Saskia Hamilton hosted a local meeting of ALSCW on December 13 at Barnard entitled “Fictions of Fiction”. The scholar-critic Morris Dickstein (a former president of ALSCW) spoke about “My Life in Fiction”, a memoir of growing up as a reader, from boyhood infatuation with stories about history and sports, to the adolescent’s discovery of complex plot and language in Dickens, to the young man’s passion for Conrad, James, Joyce, and Kafka. The novelist and essayist Darryl Pinckney read from the first chapter of his novel High Cotton, which brings fully to life the character of the black preacher-intellectual grandfather as seen by his resistant grandson. In exhilarating and rich diction and in sentence rhythms that bound over ditches and fences and swerve unexpectedly, Pinckney’s prose is a performance of a high order.
The combined offerings of Dickstein and Pinckney provoked an hour of vivid discussion in which everyone participated, and which no one seemed to want to arrest. We had to call a halt at 8 p.m. –RW
Morris Dickstein is Distinguished Professor of English and Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center. His most recent books are Leopards in the Temple, a study of postwar American fiction, A Mirror in Roadway, a collection of literary essays, and Dancing in the Dark, a cultural history of the Depression era, which received the Ambassador Book Award in American Studies and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism.
Darryl Pinckney, a long time contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of a novel, High Cotton, and, in the Alain Locke Lecture series, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature. He is at work on a study of African American literature in the twentieth century.