Catch a Fire

slaverevenge“Slave driver, the table is turned; Catch a fire, so you can get burned.” – Bob Marley

I am crouched on the edge of Port-au-Prince rooftop, a hooded figure with a blunderbuss and a rusty machete strapped to my back. A throng of white men in frock coats and silk stockings bustles by below, some on their way to a nearby slave auction. There, a line of shackled men stands on a platform, under posters reading “Nègres À Vendre”—“Blacks For Sale.” It’s broad daylight, and my rooftop ledge stands only a few feet off the ground. Yet the men below don’t seem frightened. It’s possible they can’t believe their eyes: Black assassins aren’t quite commonplace in colonial Saint-Domingue. Whatever the reason, their loss is our gain. Continue reading

The Emergence of the Archive

“To be human means above all to bury.”

- Robert Pogue Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead

Three articles this July have underlined a growing concern about the function of the archive in contemporary society. Previously relegated to the dark, climate-controlled labyrinths below universities, federal buildings and private collections, the archive has emerged into daylight. The repositories of the everyday now interact directly with the everyday, to unusual effect. Continue reading

Should You Buy It?: American Innovations by Rivka Galchen

American Innovations is a concept book, which makes it a good gift. The person opens the wrapping paper and says, excitedly, “Oh, what’s this?” And you say: “It’s a collection that reimagines famous stories from the perspective of female characters.” And then, to give it a little weight, to prove its not merely a gimmick, you give a quick list of Rivka Galchen’s accomplishments: One novel, Atmospheric Disturbances (2008), excellent reviews; professorship at Columbia; one of the New Yorker’s 20 under 40 (2010). Et voila: the gift-receiver is thrilled about their new book. Continue reading

Low Res: Hook, Line, and Sinker

Cunard Line poster

Image courtesy of cruiselinehistory.com

Even when we put down the windows, my family’s 1998 Toyota Sienna minivan still smelled like a basement. Maps that we used to rely on before we had iPhones, old faded copies of National Geographic and Cooking Light, and a couple of packs of gum that had long lost their crisp shape, were all crammed into the pocket behind the driver’s seat. Squeezed behind these obsolete artifacts was a book, lovingly crumpled from a combination of wear, and, later, of neglect.

882 ½ Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic sustained me through most car rides, long and short, throughout early elementary school. Each section in the book was short and manageable, introducing me to facts about the steerage, and the bow and the stern every time I turned the page. Some passengers brought their dogs on board.  The kitchens were equipped with twenty-five cases of olive oil, and the three hundred cases of shelled walnuts.  Supposedly, thirteen couples traveling were on their honeymoons. Some scholars speculate it would have been safer to hit the iceberg straight on.  All eight members of the ship orchestra lost their lives. I learned that April 15—tax day—was the day the Titanic sank. Engrossed, I didn’t mind the mild nausea I felt as I read in the backseat.

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Spring 2014: A Conversation with Michael Thorbjørn Feehly

tools4  The Harvard Advocate is proud to announce the upcoming launch of the Spring issue! Below, listen to Michael Thorbjørn Feehly ’14 reading his poem, “Lagomorph,” which is published in this edition of the magazine. After making this recording, Michael and Colton Valentine ’16 discussed this piece further– you can find an abridged transcript below. You can subscribe to the Harvard Advocate here Continue reading