Book-o-the-Day: The 5th Inning by E. Ethelbert Miller.
E. Ethelbert Miller writes some solid poems (though not here–this is a memoir). He is also an activist. He has helped changed things, at times.
E. Ethelbert Miller has an idiosyncratic name and he is very aware of the fact.
E. Ethelbert Miller is frightened he will die and not be special. None of us are special. E. Ethelbert Miller knows this and the day he dies I will have to get my coffee, you know, because I need my coffee in the morning. If I die first E. Ethelbert Miller will get his coffee.
There goes the world again, spinning.
At first, this book read like Lite Beer. I got no Rattlesnake-N-My-Mouth from his words. I kept wanting him to be Langston Hughes, another Black writer. Why did I want one Black writer to be another? Because I am superficial and unlettered? Possibly, but I also love Langston Hughes.
Later, I got bit on pp. 30.
“Despite all the technology and new ways of printing, Black people still don’t Xerox well.”
This was very Chris Rock, but it was also odd and the first laugh I got from this book. I was thankful.
I read on and it was very Red Lobster in Muncie, IN. You know, eating seafood very far from the sea, that taste. A sad attempt at something (though an occasional decent wild rice pilaf). There were words about marriage being lonely I thought were Garlic Shrimp Scampi. I thought them savory.
Then I was head-axed! This passage, pp. 125:
“When my brother died, he left me an envelope with a blank black sheet of paper inside.”
Get your mind around this. Your brother dies. Leaves you an envelope. Can you imagine the mystery/head thrum of opening that envelope. How slowly would you open that envelope? I thought about that envelope for hours. Then inside a blank black piece of paper. Wow.
Can one scene redeem an entire book? (Examples please—book you thought OK, but redeemed by a great sentence, scene?)
This, from pp. 134 most anyone decent would enjoy:
What goals do I have right now?
Before turning age 60, I suggest you read this book. It will take you two hours, eleven minutes to finish.
That is all.