SCENES FROM last week’s opening festivities for “Octavia E. Butler — Telling My Stories” at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.
A special thank you to curator Natalie Russell who carefully selected 100 objects out of a vast archive of 8,000 to illustrate Butler’s life, work and struggle. It’s a beautiful survey of a singular life. We are all grateful to Butler for gifting her papers to the Huntington so that so many more people can learn about her way of looking at and being in the world. Most affecting is her depth of curiosity, her blinders-on focus. For all the sacrifice and sense of mission, her dedication at moments feels matchless.
The exhibit is up through August. Come early. Give yourself enough time to wander through. There is much to linger over, digest and celebrate.
MY ESSAY — in words and pictures — about what it means to be a Californian is now up at Boom California.
At the edge of it
I have been thinking more and more of late about how being both an inheritor and a native of a place, shapes the way you see and move through territory as well as how you understand your place within it.
Keepsakes and Souvenirs
I want to thank especially my former SF roommate, Shelley, for spending endless hours with me roaming around our old spaces and chasing vanished addresses in the Bay Area. I can do that for hours and hours. I do a fair amount of this roaming on my own when I’m here in Los Angeles but it was great to have a second set of eyes and someone with whom to bounce ideas back and forth.
California, I do love you, but I have to wonder sometimes if you’re moving faster than I am.
Boom Winter Issue 2016
All images by Lynell George
PLEASE JOIN us tonight at The Last Bookstore for Boom California’s Winter Reading. Details here. We will be discussing the great Golden State.
“Is the train station able to gaze at itself, revive the past, double it, a double as quiet as the face, the moving lips of my reflection within a mirror. Quiet as silences within the silences of Theolnious Monk’s piano. During the Twelfth Street Station’s heyday did people’s dreams truly float above the platform upon which I pcuture myself waiting for an Illinois Central train to arrive or depart, a platform lined with cardboard suitcases, ancient steamer trunks, duffel bags, shopping bags, string-tied bundles and cartons, colored gals carrying everything they own in a warm package they cradle in their arms, all of that dreaming and waiting, waiting, every shadow and echo and breath of those lives dust and grit and somebody brooms away each morning from the station’s concrete floor.”
— John Edgar Wideman from Writing to Save A Life: The Louis Till File
PRESENTING TODAY about Octavia E. Butller’s life and legacy at U.S.C.
IN CASE you missed it. Last week, I took over the Huntington Library’s Instagram and led their followers through science fiction writer, Octavia E. Butler’s massive archive. I wanted people to have a sense of what it was like working with her papers, which also meant being privy to her hopes and fears and drive.
I’d been commissioned by Julia Meltzer at Clockshop to write a piece for their year-long Radio Imagination project, and my starting point was full immersion into Butlers personal papers — her journals, commonplace books and busy marginalia. I’ve learned much about her in my time here. What has struck me the most however, is just how vulnerable she felt within the writing process.
You can take a look at my Huntington Takeover here.
Also, the lovely Julia Wick at LAist interviewed me about archive and you can view that here.
Thanks so much, Kate Lain at the Huntington for inviting me to take part in this. I really did have a blast.
Stray Cards from the Octavia E. Butler archive, Courtesy the Huntington Library.
THANKS TO everyone involved and to all of those who attended Clockshop’s “Radio Imagination” reading honoring Octavia E. Butler last Saturday night. Our goal was to pay fitting tribute, but by all accounts we conjured her. From teaching herself — “guiding her own hand,” to warring constantly with isolation, to writing herself into being, Butler steered herself through a professional universe that could be as aloof as it was alienating.
She found an opening in a seam and made a place for herself. A roadblock was something to circumvent, just another plot-pont puzzle on a page By articulating her desires, goals and plans — for decades — she built a sure path toward them.
“So be it. See to it!”
It was an honor to be a part of keeping her personal story aloft.
There will be more Radio Imagination events to come in this year-long celebration. A podcast of Saturday’s program will be available shortly. Stay tuned.
(Photos courtesy Clockshop)