Unease of Different Sorts and Probabilities

Two chapters into Out Stealing Horses (Per Petterson), and I’m already wondering if this thing’s going to take a turn I didn’t expect. Admittedly, I stopped reading last night at one of those perfect points that, after having neatly brought to an end a sudden onslaught of weirdness, lets you sit with it, not introducing anything else until you feel like embarking on the next chapter.

I’ll refrain from spoilers, but at this point, I’m not sure whether the protagonist’s childhood memories will stick to recounting a more-or-less standard golden age, or whether something his friend’s just done will take this thing into one of those formative extended situations that makes a clean break with a kid’s childhood and pushes him into a more complex, less rosy-cheeked world. My sister and I did grow up with lots of boys as playmates, and although we all engaged in a wide variety of stupid dares, everyday cruelties, and general injustices, I’ve never been able to recognize in all that the occasionally sadistic joy some literature and films allege young boys take in death, destruction, and intimidation– something portrayed in a particular episode of this book as well.

Photo by nottsexminer.

Again, it’s too early to make any pronouncements– but in its low-key look back at past events, it’s gripping so far.

What I’m afraid is going to be all too gripping, and not in any sort of good way, is Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I saw Alexander speak a little over a year ago on the multiple, often race-based horrors meted out by the US justice and penal systems, and so I know what I’m in for– not only in terms of content, but (and the following is positive) a really clear, concise presentation of something no one wants to think about. What I’m hoping is that giving myself fuller exposure to and information about a situation I’m already aware and beyond ashamed of will push me into actually doing something more than reading– and just telling others to read the book. I’ve barely begun with this one, though, and so I suppose I can take comfort for a short while in the fact that I’m arming myself with information that will allow me to proceed more efficiently and effectively.

And as for the periodic sadisms represented by our cultural products, mentioned above? I’m guessing Alexander’s book will be exposing a lot of those– just more than periodic, perhaps more subtle and definitely more severe, and probably being dispensed by the very people we’re expected to believe work against such goings-on.

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