February Is Black History Month

A primitive-style painting by W.H. Johnson of WWII soldiers, Training for War
A 20th century painting by W.H. Johnson of WWII soldiers, Training for War. William Henry Johnson was an African-American painter, who studied modernism in NYC and Paris, where he developed his popular primitive style.

Monthly Themes

Nowadays, it seems that every month of the year has at least several attached themes that are designed to inspire the enlightened person to take at least a small glimpse outside the world, which surrounds them. February is no exception, for this winter month has several themes associated with it. February is Children’s Dental Health Month, Cholangiocarcinoma Awareness Month, Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, Senior Independence Month, National Bird-feeding Month and last but not least is National Condom Month. Nonetheless, by far the most widely known theme for this, the shortest month of the year is Black History Month.

The Slave Ship was done by the English painter, JWM Turner, in 1840 during the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Based on the real life event, whereabouts an English sea captain through over a hundred slaves overboard on a trans-Atlantic voyage  to the New World, this piece of art helped raise awareness to the horrors of the booming business of importing African slaves to the Americas.
The Slave Ship was done by the English painter, JWM Turner, in 1840 during the heyday of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Based on the real life event, whereabouts an English sea captain through over a hundred slaves overboard on a trans-Atlantic voyage to the New World, this piece of art helped raise awareness to the horrors of the booming business of importing African slaves to the Americas.

Black History

No matter how you look at it, Black History is inevitably linked to slavery. Even though African slaves had been brought to Europe and other places before Columbus,
the transatlantic travels of the great explorer opened the door for the slave trade. Beginning in 1502, Portuguese
and Spanish ships routinely carried slaves from Africa to the New World. Even though black slavery in America
ended in 1863, the aftereffects and legacy of this human condition still carries on into the present. And this is the essence of American black history.

Barrack Obama was the first black president elected to the White House. He took the oath of office in 2009 and will leave the White House in January 2017.
Barrack Obama was the first black president elected to the White House. He took the oath of office in 2009 and will leave the White House in January 2017.

Beyond Slavery

There is a lot more to Black History than just slavery, especially if you consider that the Emancipation Act was passed just over a 150 years ago.
Since then, the essence of Black History has been about urban migration, de-segregation of the schools, voting rights, equal pay and fair housing.
Also of importance, has been the individual accomplishments of various individuals from the black community. This includes not only politicians,
like our current president, but also, a long list of athletes, actors, musicians, visual artists and authors.

Writing A Story About Black History

Anybody can write a story about Black History. Mark Twain explored new ground with his colorful 19th century
story of Huck Finn and Jim (a runaway slave) and their journey down the mighty Mississippi. Their journey did not end in freedom for Jim, but the struggles
of the two vagabonds has captured the hearts and minds of many readers, ever since the novel was first published in 1884. Since then many literary works,
songs and films have dealt with the sensitive subject of race relations in America. A list of other such classics, viewed from a white viewpoint might include
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, Go Down Moses by William Faulkner and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.
In fact, February might be a good month to read one of these classics, but don’t stop here for there are many books that have been published
over the years that deal with this important subject.

Write Drunk, Edit Sober

 

Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba
 Hemingway carousing at a bar in Cuba

Questionable Advice

Recently, I came across this beautiful little piece of writer’s advice on the web. The short catchy phrase is attributed to the legendary, Ernest Hemingway and goes like this: “Write Drunk, Edit Sober“.  I have found this  slogan, mentioned in writing blogs, printed on T-shirts and incorporated into decorative posters. If taken at face value……maybe this is not the best piece of advice one can receive…..but when interpreted to imply that creative writing requires an altered reality from everyday experience…..then maybe there is some truth to the four words.

