Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fairy-tale stuff, USA

Just read a most magically good novel, Albert Murray's The Magic Keys, the fourth installment in his amazing autobiographical series of fictions. It may make more sense to start with one of the earlier ones--Train Whistle Guitar, The Spyglass Tree, my particular favorite The Seven League Boots (the first one I read, and the one that made me just fall right in love with Murray's writing). There are a lot of references here back to the earlier books. But it's amazing in its own right; lots of great stuff about characters closely based on Ralph Ellison, Romare Bearden, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc. I have a pretty low tolerance for fancy language, but every word Murray chooses is just right, and the sound of the words makes so much sense that you get caught up even in his most Joycean flights (BTW there's a very funny riff here on Anna Livia Plurabelle). My favorite thing about these books is that I can't think of any other novels that so perfectly sum up the really magical thing about education. They'd be good ones to read if you're doing a PhD, for instance, and want reminding why you got into the racket in the first place. Here's Deke Whatley in the barbershop in the college town where Murray's protagonist Scooter has gone back to teach:

But let me just say this. The main thing about education. No matter what kind of course you take, and how many degrees you get, the main thing is knowing what to want! You understand what I'm saying? Don't care what courses and how many degrees, the main thing is know what you really want for yourself. I'm not talking about self-indulgence. I'm talking about self-satisfaction. Knowing what to choose. Knowing how to pick and choose.

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