Walt Whitman was born on 31 May 1819. It’s been four years since I published “Should Walt Whitman be #Cancelled?” to coincide with the 200th anniversary of his birth. That article turns out to be one of my most widely read pieces of writing. It’s been cited numerous times, and has led to many interesting conversations and opportunities, including supervising a dissertation on Whitman. On Sunday June 4,, 2023, I’ll be reading in the online “Song of Myself” marathon hosted by the Walt Whitman Initiative. (Joining the board of the WWI was another byproduct of that article.) It should be an interesting event, which can be easily viewed online at the Walt Whitman Initiative website.
Author Archives: Lavelle
Thank You Dave
Watching De La Soul perform “Stakes is High” with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon was a great way to start my morning. Black Thought was a perfect stand-in for Dave, and the tribute at the end nearly broke me. #DeLaSoul Forever. #ThankYouDave
Journal Entry: March 3, 2023, 3:15am
Lately I’ve been thinking that in order to get more reading done, I am going to have to push myself to get up earlier and work in the quiet overnight hours. Easier said than done. Even these hours are difficult on some mornings when the kid is sick, restless, or just up in the middle of the night for whatever reason. But tonight seems like one of those nights where he might sleep for a while. Exhausted after a long day, I conked out around 11pm, after D. finally coaxed him to sleep.
There are several things on my mind this morning. Last night we got an email from his daycare informing us that the children will be doing a “shelter in place drill” next week. This is the going euphemism for “active shooter drill” these days. My two-and-a-half year old will have to participate in his first active shooter drill. Given the direction of this country and its stupid, destructive obsession with guns, it will be the first of many. At best, we can only hope that he will only experience the drills and not the genuine article. That’s the kind of fucked up world that we brought this kid into and it’s hard not to feel many feelings about that. Sadness, guilt, anger, despair, among them.
Wayne Shorter died yesterday at age 89. As fucked up as this world can be, it is one in which Wayne Shorter existed and made beautiful music. WKCR announced that they are pre-empting all programming for the next two days and playing Shorter’s music. I listened to some of the broadcast yesterday afternoon, as I sat at my desk doing some work in the hour before I had to go pick up the boy from daycare. They were playing Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way album.
I woke up this morning to De La Soul’s catalog waiting for me on my Tidal app. I was looking forward to this day. I expected it to be a joyous day on Black Twitter, with people sharing and discussing De La Soul’s music. But Trugoy passed away last month. And Twitter is a Nazi shithole now. I saw that the remaining members of De La Soul had an event last night celebrating the release and honoring Dave. When I woke up, I turned on my phone to quickly listen to a couple of tracks before getting up. “Stakes Is High” has been on my mind lately, so I started there. The following track “Sunshine” pulled me in. I had heard it before, but didn’t know it well. The song filled me with nostalgia for those innocent days in my life when this music was first out. I hopped over to 3 Feet High and Rising to listen to “Eye Know.” I want to start with the early albums and move my way through. I’m looking forward to AOI: Bionix, an under-appreciated album that I loved, which helped me through a difficult phase in my life. I found myself longing to have a De La Soul listening party with some friends. Let’s just hang out, blaze up, and listen to all these albums one by one until we get through as many as we can. Alas, that’s just not possible right now. All I have is this quiet morning, as I sit at the dining table, quietly typing at my laptop, and listening along to De La Soul, and Wayne Shorter, in these wee small hours of the morning.
On THE BALLAD OF BETA-2 by Samuel R. Delany
I have a new piece out on JSTOR Daily about one of Samuel R. Delany’s early novels, The Ballad of Beta-2. Check it out!
Open City Revisited
I’m teaching a course on NYC right now which has prompted me to go back to some of my previous NYC writing.
Back in 2018 I completed “A Walk Through Teju Cole’s Open City” for The Revelator. My name is on the article, but the piece is really a collaborative effort with Revelator editor Eric Schaller, who walked with me through Lower Manhattan and took the pictures that we used for the article.
What I haven’t mentioned on this blog is that our piece was cited in this extensive 2021 profile on Teju Cole’s work by Open Country Mag, “The Worldly Ways of Teju Cole.”
It’s been years since I’ve done a tour of Lower Manhattan. Between the pandemic and the kid I haven’t had much time for wandering around being a flâneur. But I’m hopeful that teaching this course might get me back out on the tour route so I can revisit some of these historic sites in Lower Manhattan and elsewhere.