What about the creepy malevolent corrupt violent black men in Chester Himes’s novels? What about the black government that spies in Wright’s Island of Hallucinations? Or what about Amiri Baraka’s portrait of black politicians in his unpublished novel Negroduction? Maybe the feminist emphasis of this Norton explains the absence of William Melvin Kelley, John O. Killens, Askia Toure, or former California Poet Laureates Al Young, Quincy Troupe, Charles Patterson, William Demby, Charles Wright, Bill Gunn, Charles Gordone and Claude Brown? Ted Joans isn’t included because he wrote a satirical poem about Gates. Gates awarded Stanley Crouch a Fletcher Foundation grant of fifty thousand dollars for his novel Don’t The Moon Look Lonesome, yet none of Crouch’s work appears in the Norton. You mean to tell me that you give someone fifty thousand dollars and yet exclude them from your canon? Clarence Major sent me a note which had his list of other omissions. 68 But then given the feminist line of the anthology why are Thulani Davis, Elizabeth Nunez, Jill Nelson, Stacy Patton and the young women who write science fiction like Sheree Renée Thomas excluded? Why no Kristin Hunter Lattany, one of those whom he championed in the notorious 1987 Times essay. The latest hit against black male writers came again in the New York Times, where black bogeyman products have a home and where black males are more likely to be represented by mug shots than on the ‘Book Review’ page, which more and more resembles The Times of India under the new editor. Just as anybody off the street can write about Jazz, like the writer who reviewed a book by a rather pedestrian author Roger Rosenblatt and likened him to a Jazzman, anybody off the streets can write about Black Literature. The Times didn’t even choose Felicia Lee, who writes about black women writers almost exclusively, but instead picked Jeff Gordinier — the dining critic? Gordinier corrected Maryemma Graham who referred to him as the food critic. He said that he was yet to make food critic status. Like the white male critics who hang around the African American Review, presumably because they don’t have the literary chops to tackle the big house canon, which includes racists like T.S. Eliot and Saul Bellow and anti-Semites like Henry James, this reviewer couldn’t write a story about the very capable young writers who belong to Cave Canem without taking a swipe at previous generations who, according to him, wrote about “strife” exclusively. Sharon Strange, one of the young writers who was featured in Gordinier’s article, objected to his description of the black literary tradition. A stereotype that Harlem Renaissance novelist Wallace Thurman once cynically called “Ain’t it hard to be a nigger.” Well, living as a black man in contemporary America isn’t exactly like participating in an Easter egg hunt, but one can say that the “Ain’t it hard…” genre in literature or “Bad luck and trouble” in the Blues, is probably some of the country’s leading exports next to Hip Hop, which itself uses a lot of “Ain’t it hard…” material. Or is Gordinier saying that the Blues and Hip Hop lyrics don’t qualify as poetry? Is he saying that the Blues ain’t alright? This would make him less hip than old white guys like Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren who at least included Bessie Smith’s work in their decades-long best seller Understanding Poetry (1938). Judging from the marketplace, Hip Hop, a lot of which deals with politics and oppression, outsells all schools of poetry mentioned in Gordinier’s article and is of such international influence that it was one of the factors that led to the Arab Spring. Now there is a Bosnian Hip Hop; a Brazilian and Israeli Hip Hop; there is even an Inuit Hip Hop at the North Pole. Much of Hip hop has not been as easy to co-opt as Be-Bop and other forms that have been “borrowed.” As the Slate reviewer of The Anthology of Rap wrote in frustration, “the lyrics are hard to transcribe.”