Many more days went by, however, and that too came to an end.

Resonance set (a):

Many more days went by, however, and that too came to an end. An overseer’s eye fell on the cage one day and he asked the attendants why this perfectly good cage should be left standing there unused with dirty straw inside it; nobody knew, until one man, helped out by the notice board, remembered about the hunger artist. They poked into the straw with sticks and found him in it. “Are you still fasting?” asked the overseer, “when on earth do you mean to stop?” “Forgive me, everybody,” whispered the hunger artist;

only the overseer, who had his ear to the bars, understood him. “Of course,” said the overseer, and tapped his forehead with a finger to let the attendants know what state the man was in, “we forgive you.” “I always wanted you to admire my fasting,” said the hunger artist. “We do admire it,” said the overseer, affably. “But you shouldn’t admire it,” said the hunger artist. “Well then we don’t admire it,” said the overseer, “but why shouldn’t we admire it?” “Because I have to fast, I can’t help it,” said the hunger artist. “What a fellow you are,” said the overseer, “and why can’t you help it?” “Because,” said the hunger artist, lifting his head a little and speaking, with his lips pursed, as if for a kiss, right into the overseer’s ear, so that no syllable might be lost, “because I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I should have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.” These were his last words, but in his dimming eyes remained the firm though no longer proud persuasion that he was still continuing to fast.

“Well, clear this out now!” said the overseer, and they buried the hunger artist, straw and all. Into the cage they put a young panther. Even the most insensitive felt it refreshing to see this wild creature leaping around the cage that had so long been dreary. The panther was all right. The food he liked was brought to him without hesitation by the attendants; he seemed not even to miss his freedom; his noble body, furnished almost to the bursting point with all that it needed, seemed to carry freedom around with it too; somewhere in his jaws it seemed to lurk; and the joy of life streamed with such ardent passion from his

throat that for the onlookers it was not easy to stand the shock of it. But they braced themselves, crowded around the cage, and did not ever want to move away.

Franz Kafka. “The Hunger Artist” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Nevertheless, my mind was not pacified; and full of a restless curiosity, at last I returned to the door. Without hindrance I inserted my key, opened it, and entered. Bartleby was not to be seen. I looked round anxiously, peeped behind his screen; but it was very plain that he was gone. Upon more closely examining the place, I surmised that for an indefinite period Bartleby must have ate, dressed, and slept in my office, and that too without plate, mirror, or bed. The cushioned seat of a rickety old sofa in one corner bore the faint impress of a lean, reclining form. Rolled away under his desk, I found a blanket; under the empty grate, a blacking box and brush; on a chair, a tin basin, with soap and a ragged towel; in a newspaper a few crumbs of ginger-nuts and a morsel of cheese. Yes, thought I, it is evident enough that Bartleby has been making his home here, keeping bachelor’s hall all by himself. Immediately then the thought came sweeping across me, What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great; but his solitude, how horrible! Think of it. Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous—a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage! For the first time in my life a feeling of overpowering stinging melancholy seized me. Before, I had never experienced aught but a not-unpleasing sadness. The bond of a common humanity now drew me irresistibly to gloom. A fraternal melancholy! For both I and Bartleby were sons of Adam. I remembered the bright silks and sparkling faces I had seen that day, in gala trim, swan-like sailing down the Mississippi of Broadway; and I contrasted them with the pallid copyist, and thought to myself, Ah, happiness courts the light, so we deem the world is gay; but misery hides aloof, so we deem that misery there is none. These sad fancyings—chimeras, doubtless, of a sick and silly brain—led on to other and more special thoughts, concerning the eccentricities of Bartleby. Presentiments of strange discoveries hovered round me. The scrivener’s pale form appeared to me laid out, among uncaring strangers, in its shivering winding sheet.

Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener “Speed the Collapse” Allen. “City of the Vampires” The Hill set (b):

“He flew. You know, like a bird. . . . Went right back to wherever it was he came from”(Toni Morrison. Song of Solomon)

He turned over on the grass so that he was staring directly at the moon up in the sky. She could tell that he was also watching the hot-air balloon behind the sugar mill fence out of the corner of his eye.

“Sometimes I know you want to believe in me;’ he said. “I know you’re wishing things for me. You want me to work at the mill. You want me to get a pretty house for us. I know you want these things too, but mostly you want me to feel like a man. That’s why you’re not one to worry about, Lili, I know you can take things as they come”

“I don’t like it when you talk this way,” she said.

“Listen to this, Lili, J want to tell you a secret. Sometimes, I just want to take that big balloon and ride it up in the air. I’d like to sail off somewhere and keep floating until I got to a really nice place with a nice plot of land where I could be something new. I’d build my own house, keep my own garden. Just be something new.”

Edwidge Danticat. “A Wall of Fire Rising””What now, then?”, Gregor asked himself as he looked round in the darkness. He soon made the discovery that he could no longer move at all. This was no surprise to him, it seemed rather that being able to actually move around on those spindly little legs until then was unnatural. He also felt relatively comfortable. It is true that his entire body was aching, but the pain seemed to be slowly getting weaker and weaker and would finally disappear altogether. He could already hardly feel the decayed apple in his back or the inflamed area around it, which was entirely covered in white dust. He thought back of his family with emotion and love. If it was possible, he felt that he must go away even more strongly than his sister. He remained in this state of empty and peaceful rumination until he heard the clock tower strike three in the morning. He watched as it slowly began to get light everywhere outside the window too. Then, without his willing it, his head sank down completely, and his last breath flowed weakly from his nostrils.

Franz Kafka. The Metamorphosis Havens – “High Flyin’ Bird” Floyd – “Big Bird”


From Greg Grandin’s The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World, excerpt regarding a shipboard slave mutiny and footnote follows:

The ship erupted. At first, Mordeille’s crew tried to hold its ground, fighting the captives hand to hand. After the slaves pushed a few more into the water, the mariners retreated to the ship’s boats and rowed away. A nearby Spanish man-of-war, the Medea, sent a detachment of marines to retake the ship from the unarmed Africans. Firing musket shots over the heads of the rebels, the troops boarded the vessel. When it became clear that their revolt had failed, a number of the rebels began to throw themselves over the gunwales into the bay.

As already mentioned, of all the Africans taken during the four-century-long slave trade, those from West Africa, especially those boarded at ports in the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta region, and especially Bonny, where the Neptune sailed from, were known for their high rates of suicide. Descendants of slaves who worked the rice plantations of Georgia’s coastal islands handed down a legend that captive Igbos would fling themselves into the Atlantic rather than slavery, not committing suicide but “flying” or “walking” on the water—or dancing on the waves—home. “Negros did not” kill themselves, remembered Esteban Montejo, a former Cuban slave.* “They escaped by flying. They flew through the sky and returned to their own lands.

*In this instance, Montejo identifies Congolese Africans as those most likely to fly away; they “flew the most; they disappeared by means of witchcraft . . . without making a sound. There are those who say the Negros threw themselves into rivers. This is untrue. The truth is they fastened a chain to their waists which was full of magic. That was where their power came from. I know this all intimately and it is true without a doubt.” The equation of suicide and flight runs through Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. After hearing children singing lines from an old blues song (“Solomon done fly, Solomon done gone, Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home”), Milkman, the novel’s twentieth century protagonist, realizes his connection to a long-ago “flying African.” Working in the cotton field one day, Milkman’s ancestor “flew off . . . He flew you know, like a bird . . . went right back to wherever it was he came from.”

Resonance set (c):

Herman Melville spent nearly his whole writing career considering the problem of slavery and freedom. Yet he most often did so elliptically, intent, seemingly, on disentangling the experience from the particularities of skin color, economics, or geography. He rarely wrote about human bondage as an historical institution with victims and victimizers but rather as an existential or philosophical condition common to all. . . . Melville . . . is concerned less with exposing specific social horrors than with revealing slavery’s foundational deception – not just the fantasy that some men were natural slaves but that others could be absolutely free. . . . Melville knew, or feared, that the fantasy wouldn’t end, that after abolition, if abolition ever came, it would adapt itself to new circumstances, becoming even more elusive, even more entrenched, in human affairs. It’s this awareness, this dread, that makes . . . Melville such an astute appraiser of slavery’s true power and lasting legacy.” (9-10)

Greg Grandin. The Empire of Necessity

Perched high upon a narrow platform, and still higher upon a high stool crowning it, sat another figure serving some other iron animal; while below the platform sat her mate in some sort of reciprocal attendance. Not a syllable was breathed. Nothing was heard but the low, steady, overruling hum of the iron animals. The human voice was ban-ished from the spot. Machinery — that vaunted slave of humanity — here stood menially served by human beings, who served mutely and cring-ingly as the slave serves the Sultan. The girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cogs to the wheels.

Herman Melville. The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids my original business—that of a conveyancer and title hunter, and drawerup of recondite documents of all sorts—was considerably increased by receiving the master’s office. There was now great work for scriveners. Not only must I push the clerks already with me, but I must have additional help. In answer to my advertisement, a motionless young man one morning, stood upon my office threshold, the door being open, for it was summer. I can see that figure now— pallidly neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn! It was Bartleby.

After a few words touching his qualifications, I engaged him, glad to have among my corps of copyists a man of so singularly sedate an aspect, which I thought might operate beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey, and the fiery one of Nippers.

I should have stated before that ground glass folding-doors divided my premises into two parts, one of which was occupied by my scriveners, the other by myself. According to my humor I threw open these doors, or closed them. I resolved to assign Bartleby a corner by the folding-doors, but on my side of them, so as to have this quiet man within easy call, in case any trifling thing was to be done. I placed his desk close up to a small side-window in that part of the room, a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy back-yards and bricks, but which, owing to subsequent erections, commanded at present no view at all, though it gave some light. Within three feet of the panes was a wall, and the light came down from far above, between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome. Still further to a satisfactory arrangement, I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice. And thus, in a manner, privacy and society were conjoined.

At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sun-light and by candle-light. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically.

It is, of course, an indispensable part of a scrivener’s business to verify the accuracy of his copy, word by word. Where there are two or more scriveners in an office, they assist each other in this examination, one reading from the copy, the other holding the original. It is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair. I can readily imagine that to some sanguine temperaments it would be altogether intolerable. For example, I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet Byron would have contentedly sat down with Bartleby to examine a law document of, say five hundred pages, closely written in a crimpy hand.

Now and then, in the haste of business, it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself, calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. One object I had in placing Bartleby so handy to me behind the screen, was to avail myself of his services on such trivial occasions. It was on the third day, I think, of his being with me, and before any necessity had arisen for having his own writing examined, that, being much hurried to complete a small affair I had in hand, I abruptly called to Bartleby. In my haste and natural expectancy of instant compliance, I sat with my head bent over the original on my desk, and my right hand sideways, and somewhat nervously extended with the copy, so that immediately upon emerging from his retreat, Bartleby might snatch it and proceed to business without the least delay.

In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely, to examine a small paper with me. Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”

Herman Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story Of Wall-street suspicions, anyhow, were a necessary accompaniment to the profession of fasting. No one could possibly watch the hunger artist continuously, day and night, and so no one could produce first-hand evidence that the fast had really been rigorous and continuous; only the artist himself could know that, he was therefore bound to be the sole completely satisfied spectator of his own fast. Yet for other reasons he was never satisfied; it was not perhaps mere fasting that had brought him to such skeleton thinness that many people had regretfully to keep away from his exhibitions, because the sight of him was too much for them, perhaps it was dissatisfaction with himself that had worn him down. For he alone knew, what no other initiate knew, how easy it was to fast. It was the easiest thing in the world. He made no secret of this, yet people did not believe him, at best they set him down as modest, most of them, however, thought he was out for publicity or else was some kind of cheat who found it easy to fast because he had discovered a way of making it easy, and then had the impudence to admit the fact, more or less. He had to put up with all that, and in the course of time had got used to it, but his inner dissatisfaction always rankled, and never yet, after any term of fasting—this must be granted to his credit—had he left the cage of his own free will. The longest period of fasting was fixed by his impresario at forty days, beyond that term he was not allowed to go, not even in great cities, and there was good reason for it, too. Experience had proven that for about forty days the interest of the public could be stimulated by a steadily increasing pressure of advertisement, but after that the town began to lose interest, sympathetic support began notably to fall off; there were of course local variations as between one town and another or one country and another, but as a general rule forty days marked the limit. So on the fortieth day the flower-bedecked cage was opened, enthusiastic spectators filled the hall, a military band played, two doctors entered the cage to measure the results of the fast, which were announced through a megaphone, and finally two young ladies appeared, blissful at having been selected for the honor, to help the hunger artist down the few steps leading to a small table on which was spread a carefully chosen invalid repast. And at this very moment the artist always turned stubborn. True, he would entrust his bony arms to the outstretched helping hands of the ladies bending over him, but stand up he would not. Why stop fasting at this particular moment, after forty days of it?

Franz Kafka. “A Hunger Artist” were given the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings.  In the manner of children, they all wanted to be couriers.  As a result, there are only couriers.  They gallop through the world shouting to each other messages that, since there are no kings, have become meaningless. Gladly would they put an end to their miserable existence, but they dare not, because of their oaths of service.

Franz Kafka. “Couriers” and Garfunkel. “Richard Cory” H. Auden. “The Unknown Citizen” Stillman. “The Invisible Army” Venning. “Britain’s Child Slaves . . .” set (d):

I read about it in the paper, in the subway, on my way to work. I read it, and I couldn’t believe it, and I read it again. Then perhaps I just stared at it, at the newsprint spelling out his name, spelling out the story. I stared at it in the swinging lights of the subway car, and in the faces and bodies of the people, and in my own face, trapped in the darkness which roared outside.It was not to be believed and I kept telling myself that, as I walked from the subway station to the high school. And at the same time I couldn’t doubt it. I was scared, scared for Sonny. He became real to me again. A great block of ice got settled in my belly and kept melting there slowly all day long, while I taught my classes algebra. It was a special kind of ice. It kept melting, sending trickles of ice water all up and down my veins, but it never got less. Sometimes it hardened and seemed to expand until I felt my guts were going to come spilling out or that I was going to choke or scream. This would always be at a moment when I was remembering some specific thing Sonny had once said or done.When he was about as old as the boys in my classes his face had been bright and open, there was a lot of copper in it; and he’d had wonderfully direct brown eyes, and great gentleness and privacy. I wondered what he looked like now. He had been picked up, the evening before, in a raid on an apartment down-town, for peddling and using heroin.James Baldwin. Sonny’s Blues


The M.C. knocked on a table for quiet. “Gentlemen,” he said, “we almost forgot an important part of the program. A most serious part, gentlemen. This boy was brought here to deliver a speech which he made at his graduation yesterday . . .” “Bravo!” “I’m told that he is the smartest boy we’ve got out there in Greenwood. I’m told that he knows more big words than a pocket-sized dictionary.” Much applause and laughter. “So now, gentlemen, I want you to give him your attention.” There was still laughter as I faced them, my mouth dry, my eyes throbbing. I began slowly, but evidently my throat was tense, because they began shouting. “Louder! Louder!” “We of the younger generation extol the wisdom of that great leader and educator,” I shouted, “who first spoke these flaming words of wisdom: ‘A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel came back: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.’ And like him I say, and in his words, ‘To those of my race who depend upon bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is his next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are’!—cast it down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded . . .”‘ I spoke automatically and with such fervor that I did not realize that the men were still talking and laughing until my dry mouth, filling up with blood from the cut, almost strangled me. I coughed, wanting to stop and go to one of the tall brass, sand-filled spittoons to relieve myself, but a few of the men, especially the superintendent, were listening and I was afraid. So I gulped it down, blood, saliva and all, and continued. (What powers of endurance I had during those days! What enthusiasm! What a belief in the rightness of things!) I spoke even louder in spite of the pain. But still they talked and still they laughed, as though deaf with cotton in dirty ears. So I spoke with greater emotional emphasis. I closed my ears and swallowed blood until I was nauseated. The speech seemed a hundred times as long as before, but I could not leave out a single word. All had to be said, each memorized nuance considered, rendered. Nor was that all. Whenever I uttered a word of three or more syllables a group of voices would yell for me to repeat it. I used the phrase “social responsibility” and they yelled: “What’s the word you say, boy?” “Social responsibility,” I said. “What?” “Social . . .” “Louder.” “. . . responsibility.” “More!” “Respon—” “Repeat!” “—sibility.” The room filled with the uproar of laughter until, no doubt, distracted by having to gulp down my blood, I made a mistake and yelled a phrase I had often seen denounced in newspaper editorials, heard debated in private. “Social . . .” “What?” they yelled. “. . . equality—.” The laughter hung smokelike in the sudden stillness. I opened my eyes, puzzled. Sounds of displeasure filled the room. The M.C. rushed forward. They shouted hostile phrases at me. But I did not understand. A small dry mustached man in the front row blared out, “Say that slowly, son! “What, sir?” “What you just said!” “Social responsibility, sir,” I said. “You weren’t being smart, were you boy?” he said, not unkindly. “No, Sir!” “You sure that about ‘equality’ was a mistake?” “Oh, yes, Sir,” I said. “I was swallowing blood.” “Well, you had better speak more slowly so we can understand. We mean to do right by you, but you’ve got to know your place at all times. All right, now, go on with your speech.” I was afraid. I wanted to leave but I wanted also to speak and I was afraid they’d snatch me down. “T’hank you, Sir,” I said, beginning where I had left off, and having them ignore me as before. Yet when I finished there was a thunderous applause. I was surprised to see the superintendent come forth with a package wrapped in white tissue paper, and, gesturing for quiet, address the men. “Gentlemen, you see that I did not overpraise the boy. He makes a good speech and some day he’ll lead his people in the proper paths. And I don’t have to tell you that this is important in these days and times. This is a good, smart boy, and so to encourage him in the right direction, in the name of the Board of Education I wish to present him a prize in the form of this . . .” He paused, removing the tissue paper and revealing a gleaming calfskin briefcase. “. . . in the form of this first-class article from Shad Whitmore’s shop.” “Boy,” he said, addressing me, “take this prize and keep it well. Consider it a badge of office. Prize it. Keep developing as you are and some day it will be filled with important papers that will help shape the destiny of your people.”

Ralph Ellison. “Battle Royal” he faced the raging crowd with defiance, its screams penetrating his eardrums like trumpets shrieking from a jukebox. The vague faces glowing in the bingo lights gave him a sense of himself that he had never known before. He was running the show, by God! They had to react to him, for he was their luck. This is me, he thought. Let the bastards yell. Then someone was laughing inside him, and he realized that somehow he had forgotten his own name. It was a sad, lost feeling to lose your name, and a crazy thing to do. That name had been given him by the white man who had owned his grandfather a long lost time ago down South. But maybe those wise guys knew his name.

“Who am I?” he screamed.

“Hurry up and bingo, you jerk!”

They didn’t know either, he thought own names, they were all poor nameless bastards. Well, he didn’t need that old name; he was reborn. For as long as he pressed the button he was The-man-who-pressed – the-button-who-held-the-prize-who-was-the-King-of-Bingo. That was the way it was, and he’d have to press the button even if nobody understood, even though Laura did not understand.

“Live!” he shouted.

The audience quieted like the dying of a huge fan.

“Live, Laura, baby. I got holt of it now, sugar. Live!”

He screamed it tears streaming down his face. “I got nobody but YOU!”

The screams tore from his very guts. He felt as though the rush of blood to his head would burst out in baseball seams of small red droplets, like a head beaten by police clubs. Bending over he saw a trickle of blood splashing the toe of his shoe. With his free hand he searched his head. It was his nose. God, suppose something has gone wrong? He felt that the whole audience had somehow entered him and was stamping its feet in his stomach, and he was unable to throw them out. They wanted the prize, that was it. They wanted the secret for themselves. But they’d never get it; he would keep the bingo wheel whirling forever, and Laura would be safe in the wheel. But would she? It had to be, because if she were not safe the wheel would cease to turn; it could not go on. He had to get away, vomit all, and his mind formed an image of himself running with Laura in his arms down the tracks of the subway just ahead of an A train, running desperately vomit with people screaming for him to come out but knowing no way of leaving the tracks because to stop would bring the train crushing down upon him and to attempt to leave across the other tracks would mean to run into a hot third rail as high as his waist which threw blue sparks that blinded his eyes until he could hardly see.

He heard singing and the audience was clapping its hands.

Shoot the liquor to him, Jim, boy!


Well a-calla the cop

He’s blowing his top!

Shoot the liquor to him, Jim boy!

Bitter anger grew within him at the singing. They think I’m crazy. Well let ’em laugh. I’ll do what I got to do.

He was standing in an attitude of intense listening when he saw that they were watching something on the stage behind him. He felt weak. But when he turned he saw no one. If only his thumb did not ache so. Now they were applauding. And for a moment he thought that the wheel had stopped. But that was impossible, his thumb still pressed the button. Then he saw them. Two men in uniform beckoned from the end of the stage. They were coming toward him, walking in step, slowly, like a tap-dance team returning for a third encore. But their shoulders shot forward, and he backed away, looking wildly about. There was nothing to fight them with. He had only the long black cord which led to a plug somewhere back stage, and he couldn’t use that because it operated the bingo wheel. He backed slowly, fixing the men with his eyes as his lips stretched over his teeth in a tight, fixed grin; moved toward the end of the stage and realizing that he couldn’t go much further, for suddenly the cord became taut and he couldn’t afford to break the cord. But he had to do something. The audience was howling. Suddenly he stopped dead, seeing the men halt, their legs lifted as in an interrupted step of a slow-motion dance. There was nothing to do but run in the other direction and he dashed forward, slipping and sliding. The men fell back, surprised. He struck out violently going past.

“Grab him!”

He ran, but all too quickly the cord tightened, resistingly, and he turned and ran back again. This time he slipped them, and discovered by running in a circle before the wheel he could keep the cord from tightening. But this way he had to flail his arms to keep the men away. Why couldn’t they leave a man alone? He ran, circling.

“Ring down the curtain,” someone yelled. But they couldn’t do that. if they did the wheel flashing from the projection r

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