Author: Cathy


I normally confine my quotation mania to my Tumblr. But this one required a bit more formatting than Tumblr allows.

The literature is not clear on whether R2m–1 may be replaced by W2m–1 but presumably the answer is well-known to experts.

—Howard Jacobowitz, “Convex Integration and the h-Principle” (Research Institute of Mathematics, Seoul)

I particularly like the absence of a comma. It somehow transmits my father’s happy combination of meticulousness and insouciance.

Some real machinery inside our guts

I had a day where I saw two movies. It was a Sunday in August, and a life-change sort of thing was happening, or continuing to happen, that made me want to get out of the house. My priority was “Hitman: Agent 47,” which unfortunately proved quite negligible. But first I went to a 10:25 AM showing of “The End of the Tour.” This two-hander about David Foster Wallace was so moving to me, I started to cry about fifteen minutes in. Read more

This author gets it

Tomorrow in Race and Fiction Writing we will discuss the question: How Do We Write Characters Whose Race Is Different Than Ours? Meanwhile, I struck gold on the reading-copy shelf a few weeks back. I got fourteen books! Plus Charles Bukowski, On Cats, which I gave to a friend.

One you can’t see in the picture is The New and Improved Romie Futch, by Julia Elliott. Romie is a South Carolina taxidermist who undergoes a sort of flowers-for-Algernon experiment and emerges with greatly enhanced mental capacity. He throws himself into creating avant-garde animal dioramas that illustrate “the trans-human ecology,” hunting down a mutant monster known as Hogzilla, and the odd drunken funk. The writing is great. I was going along enjoying the book well enough, and then I came across something I’ve never seen before. Read more

Racial justice is not a zero-sum game

On Friday I took a pleasant walk down Garden Street in Cambridge to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. I was there to facilitate a discussion about whiteness with students and professors at the Banneker Institute, a summer research program for students of color led by Professor John Johnson. I arrived ready to lay down knowledge. But, of course, I was the one in the room who learned the most. Read more

Reading white supremacy against the grain

I read a jaw-dropping book by Howard Jacobson called J. Jacobson is known for writing about what Philip Roth terms “that topic called The Jews.” So this dystopian fantasy set in some kind of Anglo-Teutonic coastal village seems like a real departure at first. Until you notice that every single character has a Jewish name. And that a very Jewish sense of dread hangs over everything. And that the one word never used in the book is “Jew.” Read more

I went to the movies

My dear friend Rockclimber being in self-imposed exile in Georgia making knives, like someone in a Quentin Tarantino movie, I went to see “Ex Machina” by myself. It was pretty neat except that all the female androids had landing strips. Ha ha, seriously, it was deeply sexist in a way that can’t be defused by lampshading. But I still enjoyed it. Oscar Isaac’s upsetting beard reminded me of Bryan Cranston’s observation that “hair on the face and no hair on the head is the most intimidating look there can be.” As a weight-lifting, vodka-swilling Zuckerbergian Mephistopheles, Isaac was easily the scariest thing in the movie. Spoiler: the robots win. Read more

On being a white novelist

I gave this talk last fall at Community Change. It has some points in common with another talk of mine, “How I Set Out to Write About the Revolution,” but it goes further and says more of what I’d really been wanting to say, for some time, about whiteness and writing fiction.

Hi, I’m Cathy and I’m white. I’m probably one of the whitest people you’ll ever meet. I grew up in an overwhelmingly white environment, in a place called Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and attended majority-white schools. My whole family is white. Until recently I worked exclusively for white organizations, and I still have mostly white friends.

I’m also a novelist. I began writing fiction when I was a little kid, and I’m currently midway through my ninth book. After many years of trying to get a traditional publisher, I published The One-Way Rain myself last year.

I didn’t set out to write about racial justice when I started The One-Way Rain. My original idea was to write a literary version of an action movie, with a kick-ass heroine. I assumed without even thinking about it that this heroine would be white. Around the same time I was also interested in the concept of a freedom fighter who was willing to die for her beliefs, and I ended up adding a second protagonist who was Black. Read more

Rewatching “The Wire”

If you follow my Twitter, you may know I’m getting #divorced. So far it’s going pretty well. Not to say I haven’t had some major feels, and more feel things will probably come my way, but overall, I can’t complain. Not when my alimony is being paid in pulps.

One of the things I decided to do for myself this post-divoss winter was re-watch every episode of “The Wire.” I couldn’t remember when I saw it originally, so I searched my Gmail, which is keeping my history for me (here’s a disturbing quote on that subject from the greatest zombie book ever). Apparently I first watched the show in the spring and summer of 2010. So it’s been over four years, and in that time I’ve rewatched Season One once. I finished S1 for the third time last week and yesterday moved on to Season Two. It was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s spirited Twitter defense of S2 that made me want to do the whole thing all over again, but I still find this season less compelling, and for the same reason I did originally: because it’s less Black. Read more