Oprah brought back her book club to review “The Water Dancer,” an astonishing work of fiction by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I can only hope when they sit down, Oprah will ask the question on everybody’s mind…
Even more than comparing “that warm quilt of memory to the cold library of fact,” what was it like when Ta-Nehisi got the call that he was going to be interviewed by Hanif Abdurraqib?
I’m kidding. Of course everybody wants to know what it was like when he got the call that he was going to be interviewed by The Love Brand Formerly Known As Oprah. But I don’t.
I’m sick of interviews.
Why can’t we just leave the dumb art to speak for itself?
My favorite thing about Dave Chappelle’s new special “Sticks and Stones,” besides the jokes, is I cannot find a single interview where he’s talking about it. Cuz. Why?
When I started reading “The Water Dancer,” I tracked down a bunch of interviews with Ta-Nehisi Coates and do you know what happened? I found out something in the second act of the book and all it did was steal the joy of discovery; even worse, the more I listened to Ta-Nehisi Coates, the more I wished instead of listening to him babble, I wished instead I’d spent the time reading his book a second time.
So that’s what I’m doing.
On page 14 of the book, on my second reading, I noticed he drops the comparison of “that warm quilt of memory to the cold library of fact” and I got the feeling the book wants to see what happens when you stop debating facts, when you let the river of emotion take you on a ride.
We live in the era of fake news, we live in the era of alternative facts, we live in the era of post reasonableness, where you can no longer present facts to people who stopped listening, who were never listening to begin with and this is hard for me to wrap my head around since I’ve been making my way through The 1619 Project and I’d be misleading you if I told you it’s not breaking my heart and at the same time filling my head with facts worthy of serious consideration. But I don’t think reporting holds. You can spend your life presenting facts to people who don’t want to hear them. You can spend your life presenting numbers to people who don’t want to be swayed by them. You can spend your life kneeling at the altar of Hollywood Access Evangelicals and all you’re going to get, like Jesus, is grabbed by the pussy.
Speaking of a warm, welcoming place, “The Water Dancer” is the story of family, of making peace with the memories we’d rather push away.
It’s heroic confronting the pain.