Authors: Imamu Amiri Baraka
Tags: #ebook, #Speculative Fiction, #book
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Akashic Books
©2007 Amiri Baraka
Library of Congress Control Number: 2006923115
All rights reserved
To my wife Amina
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What should be obvious in these tales are the years, the time passing and eclipsed, the run of faces, events, unities and struggles, epochs, places, conditions, all gunning through and fueling them. Tales are stories—I like the old sound to it,
. A story (where we have stored something) can be from anywhere and talk of anything. Like Williams said, sometimes memory explains itself as a newness, a future revelation.
But tales, as my mother called my frequent absences from the literal, are not only straight out of my own orally recorded perpetrations, but have a literary stature from Pushkin, de Maupassant, Poe, Dumas, Kafka, Sembène, Bradbury, &c., a parade of awesome presences, themselves
, of eras and assemblages of great thoughts and feelings. What is left of what has left. What my grandfather used to call “the last part of the chicken to go over the fence.”
Does this have anything to do with Pin the Tail on the Donkey? It depends on who that ass be! We aims to be democratic, even in our registrations of where we been, is, and going. So there is dim ol’ rats and real public coons featured throughout.
Mao sd that “works of literature and art, as ideological forms, are products of the reflection in the human brain of the life of a given society.” These tales confirm that. Ideological but also material, to whatever extent the time, place, and condition of our own lives are rendered by our understanding, our perception, rationale, and use of everything we are or that surrounds the inside and the outside of us.
So many of these tales would be juiced-up journalism if I did not think they needed to be something else to be fully grasped. The earliest tales in this book fit that, with their takes on (& almost at the time of) the interior of a social movement.
The slightly gnarled pinpoints of great human struggles raging everywhere across the planet! The trials and errors, attempts, failures, and successes of that period. Told, or halftold, or enhanced, by each succeeding level of knowledge that I was able to fully navigate. So there are sounds and colors and surfaces, as well as images and hard edges and impressionistic recallings. Some emerging philosophical constructs. There is also, at the optimal curtain calls, some real information, some actual use provided.
In specific contexts, anything can be
Out of the ordinary. So that even the most advanced of us who struggled against racism and imperialism could be called, and sometimes were called,
Just as we might call some artist, like Thelonius Monk or Vincent Smith or John Coltrane,
Because they were just not where most other people were. So that is aesthetic and social, often both at the same time.
There are “real” events and events taken from reality and enhanced with the spirit of the thing itself. That’s why in the “south” of the world, the bird sits on top of the wise man’s head—the soul, the spirit—whether Bantu or Cherokee. When we were told that Osiris, the Djali, raises the sun each day with song and verse, we learned that this is the function of art—to give us light, to let us fly, to let us imagine and dream, but also to create, in the real world.
The stories become tales when they can give us a sense of a less fully experienced dimension to what is.
The “War Stories” in this book’s first section are, for the most part, taken from a life lived and experienced, from one kind of war or another. It could be the USAF in Puerto Rico, it could be the later Greenwich Village skirmishes, the Black Liberation Movement, or the Anti-Revisionist Communist Movement (we used to call it). Or what became post- all that. Or it could even be a transmogrification of what happens when people cannot stand reality, perhaps because it is too
and so try to duck out on it, but wherever they try to hide, it is right there waiting for them.
What happens to us literally is never obvious altogether. The smashing of the Black Nationalist paradigm of the ’60s happened in a number of ways, obvious and un. There are parables here, just like they told us in church. War stories can be tales of what happened “back in the day!” But there are concrete results of real life that have or have not happened, or might have happened or might yet happen, or even metaphorical descriptions of different kinds of life conflicts that move us, whether we can speak of them or not.
The “Out” is out, even if in plain sight. Though it would not have to be. The “Gone” could be seen or unseen or obscene. But even farther “Out,” crazier, wilder, deeper, a “heavier” metaphor, a deeper parable. We’d say that’s “way out.”
(At Howard we were so hip we wd say, “That’s way,” meaning, “That’s way too much,” exceedingly hip, super wise. Like a cat we called “Smitty from the City” who when he entered the room addressed us all as “CATS, CATS, CATS,” and we sd among us that Smitty from the City was, indeed, way too much.)
The act of imagining is the root of creation. I brought that with me as I grew. I cd imagine my ass off. Sometimes my parents wd try to whip it literally off for such imagining. I told my teacher once that I was late for school because I had to feed the snakes my parents kept in the basement. Little knowing the wench wd come and investigate.
