August 8, 2010
So a while back I met a dude who called himself CJ on POF. He was a 37 year old black man and within the first five minutes of our first and last phone chat I figured out that he was definitely convinced about a few things – specifically:
- His being a desirable and good catch.
- The fact that he was very conscious and down for his people.
- That he was my intellectual superior.
Anyway, the many highlights of our conversation included:
- Him calling me uppity because of the neighbourhood I choose to live in – not enough Black people for his taste.
- Him suggesting that I should trek my ass to God’s back to workout with him at his gym, because it seemed I knew more about working out than he did and I had a car anyway.
- My personal fave, him staging a one man protest against – wait for it…FICTION.
That last one got your attention didn’t it? Well folks, allow me to elaborate.
CJ, who I’ve since dubbed Anti-Fiction Man (thanks to Jesse Lown for bringing my vision of my new fave not-so super hero to life with the great artwork) and I got into a discussion about our future goals when he asked me where I hoped to be in five years. When I mentioned, among other things, that I hoped to have some of my fiction published one day, he stopped me.
‘Oh wait a minute, wait a minute. Before you go on, I have to say something,’ he said, sounding agitated.
What the hell did I say that’s got him so riled up? ‘Okay,’ I said.
‘It’s just that I have a real problem with adults who read fiction. Why would anybody who’s grown want to read such silly shit?’
WTF? People, I was genuinely confused – like for real. So I asked the man, ‘What do you mean?’
Undaunted, Anti-Fiction Man continued. ‘I don’t get why grown men and women waste their time reading made up shit. It’s just escapist bullshit. Why not read a book that’s really about something. Like a book on African history or something?’
He can’t be serious? This has to be a joke. I tried again, hoping to hear even the slightest trace of sarcasm or laughter in his voice. ‘CJ forgive me, but I’m not clear about what you’re trying to say. Can you break down you’re reasoning on this for me?’
‘Well, one of my exes from back in the day used to only read Terri MacMillan, Harry Potter and books like that. Stupid shit. It just didn’t make sense to me.’ He paused for a minute apparently still flabbergasted by the thought of it. ‘Adults should read real books, about real issues.’
Wow. Time to school this fool. ‘CJ,’ I started, almost cooing into the phone, ‘I’m sure that an educated brutha like yourself is aware that in addition to the so-called silly books your ex was inclined to read, there is a ton of really amazing literature out there. Books by writers like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, and Harper Lee. And I haven’t even started listing Black writers yet. You’ve got to appreciate work by Ralph Ellision, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry and I can’t forget my boy James Baldwin. You’ve heard of James Baldwin right?’
‘Uh…no.’ CJ cleared his throat. ‘I’m not familiar with that name.”
Really Anti-Fiction man? You don’t recognize the name James Baldwin, yet you over there calling out your ex for reading schlock? Obviously you don’t read anything of importance either. Out loud I asked, ‘So what is your favourite book anyway?’
‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X.’
Readers, you know what’s wrong with that answer? I’ll bet you don’t know do you? Well there are three really good reasons why, based on his stance against fiction, his answer was completely whack.
Reason No. 1:
Guess who was mentioned in Malcolm X’s autobiography as a both a civil rights advocate and an author – a gay black one at that (and trust me that was a big deal in the 60s)? JAMES BALDWIN. Nuff said.
Reason No. 2:
Do you all know who helped Malcolm to write his autobiography? That would be the author who is most famous for writing a historical fiction some of you might have heard of called Roots; a book that was so popular in the 70s that it was made into a (hugely successful) TV miniseries. Uh huh, that’s right, Alex Haley.
Reason No. 3:
Finally dear readers, can you guess who took pains in his book to explain that he educated himself during his incarceration by reading every and anything under the sun. This individual started by copying words and their definitions out of the dictionary, and then worked his way up to reading books on philosophy, religion, politics and world (particularly American) history. This same man also took the time to read a great deal of (you guessed it) fiction. He chose books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, to gain insight into the dominant culture’s perception of Black America. Are you all stumped?… Okay, I’ll give you a hint. His name is in the title of the Anti-Fiction man’s favourite book. What’s that?… Did I hear you say Malcolm X. If so, you are absolutely right! Alright, go ahead give yourself a pat on the back.
Now, are you all out there asking yourselves ’Did he even read the damn book?’ just as I did the night I lost 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back by entertaining Anti-Fiction Man’s B.S. on the phone? Do you all see that I’m not just being mean here? It is now as clear to you as it is to me that for all his bravado and posturing Anti-Fiction Man has the brains of a post? A post in a broken down picket fence to be exact?