I pair airplane crashes  1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa
I pair airplane crashes 1954, Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary Welsh , were involved in Africa

Hemingway and the Bottle

In January 1954, Hemingway and his wife were involved in two seperate small plane crashes, while elephant hunting in Uganda. According to a NY Times report, Hemingway walked out of the jungle with his arm in a bandage, yet he was still able to carry a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin. Throughout much of his life, Hemingway has been associated with alcohol, taverns, high adventure and having a good time, but even if Ernest did have a drinking problem, it did not prevent him from winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

hemingway_lg_0
Hemingway was often photographed with a bottle in hand, a situation, which often lead to many misconceptions about the author’s drinking habits.

Bars Associated With Ernest Hemingway

Though Hemingway traveled the world his favorite watering spots seem to have been Havana, Key West, Madrid and Paris. In Havana, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio got the Lion’s share of his attention, while in Key West, there are two drinking establishments that claim home to both Mr. Hemingway and the Sloppy Joe sandwich. They are Captain Tony’s Saloon and Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Maybe the best way to resolve this dilemma is visit both, but I do suspect the Sloppy Joe may have originated in Havanna, Cuba and not the Conch Republic.

In Paris, Hemingway’s favorite bars included Harry’s New York Bar, the Dingo Bar, the Ritz Hotel on rue Cambon and the La Closerie de Lilas among many others. And then there is Madrid, a bustling city that Hemingway visited off and on for 40 years. In this Spanish capitol, places with names like Museo Chicote, La Venencia and the (Westin) Palace Hotel got most of Ernest’s patronage.

Drinking and Writing

Although Hemingway did sometimes write while sitting alone in a bar with a drink in hand, the author claims to have never written when inebriated. Instead, Hemingway enjoyed working in the morning before the heat of the day set in.

Origin of Write Drunk, Edit Sober

These four terse words have never been connected with Hemingway. Instead, they are most often traced to the writer, Peter deVries. In his 1964 novel, Reuben, Reuben, the main character, whom is loosely based on Dylan Thomas, says this:

“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation – the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity, restraint, emotion and discipline.”

So there you go with the real nuts and bolts of writing drunk. But next time you see this text in print, maybe you should check out Hunter Thompson to see if he was sober, when he finally sat himself down in front of his typewriter and started pecking. My hunch is that his mind may have in a relatively subdued mood.

Leornard’s Legacy

Remembering Elmore Leornard

When I first became interesting in the writings of Elmore Leornard, I had a hard time finding his books in the bookstore because I could not get his name straight. I was always looking for a man named Leornard Elmore…and I was perusing the Literature section instead of Crime Fiction or Mystery, which is where you will usually find this writer’s works. It took a long time to get used to the idea that his last name was actually Leornard.

Devoted to Detroit

Perhaps one of the most interesting things noted about the late author is his dedication to the city of Detroit. Though born in the “Big Easy”, Leornard spent most of his life in and around the Motor City. He attended high school in the city and also graduated from the University of Detroit in 1950 with a degree in English philosophy. Even after Elmore Leornard became successful, he chose to live in one o Detroit’s more modern suburbs, Bloomfield Hills. No wonder Leornard is often referred to as the “Dickens of Detroit”.

My Experience With the Dickens of Detroit

Though Elmore Leornard had been on writer’s radar for many years, it was only in the most recent year or two that I had become familiar with his writing. And that began with viewing the movie, “Get Shorty”. My main impression after seeing “Get Shorty” was that the author was from the LA area. And then I read “Rum Punch” and figured he was from Miami. Next there was “Cuba Libre”, which upon completion had me convinced that Mr. Leornard was actually of Cuban descent. Overall I can’t think of a better skill for a writer, than that of adapting to whatever place he (or she) may find themselves.

My Favorite Elmore Leornard Quotes

“I try to leave out the parts readers skip.”

Question: What kind of writing pays best?
Answer: Ransom notes.
from Get Shorty

Never open a book with weather.

These are just a few to wet your whistle. Actually for a writer who was so known for his dialogue, there were not many quotes to be found easily, except for those dealing with writing.

So long for now.