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Monday, November 5, 2018

Between Ta-Nehisi Coates And Me

Right after finishing "Between The World And Me" (2015) late last year, I knew I'd be returning to the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates. What I didn't expect was to be more blown away the second time around. It appears I've found an essayist to fill the gap left by David Foster Wallace.

Soon after beginning the fifteen page introduction to "We Were Eight Years In Power" (2017), I knew only the necessities of life - eating, sleep, basic interactions with my wife - would interrupt my reading. The eight essays forming the centerpiece of the book - each written between 2009 and 2016 - are each preceded by a new introduction Coates wrote specifically for this collection. It's a skillful device that permits the author to retrospectively frame his work using the context of the Obama years and the 2016 election. And throughout the entire book the prose is as muscular as the insights are powerful. The passage below from the sobering epilogue may help you decide if this is a book you want to try.

"There is nothing done in the service of whiteness that places it beyond the boundaries of human behavior and history. Indeed, what makes the epoch of Indian killing and African slavery, of 'war capitalism' as Sven Beckert dubs it, so frightening is how easily its basic actions cohere with all we know of human greed and the temptations of power."

In the NY Times feature called "By The Book", authors are frequently asked "If you could require the President to read one book, what would you select?" "We Were Eight Years In Power" would be my selection.


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