Hello friends! I had hoped to post a picture or two from the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in Baton Rouge, but WordPress seems to be having image-upload issues, so I’ll have to bring you those later on. The devastation here was severe (I sure was hoping for some of that mild devastation, but alas) all over town; I keep reading Entergy reports saying that 60% of their customers have had power restored, but my unscientific and anecdotal surveys put that number much lower, especially among People Professor Fury Knows. Admittedly, very few people have the patience to endure an anecdotal survey, which usually begins, “Now, when I was a kid in Mississippi, I got run over by a bull once . . . ” and ends, “And that’s how the president of my Baptist college was indicted for laundering money and spending it on prostitutes, whom he brought across state lines, making it a federal case.” If the surveyees sit through the whole story, then I assume they don’t have AC at home.
We were very fortunate; we had trees down all over our property but no damage to the house. A lot of Baton Rougeans weren’t so lucky, though, and the recovery is going to be long—especially if Ike makes a northerly turn and smacks us.
Contessa and I rode out the storm at home and whiled away the time reading and napping. Stuff I read during the hurricane:
Craig Thompson, Blankets. I know, I know, I was supposed to have read this years ago. I will accept a comics nerd demerit. Thompson’s fluid, expressive lines beautifully captured the tribulations and occasional terrors that come along with being a creative, inquisitive kid in white conservative evangelical culture. That culture serves as the backdrop to a young-love plot that I found engaging and cloying by turns (and sometimes both at once); I found myself wanting to read more about the church camps and revival services and Sunday School classes that Thompson renders with a distance-granted empathy that never fully conceals a terrible anxiety.
Lynda Barry, One! Hundred! Demons! I had avoided Barry’s comics in the past—at a glance they seemed too text heavy and simplistic to me—and man, was that my mistake. Barry’s work attempts to map the connection between the ostensibly insignificant choices we make (or that are imposed upon us) as children and the adults we become; the power of her work is that she knows that whatever answers she creates are always provisional and imposed, but that even though there’s no way to untangle those knots, it’s still worth a try.
Harry Crews, A Feast of Snakes. Although this is one of Crews’s better known and more celebrated works, I’m not sure I can rank it among his best. Going for unflinching and tough-minded, it lands instead somewhere around mean-spirited. Depicting terrible people doing terrible things isn’t quite the same as peering into the dark abyss of the soul, you know? I dunno, maybe I was just grumpy.
In other news, I would also like to encourage you all to visit The Bottom of Heaven—a brand-new blog that is well worth your time and that I think will be with us for a while. From the description page:
We are Claudia and Frieda, two pseudonymous sisters and best friends who blog about black life and culture. We love vegetarian chili, old-school hip hop, documentary films, paying our bills on time, and a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. When we grow up, we want to be Michelle Obama.
Bonus points if you can identify the literary source for the blog’s name without reading Claudia and Frieda’s explanation (though you should certainly read their explanation).
Awesome non sequitur overheard at a pre-Gustav party: “Joe Lieberman makes me ashamed to be Italian.”