Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Flux and Other Things

This book has really started to pick up.

In light of my last post I would first like to point out the historical importance of a work of fiction like this. In my line of work, museum exhibits, it is considered good if you can shock the visitor into thinking about a subject in a completely different way. Freeman Tilden's, the main authority on interpretation, 4th rule states that "The chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation." Basically, people don't understand what they're reading if you simply give them information, you have to startle them into connecting with history on a personal level. I mention this because I just got through the section where Kunta is traveling on a slave ship (and yes I read through the whole disgusting mess without pause.) In this entire section, Alex Haley (or maybe Harry Courlander the author of The African, which Haley did plagiarize) does a fantastic job shocking the reader into thinking differently about the voyage over from Africa to the United States. Personally, I knew that slave ships were horrible; but until reading this book, I never realized just how horrifying it could be for the person going through it.

Just a note about the plagiarism before I go on. I agree that Alex Haley must have plagiarized several parts of the book because he paid a good amount of money, out of court, to Harry Courlander. However, from this point on I plan to refer all credit to Haley. This is because I have not read The African and cannot say exactly what he plagiarized. (Though I do plan to find the book somewhere and take a look at it.) Also, no matter where I look online, no one can tell me an exact passage that Haley plagiarized.1 And those that do go into long, boring articles about the plagiarism love to point out that the book was not really written by Haley at all but was ghost written by whites which I'm sorry but I find completely unbelievable.2 Not that whites couldn't write this but these articles seem to be stressing the white point too much and are obviously a reaction founded in racism. Otherwise there would be no reason to insist that the book was written by whites instead of by a black man. But enough of that, let me move on.

Today, outside of learning about how awful slave ships were, I also learned a little more about dysentery than I liked. Well that would actually be wrong. As grossed out as I was, I was delighted by the grossness. Part of why my boyfriend calls me Terrifyingly Adorable. The truth is, I find the symptoms of diseases to be the most shocking thing you can present someone with. I could gross you out with some symptoms of Spanish Influenza but instead I have dysentery to play with. Or, as they called it in the book The Flux. I do find is suspicious that Kunta managed to pick out that one word when it didn't appear that he picked out any others but well... Anyway, armed with this new word, Flux, I immediately looked it up. Personally I think Dysentery sounds far worse, but Flux is what it was called in the 19th century. It was often caught by sailors and according to WHO is a bacterial infection which results in loose watery stools that contain blood. 3 On a 19th century ship, it is a disgusting, slippery thing. And naturally with a disease like this, most people die from dehydration than anything else.

But I suppose that's all I'll torture you with today. Until the next horrifying thing this book reveals!