May 22, 2018
Of Sun Ra, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other people you might spend today thinking about
by Melville House
Good news! Whatever you’ve been waiting ’til Tuesday to do? You can do it today. For today, internetizens, is Tuesday.
Here are a couple of excellent things, in case you could use some moral encouragement:
- It’s the 104th birthday of Sun Ra. Sun Ra, of course, was the cosmically peerless composer, bandleader, keyboard player, and poet who helped bring Afrofuturism and free jazz into mass consciousness throughout a sixty-year career that ended with his death in 1993. He’s also a dude who 1971 came to lecture students at UC Berkeley, and had this to say: “This planet is vulnerable to any kind of creature, any kind of being, to come over anytime they want and pretend to be a man or a woman or a child. […] Anything can come on the planet and grab one of your brothers and take him to the Moon, Jupiter, anywhere. […] Some people can come from outer space and take the whole thing over.” If that sounds familiar, maybe it’s because you read it in this early excerpt we published from Jason Heller’s forthcoming Strange Stars, due out next month. Till then, remember: space is the place.
- It’s the 159th birthday of Arthur Conan Doyle — a comparatively minor Conan, but tied for all-time greatest Doyle. Doyle was many things: the inspiration behind legendary sandwich investigator Sherlock Hemlock, an enricher of the public domain and emboldener of novel-writing basketball players, and, oh yes, a Melville House author. If you’re looking for ways to celebrate, ACD’s the subject of a pretty great Drunk History. There’s also an interview on ACD’s interest in spiritualism with his preposterously British son, Adrian Conan Doyle. And then, there’s probably a pretty good chance you’ve never seen ACD speak… but he died in 1930, well after the advent of motion pictures. And, indeed, there is some amazing footage of him, walking around his home and talking about his books, which you can watch right here.
- Tama Janowitz, author of Slaves of New York, By the Shores of Gitchee Gumee, and other books, is selling her Brooklyn apartment and most of the stuff in it, including more than 450 pieces of art. If only her wit and sartorial excellence could be included in the package.
- Three cheers for the National Book Foundation’s Book Rich Environments program, which this year is the biggest it’s ever been. They’ll be distributing 422,000 books to kids in households on public assistance. 75,000 will go to kids in New York City housing projects.
- Charles Olson, one of America’s defining twentieth-century poets, is about to get a little easier to follow. Olson’s signature work, the long poem The Maximus Poems, is centered on the history of Gloucester, Massachusetts, but it leaves footprints all over the world. The text is partly named after a philosopher from Tyre, and features scenes in Greece and Egypt, Greenland and Mexico, all over Europe, and in the homes of many of America’s poets. Recently, poets have been circulating an online, geographical guide to the poem made by scholar Jim Cocola. The Gazeteer to the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson is an interactive Google map of every place mentioned in the poem. Cocola is also sixteen cantos in to a similar project for the work Ezra Pound.
- The inaugural Bronx Book Festival has happened! The Bronx was reading! Here’s how local TV covered it: