Wednesday, August 19, 2015

"Saltwater Railroad" by Andrea Hairston

Mine is not particularly the voice I want talking about this story. I can sense the rough outlines of what I'd ideally (perhaps dictatorially) like to read about it, though — a meditation somehow synthesizing at least:
  • the lessons of Black Quantum Futurism, especially as relates to the interpenetration of past, present, and future that yet does not erase the importance and contingency of the present moment;
  • a sensitive but adversarial critique of the way the story goes about (as Miz Delia probably would not say) being fiction, perhaps undertaken in part through Gabriel Josipovici and in part through articles like this one about the CIA's role in promoting MFA writing programs (and asking the question of whether and how that type of writing — which this story both is and is not — can resist serving those purposes);
  • a consideration also of the ways that the techniques that make Hairston's theatrical works so powerfully estranging do not necessarily function the same way when transferred to prose fiction;
  • an intimate knowledge of and relationship with the many obscure(d) corners of history the story draws on, including but not remotely limited to the (here pretty much literally) utopian mixed societies created by escapees from the colonial and then independent regimes in the Americas, the astonishing knowledge and beliefs of the Dogon people, and the long, disjunct tradition of women's radicalism and resistance;
  • and an investigation of the category "fantasy," into which the story's publishers resolutely slot it (according to their usual mechanical system), which to me at least seems tantamount to saying: I don't believe this, and I don't believe you. Because I, for one, believe this story.

No comments: