Thursday, September 4, 2014

Richard Wright




Richard Wright



Many moons ago, back in college(circa 1985) I attended a symposium in Oxford MS on this author. It was the first literary event of acclaim I was fortunate enough to become part of as a student.

 A personal friend of Mister Wright and celebrated author of Jubilee, Margaret Walker joined our small group of aspiring and hopeful writers. She was kind of grandmotherly and  during the lectures and dinner she sat with us and seemed to be having a good time. The next day she was on the panel and she was full of fire, refuting the misconceptions about the life and times of Richard Wright. "Because I was there," she said several times, sometimes softly and sadly. She got a standing ovation at the end. That's really all I remember well from her lecture- oh, and the the title of the new book she wrote: The Daemonic Genius of Richard Wright.

We also met Joyce Joyce and some guy with a salt and pepper beard. I don't remember his name, but Doctor Newsome, one of my instructors was really impressed. Believe it or not Joyce Joyce just came right up to us doing cocktail hour and introduced herself, shaking our hands individually. I was amazed to say the least. She was so pretty and gracious, even danced with a couple of the boys in our group. 

Anyway, that weekend was priceless. That weekend in Oxford, for the symposium on Richard Wright was the point in time, I knew I really wanted to be part of this fantastic world of literature.


From Biography.com 

Richard Wright
 

Richard Nathaniel Wright was born on September 4, 1908 near Natchez, Mississippi. The grandson of slaves and the son of a sharecropper, Wright was largely raised by his mother, a caring woman who became a single parent after her husband left the family when Wright was five years old.

Schooled in Jackson, Mississippi, Wright only managed to get a ninth grade education, but he was a voracious reader and showed early on he had a gift with words. When he was 16, a short story of his was published in a southern African-American newspaper.

After leaving school, Wright worked a series of odd jobs. In his free time he delved into American literature, going so far as to forge a note so he could secure a library card.

The more he read about the world, the more he longed to see it and make a permanent break from the Jim Crow South. "I want my life to count for something," he told a friend.

n 1927, Wright finally left the South and moved to Chicago, where he worked at a post office and also swept streets. But like so many Americans struggling through the Depression, bouts of poverty settled into his life. Wright's frustration with American capitalism led him to join the Communist Party in 1932.

When he could, Wright continued to plow through books and write. He eventually joined the Federal Writers’ Project, and in 1937, with dreams of making it as a writer, he moved to New York City, where he was told he stood a better chance of getting published.

A year later, Wright published Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of four stories. The book proved to be a significant turning point in his career. The stories earned him a $500 prize from Story magazine and led to a 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship.

More acclaim followed in 1940 with the publication of the novel Native Son, which told the story of 20-year-old African-American male Bigger Thomas. The book brought Wright fame and freedom to write. It was a regular atop the bestseller lists and became the first book by an African-American writer to be selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club. A stage version (by Wright and Paul Green) followed in 1941, and Wright himself later played the title role in a film version made in Argentina.

In 1945,Wright published Black Boy, which offered a moving account of his childhood and youth in the South. It also depicts extreme poverty and his accounts of racial violence against blacks. The book greatly advanced Wright's reputation, but after living mainly in Mexico (1940–6), he had become so disillusioned with both the Communist Party and white America that he went off to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life as an expatriate.

He continued to write novels, including The Outsider (1953) and The Long Dream (1958), and nonfiction, such as Black Power (1954) and White Man, Listen! (1957), and was regarded by many writers as an inspiration. His naturalistic fiction no longer has the standing it once enjoyed, but his life and

A year later, Wright published Uncle Tom's Children, a collection of four stories. The book proved to be a significant turning point in his career. The stories earned him a $500 prize from Story magazine and led to a 1939 Guggenheim Fellowship.

More acclaim followed in 1940 with the publication of the novel Native Son, which told the story of 20-year-old African-American male Bigger Thomas. The book brought Wright fame and freedom to write. It was a regular atop the bestseller lists and became the first book by an African-American writer to be selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club. A stage version (by Wright and Paul Green) followed in 1941, and Wright himself later played the title role in a film version made in Argentina.

