Let me begin by saying that James McBride is a fine writer. With Song Yet Sung, he was able to weave gender, race, class, human emotions, and geography so beautifully that readers get a colorful yet moving portrait of what it must have been like living as a slave in the eastern part of Maryland in the mid-1800s.
Song Yet Sung’s main character is Liz Spocott, a runaway slave, who was running away from the attentions of her abusive master. When we first meet her, Liz had been shot in the face, and ends up chained in an attic of a tavern belonging to Miss Patty Cannon, a notorious slave stealer who also picks up runaways and sells them to slave owners in the south. Liz comes to be known as “the dreamer,” because she has prophetic visions of the future, which come to her in dreams. While barely conscious in the attic, an older slave woman tells her bits and pieces of “the code,” an intricate set of signals and words by which slaves can communicate and which may also pave the way to freedom. Eventually, because of Liz’s daring and Big Linus’ help, all of the captives break away from the attic, and Patty Cannon decides to go after them to recoup her monetary losses. But there’s also another person who is hired by Liz’s former owner, Denwood, to track her down, so the odds against Liz have now been stacked higher – even for those who make the mistake of helping her. It is only while she is on the run that she begins to understand the code, and she realizes, with the help of her dreams (visions of what freedom – or the lack of it – means in the future for slavery’s descendants) that it is not yet complete.
The novel brings to fore questions such as: What does it mean to be free? What does it mean to be human? What does loyalty mean? How far will people go for money?
What really sticks out in this novel though is the notion that no one – even those remotely connected with slavery and earning from it – is absolutely free. For example, Denwood, the white slave tracker hired by Liz’s owner has his own reasons for doing what he does. He was feared by most but when his son died and his wife left him shortly after, he himself quite the slave tracking business, withdrew from society and decided to live life in remorseful seclusion. Miss Kathleen, the owner of the slave who helped Liz, is tied to her land and wholly dependent on her slaves for the upkeep of her estate after the death of her husband. Even the feared villain Miss Patty is heavily dependent on slavery for her lifestyle and survival.
Overall, this was a fine read, one that I can definitely recommend. I stayed up pretty much through the night to finish it. James McBride is now on my list of must-read contemporary authors.
What are you feeding your mind these days, Loves?
Up next: Game of Thrones by George R. Martin
This is an old post I recycled from my old blog. Some of the things I found, much to my liking, no longer applies to me and the current state of contentment and bliss (in some areas) – but perhaps you, my dear readers, may find relevant still.
Today I will swear off on carbohydrates and excessive calories. But first let me finish my slice of chocolate cake and iced coffee I cajoled Davoud into buying me – not too long after I had my fill of Thai food and kaya toast.
Today ‘I will be more patient, more considerate’ I vowed, while silently cursing the cab driver who didn’t want to take me all the way to Makati because he’s on his way to the taxi garage in Quezon City.
Today I will exercise more, and no longer for vanity but for health reasons. And then I got up from my bed, walked barefoot to the full-length mirror, and said ‘Heck, I think i’m losing considerable weight even without exercise.’ I’ll start tomorrow.
I will start making concrete plans to set up my own business, I said to myself upon waking up. Perhaps I should wait a little bit until I am braver to take chances. Or until I have added a bit more to my savings.
I will take good care of my skin, I decide. And then I fall asleep with my eyeshadow and lipstick on.
I closed my weary eyes for a moment and tomorrow becomes today.
And i’m still having this conversation with myself.
I am not an exceptionally gifted liar. Not face-to-face, at least. I have never been quite successful in masking a face that is never content unless she presents herself to the world. One only has to look at my face and he will already know what thoughts my mind carry. I might never part my lips, run my tongue over them and then give an utterance, yet, still I communicate volumes. Most days I wish I am able to despise someone without giving myself away. I wish I am able to hanker for a man without him seeing me devour every juicy bits of him from beneath my eyelash extensions. Most days I wish I am…slow witted, one who’s blessed with the blankness of facial expression that comes quite naturally. It would be a cherished gift for someone who is hardly ever able to be quiet and still, where her face is concerned.
As if the uproar of my demeanor and my face’s natural ability to reveal even the most veiled of my mental processes are not telling enough, I can go on and on and on (all day, to anyone I’m interested in) with oral argumentation.