So to tell the whole story of this place, there has to be room to imagine what it means as well as what it seems to be, since all of that is what it is. And this is the shining antique surface that makes the tale. I was a lover of these tales, short stories. Richard Wright
(Uncle Tom’s Children),
(The Ways of White Folks),
All of Kafka’s
Earlier, I was a teenage science fiction reader. An
like they say, reader. The first story I ever published, called “The Cat,” as a senior at Barringer High School in Newark, had merely the humming of metaphor made mystical. But from Ray Bradbury’s
The Martian Chronicles,
and science fiction from writers like Heinlein, van Vogt, Asimov, Clarke, and the annual sci-fi anthology. Plus the mysterious stories that the radio was hip enough then to offer; remember
Pictures at an Exhibition
as its theme song), which did the wilder stories by Cheever, H.G. Wells, and many more? All these sources molded my taste for the Out & the Gone. The merely humdrum quickly bored me, the tale had to have some
The stranger and more science fiction–like that the tales might seem, I hope they still carry a sense of what needs to be addressed and even repaired in the “real world.” Octavia Butler and Henry Dumas, though more my contemporaries, yet gone (really) already, carry this kind of social presence, like a hymn of clear morality, in their works. We see what they love and what they hate, what they think ugly and what they think beautiful, as if addressing themselves directly to Mao’s dicta in the
Talks at the Yenan Forum on Art & Literature
That is not simply my analogy, but a historic litmus analysis for any art.
Sartre sd if you say something’s wrong in the world and you don’t know what it is, that’s art. On the other hand, if you say something’s wrong in the world and you do know what it is, that’s social protest. At least that’s what our enemies say. Fuck them!
The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey
Newark, NJ, 5/11/06
he debate was short and sour. Acrid. Unsunny. Though a vein of humor eased through it. It began after three years away from the organization. Conrad faced Pander with the proposition that he, Pander, was an opportunist. That he would come up and criticize operations to others, but say nothing to people’s faces.
Pander huffed and puffed through his opened nostrils. A flush of red thru his brown face, fattened by studentdom come late in life.
As revolutionaries, black nationalists, he and Conrad had been together as part of a larger being, World Insurrectionists. W.I. But a silent and tightly focused split sent Conrad, as one suborganization head, off with his folks in another direction. There had almost been a shoot-out on a southern campus between W.I. people and the breaking-away Liberation Afrikan Front. L.A.F. people.
Pander had been where in that? Had he already left W.I., or what? During that period or a little earlier, Simba, the leader- teacher, apparently had Pander cracked across the skull and driven out with his running partner, Big Yellow Jerome, who’s now a City Hall dope dealer. Cleaner. Wabenzi (the tribe that drives in the Mercedes Benzes). The whole story on that. The head whipping. The flight. Accusations that Pander was “an agent who pushes pills” inside the organization. All that remains unclear. Or too clear.
Except Simba got worse, from the strain of revolutionary struggle. Began to swallow too many stay-awake and stayasleep pills. Became a drowsy ordering vegetable. Amidst the cries for blood, the secret and public capitalist hit men also cried. Amidst internal and external machinations, opportunism— a more exotic withdrawal from the real world. Madness in the smoke of sweet incense. A machine gun set up on a tripod just inside the door of the house. Servants padded in stockinged feet. People pulled in and questioned. Through the fog, conspiracies hatched conspiracies—all fake. Except the real one, that worked.
Conrad gave money to Simba’s brother to rescue him, take him to a hospital. The brother didn’t even bother to report. Except months later, he explained the obvious: He had failed.
But all this, simply to set the proper pincer of memory and light. Truth moves the faces back and forth. Pander began talking in a rush. “Phrase mongering,” he said. Being criticized for behind-the-back criticizing to the R.C. The Right Commies, a group of young, mostly white students calling themselves “multinational workers.” About how it shudda been. With thousands of Puerto Ricans ready to rip, boiling outside on the pavement in front of City Hall. Safely indoors, the Nigger Mayor losing weight, oinking like a panicked porker with his little tail curling up under his coat, nailed in place by the way his neck sat, holding up his doofus face. Conrad, the Puerto Rican leaders, and another organization—the Leopards—ran back and forth between City Hall negotiations and the pavement. The crowd had converged from the Puerto Rican ghettoes of the city, El Barrio, to scream at this ugly life. One of their children had been trampled to death by a mounted policeman, trying to stop two Puerto Ricans from shooting crap in the middle of a folklore festival. Two more, both Puerto Rican, died. Shot in the back and the back of the head. The last one pistol-whipped in the face, for good measure.