Category Archives: writing

“Malibu” … a short story by SPB

I saw the coyotes again, right before Vivian arrived, feral as their own appetites, crawling through the bush beneath the worn mahogany slats of Sharon and Patrick’s deck. At least I think they were coyotes, mangy-looking and mean as they seemed. They might have been just some ravaged lost dogs for all I knew; but I fantasized them as coyotes, as long-toothed sentinels, guarding all the ghosts who refused to leave the house, and that fantasy kept me going for the early days of my visit. Whatever they were, coyotes or mere dogs, they seemed to have purpose and they didn’t seem half as lost as I’d been feeling, stuck out here, mourning Melanie, strengthening my bones, waiting for Vivian to arrive. Not that I needed Viv as much as I once thought I did. I’d been off my crutches for two weeks by then, and my hobble had somehow mutated back into a stilted stride. But I was still stuck; even though I was somewhat better, I still couldn’t drive, and wasn’t sure I wanted to. And walking along the Pacific Coast Highway, even for exercise, seemed as ridiculous as speeding drunkenly, depressively, down it, which is what put me in my recuperative state in the first place.

Seems like that’s all I did that year, wait. Wait for food to get delivered from the health food spot down near Malibu Canyon. Wait for Patrick to bring me shampoo and soap on his rare trips into the city. Wait for the mail guy to deliver the books I never read and the flat red Netflix envelopes of DVDs I never watched. Waiting for weight, too, it seemed, because I shed many pounds, waiting to get better, waiting to stop missing Melanie, waiting for the seasons to change when of course they weren’t going to change all that much, not here in California. That year in Los Angeles was like one long never-ending almost-summer day, poked through with some rain and some wind, but always, inevitably, summertime. So I made the seasons change with the music I played. I let Joni be the fall and Miles be the winter and Sarah Vaughn’s Gershwin concerts comprised my spring. And I prayed. Thanking God for giving Sharon and Patrick the good taste and foresight to have the sleek stereo system that they kept on some complicated altar-like shelves in the den.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Fiction, Uncategorized, writing

The New, Longer, Hotter Trailer for The VIPs!

I’m getting excited about the book coming out in just over a month…Wanted to share this new trailer with you all. Hope you like it. Hope you like the book, too! Remember, if you’d like to pre-order a copy of The VIPs, you can click here at amazon.com! Sincere thanks for all your support as the book was being written—and now it’s almost here!

Bookmark and Share

2 Comments

Filed under books, The VIPs, writing

Two Women (Goddesses?), with Great Minds and Great Style…Toni & Angela

I saw this pic on The Silver Girl, author Tayari Jones’ tumblr site, and HAD to share it at SCOTT TOPICS™. Partly out of respect to Tayari–if you haven’t read her beautiful first novel (and Hurston/Wright Award winner for Debut Fiction) Leaving Atlanta, you haven’t read a good novel in years, for one thing–and partly out of respect to the two beautiful, ground-breaking sistas strolling through the city in this photo. You can read Tayari’s blog here. And her new novel The Silver Girl is coming from Algonquin Books next year. (Thanks Tayari!)

Toni Morrison and Angela Davis, in all their funky, intellectual, Afro-wearing glory…one can only IMAGINE what they’re talking about!!!…Hope this pic inspires you like it’s inspired me!

Bookmark and Share

5 Comments

Filed under books, General Fabulousness, Toni Morrison, WayBack Machine, writing

New website BACKLIST.net (News, publishing, biz, entertainment…& they interviewed SPB!)

The Barker Center at Harvard: Where We Am Civvers Be Based At

Today is the launch of Felicia Pride’s newly-revised Backlist.net, and she asked me to talk about making the transition from working journalist and writer to PhD student. It turned into a great interview/conversation.

Please go see it here, and bookmark Backlist.net…it’s a good place to be!

Bookmark and Share

Leave a comment

Filed under Academia, advice, books, business, culture, entertainment, PhD, writing

SPB Guest Blogs again…this time for Brown.

I’m happy to report that the Midnight Hour is back at Brown. Midnight Hour was a campus publication I wrote for back in the late 80s—created by Michael Costigan, ’90—and now Brown junior Max Lubin, one my students back in 2009, has taken the magazine online.

He invited me to contribute an essay about my relationship to Midnight Hour and my time at Brown. I’m real happy with how the piece turned out. Go check it out here, and read Midnight Hour. It’s fun. Max and his crew has done a wonderful job bringing the dormant brand back to life–and into the future…

Bravo!

