I don’t know Wright at all, but the blurb gives context: Raised on church music in Georgia, Wright is well-versed in the freedom songs of Sweet Honey in the Rock, without whom none of the music here would exist; “I Remember, I Believe” is by that group’s leader, the great Bernice Johnson Reagon, whose daughter Toshi Reagon (Wright’s best friend) co-wrote “Hit the Ground.”
“Hit the Ground” is upbeat and lively. Whereas “I Remember, I Believe” is far more powerful, but much slower.
Sadly for me, I don’t really like gospel music, especially the slower songs like the second one here. So I didn’t love this Tiny Desk, but I can certainly appreciate how good a singer she is.
[READ: January 15, 2015] “Williamsburg Bridge”
I don’t know anything else by John Edgar Wideman, so I didn’t really know what to expect with this story.
I certainly did not expect a long (rather dull) story about a man on the Williamsburg Bridge contemplating suicide.
There were some beautiful passages and phrasings here, especially the reflections on Sonny Rollins, but man, this thing just seemed to go on and on.
It begins with a loving look at this bridge. The narrator is not in a hurry. Then he mentions hearing Sonny Rollins play his sax on the bridge one and only once. He says many years passed before he realized it was Sonny. And then he gives a bit of history of Rollins’ life–1959-61 practices on the Williamsburg Bridge “to get myself together.”
The narrator then goes through his mind of everything he will miss in the next few months once he jumps. He also muses on color and gender. And also that he is just about naked because he doesn’t want to be mistaken for a terrorist–he obviously isn’t hiding anything under his clothes. And he’s very clear that he doesn’t want to be a bother to anyone else.
He talks about things he has looked up on his phone–the number of suicides annually, the first suicide (undocumented) and other interesting statistics like that.
He tells us a lot of things that did not drive him to this (loneliness is not the cause), but never really what actually does. “‘Why’ is the most outmoded, most vexing word.”
He thinks back to his mother and her silent reaction to his book. It turned out that she wrote him letters and notes of praise but never gave them to him.
This was a very lengthy story and I appreciated that in the last section he acknowledges that “since you’ve stuck with me this long, I owe you more.”
The final paragraph seems to undermine everything that the story tells is, but I just wasn’t invested enough in this story to connect the dots. I’m not even sure if the scene with the police was real. Or indeed if any of it was real.