Amiable with Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem
by Claude McKay, edited and with an introduction by Jean-Christophe Cloutier and Brent Hayes Edwards
Claude McKay has one of the most interesting life stories of the Harlem Renaissance writers, starting with how he got away from Jamaica, where he was born in 1889. McKay’s first two published volumes were of dialect poems, work encouraged by Walter Jekyll, the British folklore collector of Jamaica’s Blue …
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race
edited by Jesmyn Ward
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by the novelist and memoirist Jesmyn Ward, originated in her search for community and consolation after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
From its first issue in 1963, Robert Silvers was either co-editor with Barbara Epstein or, after her death in 2006, editor of The New York Review. Bob worked almost to the very end of his life, which would be no surprise to those who knew him well, including those who have written these brief memoirs.
Moonlight is a love story in a place where we don’t usually find a gay one and at the same time it’s very different from other black films set in the ’hood, mostly because of what it doesn’t focus on. We don’t hear gunfire and there is no pounding soundtrack, just as it has no bohemian artists or middle-class triumphalism about family. It’s about a homo thug from that street world of the fatherless where masculine pride is supposedly all and tests of manhood are brutal. But Moonlight isn’t trying to be realistic about anything, even as it confounds what we expect from stories about young black men, starting with the film’s texture, its intricate soundtrack, tantric pace, and beauty frame by frame.
Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), enthusiast of Modernism and ally of the Harlem Renaissance, had a swell time while the Roaring Twenties lasted and his home became something of a cultural clearinghouse for black writers and artists. But his photographs of black people are perhaps his most personal work. Van Vechten’s admiration for his subjects was unambiguous and the portraits speak of his talent for friendship. They knew who he was. Even when the subject’s gaze is averted, as in Van Vechten’s 1936 portrait of Lottie Allen, described as a domestic worker, her “dates unknown,” the viewer believes that she, who appears to be in uniform, trusts the white man behind that camera.
Can Themba’s “The Suit,” a sparsely told tale of betrayal, was adapted for the stage in South Africa in the early 1990s. Peter Brook presented his production of The Suit at the Theatres des Bouffes du Nord last year. His English version is now at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in the Harvey Theater, a space made to look distressed, in imitation of the look of decay that Brook’s Paris theater has made famous. Audiences will know immediately that The Suit is the work of Peter Brook, in its looking beyond Europe and the West for stories to tell on stage, and also in the elegant economy of the staging itself.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, DC looks like heroic sculpture from the China of Chairman Mao. In The Mountaintop, a play by Katori Hall now on Broadway, Dr. King is offered yet another tribute his memory could maybe have done without. In Hall’s well-meaning, but naive play about an imagined conversation between King and a maid at the motel where he stayed on the night before he was killed, King’s last hours on earth become an occasion for tribal laughter and warm black feelings. The Mountaintop is so focused on reconciling us—and him—to his death, that Hall seems uninterested in how she might be exploiting King’s legacy.