Hey there. You are not going to believe this, but Garnette Cadogan wrote this week's newsletter. (And it's a doozy!) A couple of years ago he answered some questions for Oxford University Press's blog, and I can tell you that this exercise here proves at least one of his responses absolutely true. Bonus points for the first reader who figures it out.
Is this your first time receiving this newsletter? The archive is available here. We will return to regularly scheduled programming in two weeks. Stick around.
In the meantime, take it away, Garnette!
I get to play Black Goldilocks this week since Allison left a latch open for me to roam around the charming house she built. I promise not to steal her porridge. But since I’m on her (virtual) real estate I’ll imitate her by leaving some delightful gifts on the night table. Oh wait, is that scotch on the table? [Ed. note: it's more likely to be bourbon.] This woman has no porridge—coffee is her comfort meal—so I might as well make myself at home with a glass of scotch. And some good reading…
I first bumped into Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s writing a few years ago when she wrote a marvelous piece on Dave Chappelle. I lie; It was about so much more than Chappelle: place, fame, race, legacy, and limitations imposed upon us—to begin with. She distilled it all through a perceptive and searching sensibility, with a nice sprinkling of trenchant wit. So I sit agog for her words, like a chair umpire who's impatient for the next volley at a tennis match. Good news: Her relaxed, probing voice chose to ruminate on James Arthur Baldwin this week. As is her custom, she ponders what it means to belong and find a home of one’s own; a Baldwinesque spirit hovers. And, because she has a gift for endings that pack an existential wallop, I sit very still after the last line.
So I pour more of Allison’s scotch—hey, are those cookies? Well, I’m having scotch and cookies, purists be damned—and decide to enjoy the solitude by reading about solitude. How very “meta,” as the kids might say. Claire-Louise Bennett’s reflection that “in solitude you don’t need to make an impression on the world, so the world has some opportunity to make an impression on you” is as good an apologetic for keeping your butt quiet and imagination open as I’ve read in a while. Her jealousy over our “capacity for uncertainty and hunger for mystery” and her choice to write “in order to keep rationality and purpose at bay” are such welcome departures from the usual mantras about mastery that I immediately get more impatient to read her much-celebrated collection, Pond, which takes up these themes of solitude and re-enchantment. Hmm, maybe I should re-read her sparkling “The Lady of the House” as another placeholder until the book’s Stateside release this summer.
Oh great, Allison’s out of scotch. Only coffee and red wine here. Well, I’ll pour myself a glass and get an intimate tour—360-degree views—of some of the world’s finest performing spaces. Thanks to a collaboration between sixty world-class performing-arts organizations and the Google Cultural Institute, I get to take in—onstage, no less—Simon Rattle conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker in rehearsal of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in D minor. Last time I saw them perform—at the gorgeous Berliner Philharmonie, which was inaugurated a half-century before, in 1963, with Herbert von Karajan conducting a performance of, yep, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—I had talked my way in and got seated near the stage (though not on it; got to sharpen my hustling skills). ’Twas so comforting to sneak in for this pleasure. Pity that there was no porridge.