Rebecca Solnit reading fairy stories is not something I’m sure I want to listen to. Rebecca Solnit writing about reading fairy stories is something else again. Full of wonderful insights, this latest essay takes to heart the maxim that past performance is no guide to the future. Or rather, that it can be, if only you go back far enough.
Two paragraphs prompted me to copy. On the future:
We are going to have to invent it, and fight the monsters of the right and the elite who see mass sacrifice of human life for the benefit of the few in the name of the market as acceptable and who through underregulated poisons and over-rationed healthcare and unlivable wages were happily sacrificing others all along. But invention may be the harder task. (My emphasis.)
And an illumination of the past:
Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech was not scripted; it came about because Mahalia Jackson called out to him as he was partway through a more pedestrian, scripted speech, “Tell them about the dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!” and he pushed the paper aside and shifted into the more prophetic voice of that greatest of American speeches. It almost didn’t happen; she was bold enough to call out in a historic moment; he could’ve ignored her; somehow he dared to listen and was nimble enough to improvise in front of that vast crowd in the nation’s capital.
I didn’t know that; although it is clear that nobody could have extemporised that speech without have first lived the cadences and dreamed the dream.