Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Oktober + Baseball + Nobel Nonsense + Janelle Monáe

Tonight I was talking to C and he reminded me that it's October. (Bizarre association, but both the Eisenstein film and the art-cult-crit journal* often hover at my consciousness's margins when I vocalize this month.) Not that I'd forgotten it, because like everyone, I have more than enough bills to pay that are due right around now, but I realized I'm still in a September frame of mind. These days I blink and two months have passed. Except perhaps now with classes, where I feel like we've been meeting for months, even though we're only into the second week of the quarter. But it's a good feeling of duration so far.

*It fascinates me to recall how enthusiastically and devotedly I read this journal years ago, especially during the late 1980s. Article by article it provided another parallel education, though I realized that it took me about five good years to assimilate it all. It was where I first learned about Hollis Frampton, the controversies surrounding Richard Serra's public art, anything having to do with the "psychoscopic," Lacan's infamous little critique of Kant ("Kant with Sade," Alexander Kluge, etc. Those were the days!


Manny RamírezLast night as I was teaching my grad workshop, the class and I heard booms going off and then loked outside to see fireworks flaring over Lake Michigan near the giant ferris wheel at Navy Pier. (The class is on the university's downtown campus, though the fireworks probably were visible from Evanston. Cf. photo below.) We quickly realized they meant that the Chicago White Sox were in the playoffs, as they'd defeated the Minnesota Twins. That makes two Chicago teams in the post-season; the Chicago Cubs had the best record in the National League and won their division (in which the Cardinals finished fourth by winning their final 6 games) decisively.

There are also two southern California teams in the playoffs: the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL, vying for postseason glory last achieved in 1988, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL. If the Cubs and White Sox made it to the Series against each other, reprising the 1906 contest, it would be the CTA Red Line/El Series, Addison vs. Sox-35th. If the Dodgers and the Angels faced off against each other, it would be...the Interstate 5/Freeway Series?

(One fascinating note is that if it were the latter, the two opposing teams would feature the largest number of Black players, English and Spanish-speaking, from an array of countries, in some time. We're often told about the dearth of African-American baseballers, but the Dodgers and Angels have managed to hire quite a few, in addition to their Latino stars. Cf. Manny Ramírez, above left. Almost as many dreadlocks and twists as in a Brooklyn subway station!)

Rounding out the competition, in the AL the Boston Red Sox again are in the playoffs (why?), along with the spunky Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. Somehow or another, Florida, an unlikely baseball region, has managed not infrequently over the last decade to field a playoff bound team. In the NL, the two other teams are the Philadelphia Phillies, whose last great playoff run was in 1980, when they won the World Series and Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, now gray-haired grandfathers, were still playing. They have the league's leading slugger, fellow St. Louis Ryan Howard, and a solid lineup, and might be the team to beat. (Sorry Cubs.) The other NL team squeaked in: the Milwaukee Brewers, last seen losing, as an AL team, to the Cardinals in 1982, made the playoffs almost completely by dint of one C.C. Sabathia (above right) the 6-7, 290 lb. lefty who after being traded from Cleveland went 11-2 in 17 starts with a 1.65 ERA. He pitched 3 complete game shutouts during that stint, and won his final start, on three day's rest, to ensure his team would go forward.

I'm predicting Phillies defeat Brewers, and Cubs defeat Dodgers. On the AL side, I think the Angels will defeat the Red Sox (we can hope, can't we), and the White Sox will defeat the Rays (who are pretty good). The World Series? Phillies or Cubs vs. Angels.

Note that two teams I didn't mention are the Yankees and the Mets. Other than Yankees fans (I am nominally one), no one mourns their absence. But the Mets' failure to get to the playoffs was a bit sad. They had the talent, lost a very good manager mid-season, came back and were in first place for a while, only to falter at season's end. Next year, Metropolitans!

This may be Chicago's year, not just in the World Series, but in the larger scheme of things. You know, the man who organized dispossessed folks on Chicago's South Side, represented a Hyde Park neighborhood in the State Senate, taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, still has a home in Chicago, and represents the state of Illinois in the US Senate is definitely on his way to becoming president! (It won't be easy, though....)

UPDATE: The Cubs, however, will have to win their games, not just show up. And when did Vladimir Guerrero start hobbling around like he was on the verge of retirement?


Reggie H. sent me an email link to an article about inflammatory comments Horace Engdahl, the top juror of the Swedish Academy. Herr Engdahl slammed American authors and American literature for parochialism, in effect provocatively suggesting that no American author will be winning this year's Nobel Prize for literature. (And thus making Joyce Carol Oates go on a rampage.) As the articles above note, the remarks set several respondents off live. I think Engdahl is wrong on many accounts. His statement about translation probably should be directed at US publishers and not authors. But really, there are some excellent authors outside the Europe-American axis who deserve the honor. Like, oh, Assia Djebar. Or Adélia Prado. Or Pramoedya Ananta Toer. Or Maryse Condé or Kamau Brathwaite. Or Adonis. Or Claribel Alegría. Or Saadi Yousef. Or Luisa Valenzuela. Or Bei Dao. Or Duong Thu Huong. Or Yoel Hoffmann. Or WILSON HARRIS (yes, he lives and writes in Britain, but...).

Seriously, why has no Arabic language author received the Nobel Prize since Naguib Mahfouz? Why have there been so few winners from Asia? Or sub-Saharan Africa? I strongly think Chilean author Roberto Bolaño would have received it had his liver held up, because 2666 (which I tried to read in Spanish this summer, like a fool) is a landmark text. But then, he was living in Spain at the end of his life, so that might have improved his chances anyway.

Looking at the previous list of American laureates, I hadn't realized is that outside of T. S. Eliot, who moved to Britain, no other American poet has received the Nobel. How is that possible? All of the other winners (from Sinclair Lewis to Toni Morrison) have primarily been fiction writers, with the sole except of playwright Eugene O'Neill. American poetry has, certainly since the 19th century, been as distinctive and important as American fiction, and is nowadays perhaps even more diverse, in terms of form, style, themes, and content. It's also influential across the entire English-speaking world, and if one includes its musical forms, globally. So perhaps a senior American poet will be Nobelized once Obama is inaugurated. There are many who are worthy and climbing the ladder of years....

Interesting too that he asserts in fine colonial fashion that "Europe" remains the "center" of the literary world. My literature honors student recently finished Pascale Casanova's The World Republic of Letters, and we were both noting with some bite her attribution of literary centrality, still, to Paris. J'aime beaucoup la littérature française et francophone mais, as if.


The bill-that-must-be-passed-immediately-or-we-will-all-suffer-irrevocably has passed the Senate. Or a slightly better, gewgaw-festooned version of it has. See, our Congress isn't broken. Completely.


Over the last few weeks I've been listening to Janelle Monáe, a very young protegée of Big Boi and Andre 3000 (of Outkast fame). Her CD Metropolis debuted in mid-August (on C-day, no less), and it's hot. I love her Afropunk/futurist stylings and music, which are infectious, fresh pop with a nice soulful twist. (And in addition to invoking thoughts of Grace Jones, she favors the brilliant and beautiful Duriel Harris, doesn't she?) Her musical cyberworms entered my brain after just one audition of "Sincerely Jane," but I also am grooving to "Many Moons" and "Violet Stars Happy Hunting!" which is probably my favorite. "I'm an alien girl from outerspace..." Indeed. I'm excited about the CD, and am going to see if I can catch her if she comes through Chicagoland. Check her out.

Here she is singing "Sincerely Jane" on TBS Storyline.

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