In 1945,Wright published Black Boy, which offered a moving account of his childhood and youth in the South. It also depicts extreme poverty and his accounts of racial violence against blacks. The book greatly advanced Wright's reputation, but after living mainly in Mexico (1940–6), he had become so disillusioned with both the Communist Party and white America that he went off to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life as an expatriate.


Wright died of a heart attack on November 28, 1960 in Paris, France.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

From The Fairlight Novels



Velvet and Milton

Werewolves. Those bastards could run all night. And they were fast, especially when they were scared. Velvet found it rough keeping up the chase. Scared werewolves were even faster and bound to do something stupid. There was nowhere to run, no escape. They’d fled the city, and it’s cover to the open woods, exactly where Velvet wanted to be if she had to engage them in battle.
“You about ready?” Milton asked swinging down from a tree to land directly in her path. With a smirk, he watched her barely have time to slow down enough to avoid colliding into his slighter built body.
“What the hell? Are you crazy?”
“Maybe I don’t have all night to be chasing beasties.”

“Right,” she said following the pack with her eyes as they split up into three different directions, fleeing the brush and trees. She glared at him, annoyed with his attitude. She didn’t recall asking him to join in on the chase. As usual, he presumed his place was by her side, even if it meant getting his new clothes ripped and sweaty. For once, he wasn’t decked out in leather. But he had been dressed to impress.  “You got another fabulous one to get back to?”
“Washington,” Milton took a small breath. “Clearly, you and I have different styles-”
“Yeah.” If he wanted to give up the chase why not just say it?” His forte was vampires and demons; werewolves just weren’t that interesting to a guy like him.
“You know tomorrow, Troy is gonna be all up in your face again.’
Yeah he would, but so what? He was the one she really wanted to send running on all fours for his life into the woods. But an alpha humpback would do no such thing. Sooner or later, he’d get enough of her and go for her throat. Seemed more like later these days.
“Washington?”
“What?”
“They’re just a bunch of frightened kids.”
“Deadly kids.”
“Ain’t nobody dead.”
“Yet.” She tossed back her duster, pulled out her short handled axe. “Besides Milton, you and I aren’t the only ones giving chase tonight. You can still tell when you are being tracked, can’t you?”
“Whatever that shit is supposed to mean.”
“It means are you ready or not?” Velvet turned looking back into the general direction they had come then back at Milton.
“Wait a second.” Milton stared at her a few heartbeats. “You weren’t chasing wolf cubs but leading them out here, and you didn’t tell me?”
“I was moving fast.”
“Bullshit.”
“Whatever.”
“How many?”
“Can’t tell.”
“Damn, girl. You really expect me to blindly engage an unknown adversary?”
Velvet exploded her aura into blue light. The brilliance caused Milton to shield his eyes with a quick arm. The protective gesture was involuntary as the light offered him no real discomfort. Pulling his sword, he positioned himself at her side and waited.
“You feel that, Milton?” she asked surveying the area. “It’s almost a sound.”
“Where?”
“Everywhere. We are surrounded.”
Velvet noticed he wasn’t so much pissed at her now that there was action just moments away. Stepping just a few feet away, he gripped his sword and pulled his own axe from his side waist. He was putting fighting distance between them while remaining close.
“Who the hell are they?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Give it up, Washington.”
“I just know they aren’t undead. Other worldly, if I have to guess.” Milton gave her a frown before maneuvering to stand back to back with her bigger body. “Their energy signatures are yellow,” she shared as if Milton would care one way or the other. “Yellow is strong though not deadly to most humans unless hit with a massive force, that is if the energy is of Earthly origins.”
“Well, all right then.”
“Let’s not get cocky,” she advised.
“Right.” She heard the smirk on his face. There wasn’t a fight Milton didn’t believe he could not win. Neither did she, which made them as close to perfect as partners she hoped to get with anyone. “You think those cubs are out of the woods by now?”
