Friday, December 26, 2008

Where Have I Been?

As well you might ask! I just can't seem to finish a book lately and then, well, typing is just killing me. I think I've pinched a nerve in my neck or arm and I have this burning pain from my shoulder blade down to my wrist. This has been going on for a month now and it's driving me bonkers - especially when we're supposed to be practicing non-stop for our new computer system that'll be up and running at work by the end of January.

Enough of that whining though. There's so much going on in my head right now that I scarcely know where to begin. Don and I went to see "Milk" yesterday and, though I'm old enough to remember when Harvey Milk was assassinated, I guess I was too busy being a full-time stepmother at the time to really relate to what was happening in the gay/lesbian community. I recall Anita Bryant's frightening speeches, calling on God to condemn a whole segment of our society for loving the "wrong" person. I always cringe when I hear a member of some church use that disingenuous phrase about "loving the sinner but hating the sin," as if it's up to them to make a judgement about what's right and what's wrong. It's almost as bad as using the word "tolerance" as if it's some magnanimous gesture. To "tolerate" is hardly to embrace.

The movie got me to see this whole flap about Obama's asking Rick Warren to give the inaugural benediction in a whole new light. I thought the gay community was overreacting in their violent disapproval, clinging to my blind devotion to Barack and believing that he had a clever ulterior motive for his decision. But seeing the original footage of the police rounding up homosexuals from Stonewall in New York to south beach in Miami - a mere 30 years ago - I realized that, as with women's rights, we have not come as far as one would hope and that giving a prominent voice to a man like Rick Warren is to gays what elevating Lawrence Summers is to me as a woman.

Kudos to Sean Penn who never veers from controversy and wears his politics on his sleeve. The man is a beautiful writer, ( check out his articles in The Nation or on the Huffington Post), but he's also a very underrated actor, in my humble opinion. He blew me away in Dennis Lehane's "Mystic River" in which he played the father of a murdered girl who succumbs to vigilantism, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when he channeled a mentally challenged father trying to retain custody of his daughter in "I Am Sam."

All this brings me to the book I am halfway through on the mp3. Palace Council by Stephen Carter, the third in his series of novels (and I think the best) about the elite, powerful movers and shakers of "the darker nation" who lived in elegant sophistication in Harlem during its peak, laboring behind the scenes to effect political change and a better future for the generations that would follow. I really enjoy how Carter weaves so much actual history into his novels that the reader believes that the fictional characters are as real as the names like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. du Bois, J. Edgar Hoover and Adam Clayton Powell that are dropped into the narrative.

As in his first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, there is a secret society to be infiltrated and as in the second, New England White, there's a dead body found in a most inconvenient place. There's also an unrequited love, a baby born out of wedlock, and a family divided by differing philosophies on how to bring full civil rights to African Americans. Lest you think I'm being flip, on the contrary, I should tell you that Carter is a very literary writer with a penchant for red herrings but a need to tie up loose ends.

No comments: