Grace Paley, the Saint of Seeing

“Grace Paley’s literary approach is to make a dazzling verbal surface that doesn’t so much linearly represent the world as remind us of its dazzle.”
“When photography arrived in the world, or so I’ve heard, painting had to reconsider itself. ‘What can I do that photography can’t?’ painting asked itself, in its alarmed French accent. ‘How may I yet be essential?’ The prime quality of literary prose—that is, the thing it does better than any other form (movies, songs, sculpture, tweets, television, you name it)—is voice. A great writer mimicking, on the page, the dynamic energy of human thought is about as close as we can get to modelling pure empathy. Grace Paley is one of the great writers of voice of the last century. There’s an experience one has reading a stylist like her that has to do with how rich in truth the phrase-or-sentence-level bursts are and how quickly they follow upon one another. An image or phrase finds you, pleases you with its wit or vividness, shoehorns open your evolving vision of the fictive world, and before that change gets fully processed, here comes another. You find yourself having trouble believing this much wit is washing over you. A world is appearing before you that is richer and stranger than you could possibly have imagined, and that world gains rooms and vistas and complications with every phrase. What you are experiencing is intimate contact with an extraordinary intelligence, which causes the pleasant sensation of one’s personality receding and being replaced by the writer’s consciousness. …”
New Yorker
amazon: A Grace Paley Reader: Stories, Essays, and Poetry

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Soul Survivors – Expressway to Your Heart (1967)

“The Soul Survivors are an American, Philadelphia-based, Soul Music and R&B group, founded by New York natives Richie and Charlie Ingui along with Kenny Jeremiah. The Soul Survivors are known for their 1967 hit singleExpressway to Your Heart‘, which was the first hit by Philadelphia soul record producers and songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. The Soul Survivors are still performing and recording new music and covers, most recently working with David Uosikkenen of the The Hooters and his project ‘In The Pocket’ which is paying tribute to the vast catalog of music created in Philadelphia. The Soul Survivors first played together in New York under the name The Dedications, founded by member Kenny Jeremiah, who released several singles under this name in 1962 and 1964. They adopted the name Soul Survivors in 1965. They signed to Philadelphia label Crimson Records, who put them in touch with Gamble & Huff. ‘Expressway to Your Heart‘ was a #1 hit regionally in Philadelphia and New York in the fall of 1967, and the tune reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 nationally. …”
W – “Expressway to Your Heart”
W – Gamble and Huff
YouTube: Expressway To Your Heart

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The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin (1963)

The Fire Next Time is a 1963 book by James Baldwin. It contains two essays: ‘My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation,’ and ‘Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind.’ The first essay, written in the form of a letter to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew, discusses the central role of race in American history. The second essay deals with the relations between race and religion, focusing in particular on Baldwin’s experiences with the Christian church as a youth, as well as the Islamic ideas of others in Harlem. The book was first published by The New Yorker and owing to its great success, it was subsequently published in book form by Dial Press in 1963, and in Britain by Penguin Books in 1964; both essays in the book had previously been published in The Progressive and The New Yorker, respectively. Critics greeted the book enthusiastically; it is considered, by some, one of the most influential books about race relations in the 1960s. … This book consists of two essays, both examining the problems blacks faced in America in the early 1960s. Themes other than ‘the Negro Problem’ explored by the book include an examination of the shallowness and ineffectiveness of religious faith and of intergenerational influences and relationships. …”
Guardian: How James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time still lights the way towards equality
NYBooks: James Baldwin and the “Man”
Guardian: The fire this time – the legacy of James Baldwin
New Republic: From the Stacks: “The Fire Last Time”
YouTube: Audio Book: The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin read by Jesse L. Martin 2:25:32

A spectator at the Selma to Montgomery march with a sign condemning police killings presages the grievances of today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

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Central Park be-ins

Central Park Zoo, New York City, 1967
“In the 1960s, several ‘be-ins’ were held in Central Park to protest against various issues such as US involvement in the Vietnam War and racism. This park was a place where all of the different types of people that New York contained could mingle. During the 1960s America was involved in the Vietnam War. This war was a controversial one because many people were against the United States’ involvement in South Vietnam. Adding to the tension of the Americans against the war was the emergence of a generation of people who were a part of the counter-culture and believed that they should do anything possible to go against the establishment. When Central Park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, this counter-culture generation decided that the park would be the perfect host for their demonstrations. On New Year’s Eve 1967, a group of one thousand people accompanied by music and geese burned down a Christmas tree in Central Park. The Parks Commissioner, Thomas P.F. Hoving, was present at the event. About this demonstration, he stated, ‘We’re going to do this again… you know, It’s old hat to go to Times Square when we can have such a wonderful happening in Central Park’. The Easter 1967 be-in was organized by Jim Fouratt an actor, Paul Williams editor of Crawdaddy! magazine, Susan Hartnett head of the Experiments in Art and Technology organization and Chilean poet and playwright Claudio Badal. With a budget of $250 they printed 3,000 posters and 40,000 small notices designed by Peter Max and distributed them around the city. …”
Voice – The 1967 Central Park Be-In: A ‘Medieval Pageant’
YouTube: BE-IN – 1967 – Central Park, New York – The Lost Ektachrome Footage – Easter Sunday

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United States v. O’Brien (1968)

United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968), was a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled that a criminal prohibition against burning a draft card did not violate the First Amendment‘s guarantee of free speech. Though the Court recognized that O’Brien’s conduct was expressive as a protest against the Vietnam War, it considered the law justified by a significant government interest unrelated to the suppression of speech and was tailored towards that end. O’Brien upheld the government’s power to prosecute what was becoming a pervasive method of anti-war protest. Its greater legacy, however, was its application of a new constitutional standard. The test articulated in O’Brien has been subsequently used by the Court to analyze whether laws that have the effect of regulating speech, though are ostensibly neutral towards the content of that speech, violate the First Amendment. Though the O’Brien test has rarely invalidated laws that the Court has found to be ‘content neutral‘, it has given those engaging in expressive conduct—from wearing of black armbands to burning of flags— an additional tool to invoke against prohibitions. …”

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Dusty Springfield – I Only Want To Be With You (1963)

“Biographies of Dusty Springfield invariably state that her 1964 debut solo smash, ‘I Only Want to Be With You,’ was the first major overseas hit scored by a British act following the rise of Beatlemania. A chronological coincidence, perhaps, but it nevertheless bears mentioning that like the Fab Four before her, Springfield conquered the U.S. charts with a sound inspired almost completely by American rock & roll and R&B — occupying the middle ground between the Wagnerian teen pop operas of producer Phil Spector and the string-sweetened sophistication of the Motown sound, ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ ranks among the great white soul records of all time, a swooning, dramatic pledge of devotion wrought with rare emotional depth. Sonic similarities aside, it’s the passion and conviction of Springfield’s performance which sets ‘I Only Want to Be With You’ apart from the Spector-helmed girl group hits of the Ronettes and the Crystals; though in many ways her most exuberantly hopeful vocal, it nevertheless hints at the vulnerability and desperation of later ballads like the magnificent ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and ‘All I See Is You,’ revealing an almost unsettling longing in its portrait of romantic euphoria. …”
YouTube: I Only Want To Be With You

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Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness (1899)

“Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness was originally published as a three-part serial story in Blackwood’s Magazine in 1899, then later as a novella in the 1902 collection Youth: A Narrative; and Two Other StoriesA complex and controversial ‘meditation on colonialism, evil, and the thin line between civilization and barbarity,’ Heart of Darkness gained literary stature during the 1950s and 1960s, before peaking in the late 1970s–precisely around when Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now, a film loosely based on Conrad’s tale. What halted the novella’s momentum was a stinging rebuke from Chinua Achebe, father of modern African literature, who criticized the way it ‘projects the image of Africa as ‘the other world,’ the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization…’ Despite the controversies surrounding the text, Heart of Darkness remains widely read in American high schools and universities. And, notes Harold Bloom, it has ‘had a striking influence on writers, artists, and thinkers from all over the globe.’ …”
Open Culture – Free Audio Book: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Read by British Actor Hayward Morse (Audio)
W – Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Guardian: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – a trip into inner space

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