“Yeah.” They were so scared that they had to be halfway back home in Fairlight by now. Tomorrow Troy was bound to be snarling all up in her face. “What the-” Bellows of gray energy separated bushes and tree limbs, in order to approach the clearing. Inside the man-sized twisters, human shaped bodies stood shrouded.
Milton gripped his sword and axe, ready to get on the offensive. “Washington, we don’t know what they got.”
“Then I suggest we find out.” She said and tossed her short handled axe into the bigger twister. The figure inside easily blocked the blow by grabbing the axe by the blade from the air. He stood still, holding the axe as his cloud of dust settled down around him. One by one the others followed suit. Velvet noticed right away they all packed multiple swords and knives across their backs or holstered around their waists. The sharp blades were most likely forged with silver, she judged by the look of the gleaming sword hilts in the bright moonlight. Armed to the max but neither attempted to draw a weapon. Velvet counted eleven. Six were female and they looked more pissed than the males. Velvet realized they were ready to pull at any moment; just waiting for commands. The man holding her axe was in charge, she knew the look. She gave him her attention, knowing Milton had the others. He released the axe vibrating in his grasp. Interesting. Normally, it would have torn free and found its way back to her waiting hand.
“Okay,” Milton muttered, shifting to stand side by side with her again. “He can counter your enchantments.”
“Holding an axe isn’t countering anything,” she proclaimed and snatched the returning weapon from the air.
“You said they’ve got light energy.”
“All that means is that they are living beings.” Not really true, but Milton was talking too much when the others had yet to utter one syllable. They had the advantage from watching her at a short distance, almost able to cloak their presence. Almost. By the time she’d conformed to herself that she was being watched she knew it had been going on for some time. It was hard to sneak up on a witch. Something was always raising the hairs on the back of their necks. And these creatures had taken advantage of that, hiding among a moving group of werewolves. Werewolf bodies when aggressive or afraid generated energy so loud that Velvet preferred to deal with just a few of them at a time.
Lowering the axe, she approached the man standing just a few yards away. He didn’t react, except for squinting at her light energy surrounding her personal space. The others moved their hands to their swords. Still ready, but not drawing. Suddenly, she worried about Milton. Was he fast enough to evade an attack by several unknowns?”
“We mean you no harm tonight,” the man said casually placing his hands behind his back, as if accepting Velvet’s openly hostile glare with a slight smile. “You and your companion may continue with your pursuit of the half beasts.”
“Gee, thanks, but nobody needs your permission.”
“Of course, you do not,” he agreed. “It is just that watching humans engage each other is quite amusing.”
Velvet checked him out. Being tall was a plus for a man, especially an Asian man. He was thick too, with wide shoulders. His legs appeared long and muscular in the snug fit of his pants that he wore inside his soft tall boots. His shirt looked like a short kimono. Like the others he wore red over black. On his back, he carried several swords. The woman on his right carried arrows for the two bows she wore. Assassins, Velvet thought with distaste. “Unless, you folks are here for me, I suggest you use good sense, and not to set foot in Fairlight again.”
“Oh?” The man exchanged a look with the petite female with the arrows. “Why is that?”
“Because I told you not to.”
“How dare you speak with such-” the woman began then went silent at the mere raising of the man’s hand.
“Koudo.” She wordlessly stepped back. Her hand dropped from the knife she wore at her side. “Please, Velvet,” he spoke her name so charmingly that she tore her eyes from Koudo’s sharp angry face to his crooked smiling face. He was amazingly handsome, his big eyes inviting, and he’d yet to make an aggressive move. He’d even given back her axe. “We are travelers between the worlds. Our Mission is to watch.”
“Then what’s with the knives?” Milton asked. “And conjuring up dust and tearing up the woods?”
“Delano-”
“Milton,” he quickly corrected and gave Velvet a warning glance before stepping directly in front of her. “You can stop it with those big eyes.”
“Forgive me?”
“I can’t be mesmerized and all messing with Washington is gonna get you is one hell of a headache.”
“Then why are you attempting to protect her?”
“Probably the same reason you made Koudo shut her cute little mouth.”
“I will show you cute, human!” Koudo bristled giving Milton the ugliest scowl her perfect face could master.
Velvet studied them all. They appeared to be wearing stage makeup but what warriors put on so much makeup? War paint? More likely an illusion or glam, she figured. “You can watch all you want,” she said addressing the man in charge. “But don’t you dare bring any of your missions to my city.”
“Sukurai!”
“It is all right, Koudo.” With a smile that reminded her of Milton’s patented smirks, he bowed. “Velvet,” he said, then bowed to Milton.  “We beg for your pardon.” Neither replied to his request. After a few more seconds he straightened his back. His facial expression was somewhat suddenly tense. “Humankind has a lot to learn in the way of manners.”
“Look who’s talking,” Velvet retorted.
With an elegant gesture Sukurai raised his arm, and Velvet felt obliged to follow the trail of colors dancing around this body. Reds and violets, nothing yellow. Odd when earlier the color seemed dominate among them all. “Who are you people?” Velvet demanded. “What are you?” Not human for sure. Not demonic either, for they were yielders of light. “Why are you really here?”
“So many questions.” Sukurai spoke as if he found her amusing. Stretching out a hand, he allowed soft rays of light to escape his fingers to travel out to her glowing body.
“Washington,” Milton warned, after she seemed not about to move or shy away from the foreign energy. “Are you nuts?” He pushed her to the side. “Pull that shit back, man.”
“It is harmless. And your witch is as curious of me as I am of her.”
“Try to touch her again, and you’re dead.”
“You say the most amusing things,” Koudo said. They others in her party backed her up with a short round of laughter. “Dhampire, we are not undead things. You have no command over us.”
Nonetheless, Sukurai drew back his energy. Velvet watched the radiance build within him. Beautiful, she thought.
“Washington?”
“What?”
“What the hell are you smiling about?”
Smiling? She blinked her eyes. Sukurai was still all shiny with a soft reddish aura. His eyes were so big that she wanted to stare into their depths.
“Washington!”
“What?”
 Milton clapped his hands together in her face. “Wake your ass up!”
“Do that again, I’ll kick your ass,” she promised.
“He was going to probe you, you idiot.”
“Not with that energy level,” she boasted. However, letting it so near was reckless and quite presumptuous and bold on Sukurai’s part. Somehow she got the feeling that if he were going to attempt to harm her, he’d use one of his swords rather than light. “Sukurai, who are you people,” she asked him again. He seemed pleased she addressed him by name. “Why are you here?”
“It does not concern you or your kind.”
“My kind?” If he wanted to insult her, he should be more specific than that. “Everything in Fairlight concerns me.”
“Come now,” Koudo spoke to her, but kept her eyes on Milton. “You think the whole city belongs to you?  Then you fancy yourself a guardian and warrior. A formidable witch you must be!”
“I am Velvet Washington, daughter of Joy and Daniel. I am-”
“Daniel?” Both Sukurai and Koudo expressed at the same moment. The others in their party all at once gave her blatant notice, as if just seeing her for the first time.
And a little uneasily. Velvet resisted the urge to exchange a glance with Milton. Milton was sharp though, there was no need to drop her guard. “My father is not of this world. His power of light is immense and I am his daughter.”
“Daniel,” Sukurai pronounced the name thickly, his voice sounding like an adult learning to speak. “Daniel, could not have.”
“What?”
“He would not have sullied himself with a mere human woman!” Koudo exclaimed. Coming forward she glared at Velvet, then softened to say, “But- but your countenance.”
          One of the males stated matter of factly. He wasn’t perturbed in the least. “The ancient travelers spoke of such creatures.”
“No, no!” Koudo shouted. “Daniel cannot be this one’s father! Not with a witch human!”
“You just recognized his face,” the male rebuked her mildly. “Daughter of Daniel,” he said giving her a bow. “Your mother must have been one extraordinary human female.” Stepping in front of Koudo, he said, “Your shrouding is strong, but I can sense it now.”
“I’m not shrouding anything. Everyone knows who and what I am.”
“Truly?” The male raised a brow at that. “In most realms producing a child such as yourself is considered taboo. Tell me, Velvet. Had Daniel fallen before he met your mother?”
“As if that is any of your business.”
“I bet they never even met your dad, Washington.”
The other male slowly turned his gaze upon Milton, all at once he was furious. His skin was no longer pale and smooth. “Well now,” Velvet said. The glam didn’t hold up under fierce emotions. “Not exactly what we appear to be, are we?”
“What did we appear to be?” Sukurai intervened. He too had let his glam go.
“A bunch of freaks,” Milton replied bluntly. “Don’t you guys know what modern day Asians look like?”
“Do not insult us,” Koudo commanded. “How we look-”
“Is stupid,” Velvet said. As expected, Koudo because twice as upset. Her aura shined yellow. “Come on,” she addressed the man in front of her. “Show what you really are.”
‘What do you think you know about us,” he asked instead.
“Besides being liars and illusionists?” At the word liars, he reviled, disgusted and angry. “If you think for one moment, I believe you might be like my father, you better think again. I know what an angel is.”
“We never claimed to be anything, nor did we imply such a thing.”
“Right.” But they obviously knew about angelic beings. Velvet wondered if during their travels, did they spend any time in the lower heavens? “Who are you?” she asked again though not expecting an answer again from the being in front of her.
“My name is Shido,” he replied with a slight nod then bowed to her. “Meeting you has been my honor and my delight.”
“I wish I could say the same.”
“Get down!” Milton screamed leaping and dragging her down to the ground with him. Rolling to the right he managed to get them both out of the line of fire. “I knew it was a set up!”
“Will you get off me!” Velvet bellowed automatically pushing at his slight body. Did he really think a dozen or so arrows from the sky was enough to take her out? She got to her feet, clutching her axe, instantly ready for battle. Milton stood planted at her back, his eyes surveyed the sky and trees in the direction the arrows came.  “There,” she cried. From the sky came a bombardment of flaming arrows. Milton was fast and agile there was no way he could dodge and avoid the number of arrows raining down on top of them. It seemed like hundreds at a time. “Damn it,” she muttered grabbing at some part of him in order to transport them both to safety. He could fuss and complain about cramping his style later. The taller trees were the safest location at the moment.
“Washington.”
“Quiet,” she whispered, drawing him down for cover behind the branches and leaves. “Look.”
Sukurai and his party were countering the shower of arrows. They’d pulled their swords expertly and with great strength and skill they faced the attack as warriors versed in battle. Koudo dropped her swords and went for her bow and arrows. The others automatically gave her cover, as she aimed her arrow into the sky and pulled back the bowstring, firing directly into the midst of the volley of flaming arrows. Her arrow, Velvet tracked it by the shimmering light trailing it, disappearing finally into the sky.
“What the hell?” Milton shared a bemused look with Velvet. “One arrow for a thousand?” He looked back at Koudo who was still in poised  follow through position with her head back, face toward the sky, She closed her eyes.  A half second later the sound of fireworks exploded high above their heads, and a giant burst of fire crackled into the night. “Crap!” Milton had to look away covering his eyes. “What the hell was all that?”
