Alexander Crompton

📚 23 - November

The past month has been taken up by job hunting—extremely involved (unpaid) "coding challenges," interviews taking hours of prep-work, whole dithering mornings spent agonizing over two-paragraph negotiation emails. Reflecting, yet again, on the inducements and incentives that lead us to such wasted human potential (and not just productive potential, but artistic, recreative, interpersonal, spiritual potentials). "Waste"—from the same root as the word "vast," the Latin for empty, desolate.

I got an offer though!

"Spoilers" in this blog. One day I'll implement a click-to-reveal functionality on this site. Until then—read at your own risk.

Nella Larsen (1929). Passing.

Fascinating book of the Harlem Renaissance.

The book reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel—characters with one quality which, for better or worse, informs all their thoughts and actions. Prim, wary Irene; her ironical and smug husband; dangerously charming Clare. Is this a 1920s mode of writing? Or my imagination?

Irene is well-connected and sociable—but uptight and prim. There's a conservative incuriosity about her. She sniffs out possible disruptions to her full and well-ordered life and moves quickly to avoid them. So when she runs into Clare, a beautiful long-lost friend (or rather acquaintance) who, it turns out, has been passing for white since the two lost touch years ago, she promises herself to not get involved. And yet!

It's interesting and unusual to have such a point-of-view character; one who almost hostile in her incuriosity. No reader stand-in here allowing herself to get swept up by the force of Clare's charisma. Character-wise, Irene's friction (much more than Clare's glitz) gives the story its texture. I suspect that often authors love their Clare-characters too much, and allow their Irenes to become windows through which the reader can see the Clare and perhaps love her as much as they do. Not the case in this book.

There's also much to say about race, community, navigating life while oppressed. What do people owe each other? What do we lose with assimilation? It isn't assimilation per se, but attempted re-integration, that brings downfall. How does violence without become violence within? But I need to wrap this up.