Bookmark and Share

Leave a comment

Filed under Brown, writing

The SPB Q (Grad Chapter): Farah Jasmine Griffin

I fall in love with writers, and their books. I’m just funny that way, re-reading passages or whole chapters, remembering why the initial pangs of love were there. I knew I was going to fall in love with Farah Jasmine Griffin’s book Who Set You Flowin’: The African-American Migration Narrative when I read the dedication: “For My Grandmother, Willie Lee Carson (1904-1981), who migrated from Eastman, Georgia, to Philadelphia in February 1923; and Her three Philadelphia-born Daughters, Eunice Cogdell (1924-1991), Eartha Mordecai, Wilhemina Griffin.” As a person most interested in African American names, history, and genealogy (and the mothers of mothers who provide all three), I experienced a world in those 33 words, a contained moment of love and honor and respect that felt whole and real. Then I read the epigraphs a few pages later and saw quotes from such richly disparate figures as Toni Morrison, Cornel West and music group Arrested Development—and I knew it was going to be one of those books. And it was. Crossing all kinds of textual terrain in her study of migration as a major theme in African-American culture—Toomer’s Cane, Morrison’s Jazz, the art of Jean Lacy, the poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, among other significant texts get investigated—Griffin’s work is like a journey in itself, gracefully climbing the hills and wading the valleys of what she calls the “metanarrative” of the black migration experience with supple prose and clear-eyed cultural and literary analysis.

Currently a professor of English, Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University, Farah Griffin has served as the director of Columbia’s Institute for Research in African American Studies. She’s what I think of as a truly interdisciplinary academic, casting her scholarly eye on not just literary subjects but also fields like jazz (she co-edited an issue of Callaloo entitled “Jazz Poetics”) and travel writing. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar and the African American Review.

I got to meet Professor Griffin here at Harvard (where she did her undergrad work) a coupla times, most recently at a conference honoring renowned historian and totem of African American studies Nathan Huggins, and she turned out to be as down-to-earth as I thought she might be after (twice!) reading her book. The warmth and regard she expressed for her subjects was exactly the same warmth she exhibited in person, and I’m sure that was why she seemed to be the one person in the room that everyone was drawn to at one point or another. I’m still looking forward to reading her book on Billie Holiday (If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday), but until then it was a pleasure reading her responses to the SPB Q. Hope you enjoy it, too—and definitely check out Farah Griffin’s work if you fall in love with great writing about American history and literature like I do…

Name:  Farah Jasmine Griffin

Hometown:    Philadelphia

School/Year: Harvard, 1985; Yale 1992

Dissertation Title:  “Who Set You Flowin’?: Migration, Urbanization and African American Culture”

Favorite book:  Too Many to Name

Favorite author:  Impossible.  Morrison; Wharton

Favorite movie:  Impossible.  Eve’s Bayou, maybe.  Double Indemnity

Favorite music:  Can’t Do This…Love music too much to have a favorite, but at the top would be Cassandra Wilson’s “New Moon Daughter” and Mary Lou Williams at Montreux

Academic text that most influences your workStephen Kern’s Culture of Time and Space and Cornel West’s Prophetic Reflections: Notes on Race and Power in America (Beyond Multiculturalism and Eurocentrism)

Academic who most influences your work:  Edward Said; Robin Kelley; Thadious Davis

Academic High: Membership in the Jazz Study Group, Columbia University.  Robin Kelley, Salim Washington, Robert O’Meally, Brent Hayes Edwards, Diedra Harris Kelley, John Swzed, Fred Moten, and others were my intellectual family, my comrades, my joy.  The set my brain dancing.

Life High:  The day I met the little girls who would become my step-granddaughters:  Diata and Mariam Cannon; my participation in Billie and Me at the Barbican, London.

You’re on a desert island and can only have 5 CDs/books/ or DVDs shipped in to you. What are they?

Your favorite quote:

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” ~ Attributed to Jesus, Gospel of Thomas

Guilty pleasure:

Bad television marathons.

Bookmark and Share

1 Comment

Filed under PhD, The SPB Q, writing

SPB guest blogs at Sounding Out today…

Hey you guys, I am honored and excited to be the guest blogger over at Sounding Out, a cool blog that, to use their words, “provides an outlet for ruminations on the role of sound and listening in our contemporary culture”…they’re a bunch of smart and savvy academics doing some interesting and surprising work. Check it out if you get a minute…My piece, called “The Noise You Make Should Be Your Own,” is all about how the noise we make defines who we are and often describes our joy, pain, and shame. Hope you like it. Go to Sounding Out here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Academia, music, PhD, Uncategorized, writing