Having a working gag reflex for even the deepest darkest secrets is horrible especially when dealing with people who must never have an iota of idea how much power they have over me. Though in my defence, I constantly say things to thwart what they think they perceive -– which, unfortunately, is often the naked truth. Those times I actually try to be absolutely polarized.
And so it is. I tell all, no matter the consequences. Thrilling though it may be, sometimes, there is still more danger in this curse than amusement. And if I’m wise, I should get it in check before some lesser man takes advantage of the knowledge my patent face provides him. And I have a long history of lesser men flinging themselves into my orbit – also because I allowed them to get within flinging distance.
Sometime back, a certain someone put into words what I suspected all along. I get entangled with lesser men because I subconsciously battle with abandonment and acceptance. Touché.
She abandoned all attempts at propriety. Her long skirt now an ocean of soft velvet fabric at her feet, exposing an expanse of softness that begins from the satin curves of her hips, her supple thighs, down to her ankles and disappears just above the discarded fabric covering the daintiness of her ballerina feet .“Wildchild”, he calls her. And her provocative surrender is rewarded by a strong hand caressing the arch of her back and fingers gently probing the moistness between her thighs that up until about two minutes ago remained pressed together. Oh but how beautifully she opened.
Because lately most of my writing assignments are mainly on breakups and the arduous process of moving on – which is kind of an oxymoron if you ask me because my romantic life has never been more solid and colorful (quick, knock on wood three times!) – I remembered this little piece of brilliant poetry I wrote sometime in 2005 which i posted here. It was during that bleak period when I was dealing with my self-inflicted post-breakup drama with R, the man who had inspired some of my awkward writings in my beat-up journal. Yes, them with lined pages and confusing doodles of hearts, stick figures and what-not, usually at the bottom or top page. I tried to make some of the pages look even more abstract by doodling even more inexplicable images but my OCD tendencies just won’t stand for the mess so I would end up tearing the pages, re-writing the rubbish I would convince myself over and over again to be some awesome piece of literature, and sketching only a small heart, or star, or a floating leaf on some corner of the page.
Back then, I would mostly write about love as I knew it at the time and all the silliness that came with the package. But this one right here, this obra, is what I think would earn me my Pulitzer in the year 2090. Teehee!
Breakup sex is how the relationship lid is sealed
Breakup sex means separation fulfilled
Breakup sex recognizes no emotion
Breakup sex is all about my orgasm and your ejaculation
Breakup sex takes so little time to get done
Breakup sex is what becomes of a love gone
Breakup sex is all “oooh, baby, oooh”
Breakup sex could also mean faking it, you know?
Breakup sex sure isn’t cathartic
Breakup sex is when you shag instead of speak
Breakup sex, farewell f*ck, call it what you want
Breakup sex is what we should be doing on my table right now, if I may be blunt.
I don’t need you.
Wait, I mean I do
only as much as you need me
but not because you have become a habit
or a favored partner
or a dear friend
or my one-time addiction.
I need you
simply because I do.
I feel blissfully strange
about the conversations
with each other
which are so different from those
I have with others
I sometimes feel pushed against the wall
like a stand-up comic
hard pressed to deliver a punch line
to end all punch lines
at the end
or perhaps in the middle of
or during those icy intervals
of a sketch
half the time, terrified,
that I might bore you.
All these silly digressions
we can do without
but then again,
What is the point of having
Ah so, where was I?
Where were we?
Perhaps I am, just as I have suspected, a woman of insatiable caprices. My sensual stirrings, pointed in many directions, have freed me from the shackles of Hallmark-romance that I am now only capable of sensual love. And no more than that. I realised I have ceased to gravitate towards the whirlwind of romance and instead, abandon myself completely to the consuming frenzy – or is it cruelty – of passion. As the last fallen leaves of my childish love floated away in the afternoon wind, I came out of my chrysalis, transformed into a woman of instincts and unshakable emotional detachment.
Inhale. Shhh, I have a secret. Exhale.
As far back as I can remember I have coveted relationships. Nay, just ONE loving relationship in an ocean of unpredictability, randomness and failed romances. Just as I quiver in anticipation for a new pair of high-heeled shoes every week, I go to bed every night praying for magic, butterflies in the stomach, the proverbial prince and fairy tale ending. And then HE happened. The stress, anger and frustration over past heartaches unleashed by men who shall forever remain nameless, faceless and devoid of form ebbed away. Finally, I am found. By Love.