Friday, May 17, 2013

THE INTERSECTION OF CUBA AND THE GREAT GATSBY


Since my last posting, the news has been full of Cuban events and their consequences, and I’d like to get caught up to date with observations about both the trivial and the important. Likely, it will take several postings to get current on that and the news of Island of the White Rose.

Where Jay-Z falls—important or trivial—his visit to Cuba certainly captured a lot of media attention. One point that was mostly overlooked was his seeming preoccupation with Che. He’s often shown sporting his signature Che t-shirt, and he self-describes himself as “Che Guevara with bling.” I wonder if any of his posse has ever told him that in Motorcycle Diaries Che wrote, “The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese. The contempt and poverty unites them in the daily struggle, but the different way of dealing with life separates them completely; the black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations.”

The civil rights movement in the U.S. was all about discrediting such a racist philosophy. That Jay-Z continues to celebrate Che spits in the face of Martin Luther King and is a throwback to the philosophy of the KKK.

 Jay-Z’s embrace of Che boggles my mind. To make fair disclosure of my other feelings about Jay-Z, I think his musical arrangements for the new version of The Great Gatsby deserve a special place in hell. With all of the wonderful music of the 20s, assaulting the audience with a rap soundtrack to  dancing flappers was a poor choice. Otherwise, I thought the movie was terrific, notwithstanding a rather dull interpretation of Nick Carraway by Tobey McGuire.

In book news, in ten days I’ll be off to Book Expo America in NYC to visit the largest book fair in the country (samples please). I hope to be spending some time at BNN’s booth to help in the marketing of Island. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop in.

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