Indeed, what was it? Velvet stood on the limb of a tree, holding onto the stem. The sky was on fire, so hot that the leaves began to scorch. If the flames didn’t fan out soon, they were about to have a forest fire on their hands. On the ground, no one had to shield against the heat or brilliance. On Sukurai’s back his swords moved, quivering as if alive. Like they wanted to pull out of the scabbards. Even the sword in his hand throbbed. The tension in his arms and face hinted at the restraint he was using to keep the blades sheathed. Meanwhile, the expression from Koudo’s relaxed body was pure bliss.
“What’s going on Washington?”
“I wish I knew,” she said and jumped down from the burning tree, and landed just a few steps from Sukurai. Reluctantly, he turned from the flames to exchange glances with his fellow warriors.
“We must depart now,” Shido said, his voice rising with excitement. “Now, my lord.”
“Hold it,” Velvet said. “These woods are on fire!”
“And?” Koudo swirled around readjusting her bow and arrows. “Did we cause it?”
“You know you did, Koudo! Whatever your arrow struck exploded!”
“Regardless, we have no time for this.”
“You better make time!”
“A bunch of fire bugs,” Milton sneered.  “They don’t care about wildlife!”
          “Bugs! You dare call us such a vile thing?”
“Bugs ain’t the insult, you god damn firestarter.”
“Insufferable human, you are not to be tolerated.”
“Koudo,” Sukurai spoke urgently. He looked to the sky and then the burning trees. “We must leave.”
“Yeah,” Milton complained. “Start a forest fire and split!”
“Milton, forget them. I can fix this. The sooner they get the hell out of here the sooner we can protect the flora and fauna.”
          “Of course, you can,” Shido stated in a voice which she wasn’t able to tell if he was mocking her or giving her praise. “Daughter of David, we will meet again.”
“You better hope not, fella.”
“Milton.” Velvet took his arm. “Stay behind me.”
“What for? You think I can’t handle some steroid Geishas?”
“Naw, baby. I just thought you might want to avoid getting wind burned.” With an upsweep of her arms, wind and rain formed a spraying mist that traveled into the trees and brush. “It’ll take a few minutes, the air is going to get pretty steamy until all those sparks finish falling.”
“Ain’t right, Washington. Those creeps-”
Were gone. Without the fanfare of their arrival, without a signature or trace. Neat trick.
“Sneaky bastards!”
“Forget it, Milton. It’s over. Everything is cool.”
“Nothing is cool about starting a fire,” Milton objected. “Or stalking you and then talking a bunch of crap that don’t make sense. The next
time-”
“There won’t be a next time, Milton.”
“Vee, people like them always come back.”
“You getting what I’m telling you or not?”
“Naw, Vee.  I ain’t getting nothing.”
“I’m telling you to stay away from that crew.”
“You also ain’t telling me what you think you know about them.”
“I never saw them before.” She turned and walked left for no apparent reason, except to get away from Milton’s questions for now.
“But you’ve heard of them, right?” Grabbed her arm halting her in her tracks. “If they are connected to your pops, I know you have to know something.”
“I don’t know,” she said yanking her arm free. “You grab me like that again, I swear.”
“Screw that and fess up.”
“All right, I guess there’s no reason to not share. I’ve believe I’ve heard stories about them. They are called higher beings, some people refer to them as spirits.”
“Like ghosts?”
“No, like guardians and watchers of the realms. Higher beings.”
“You mean like God?”
“No, stupid. But ancient people however did worship them believing they were gods, mainly because that’s what they were led to believe. Here on earth we had the Egyptian, Norse and Greek gods, et cetera.”
“You mean all that stuff was for real? Medusa and Hercules them?”
“Probably not.”
“Hmm. So what are they? Aliens?”
“Just higher beings like angels. Not holy but more endowed with light and something like magic. They are dangerous, and it seems they don’t care about lower beings much.”
“Okay, but why are they trying to get involved with you?”
“Not me, Fairlight. There is something or someone here they want or need. And I don’t think they are the only ones.”
“What did that arrow strike and explode?”
“I have no idea.”
“Don’t you think we should be trying to find out?”
“No! Didn’t you just hear me say they are higher beings? You leave them alone, and they might leave you alone. Let them exist on their own plane, man.”
“Washington?”
“What?”
“Are you scared of them?”
“No, Milton.” She looked up at the cloudless sky. “I’m afraid for Fairlight.”
“Fairlight?”
“Yeah, Fairlight.” It always came down to Fairlight.