Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


New interview: Collapsing and Constructed Identity, Lithuania Tribune

As followers of my Facebook Author Page know, I’m spending the entire summer in Lithuania this year, something I’ve not done since 1996. I found it fitting to be out here when I got a request for an interview from Alexsandra Kudickis, a journalist who has previewed my forthcoming book, Relief by Execution.

The interview was published on June 25 by the Lithuania Tribune. It’s in English. It covers cultural and ethnic identity, Zen meditation, The Fugue, the Holocaust in Lithuania, and pressing questions about controversial memorials in Lithuanian cities.

You can read the interview here.

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Photo by Žana Gončiar


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Malcolm X on reading

I want to continue today with Malcolm X, whose Autobiography was a strong influence on me when I first read it in my late teens. I both identified with Malcolm X and realized I had a lot to learn from him, primarily about the experiences of people whose lives were different from mine. I admired his desire for knowledge and authority, his passion for books, and his diligence in prison, where he studied the English language with obsessive fervor.

It’s crushing, annihilating to me to know that we now have a president whose illiteracy is celebrated by a massive swath of Americans, while others shrug it off as acceptable. Malcolm X spent his days in prison memorizing the dictionary. Decades later, America elects a man who can hardly utter a three syllable word.

I wish I could quote his entire book. But this will do:

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking questions. One was, “What’s your alma mater?” I told him, “Books.” You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I’m not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man. 

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Photo of Malcolm X from Wikipedia 


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A student weighs in on Palin

One of my students asked me this morning if I had heard the junkyard of syntax Sarah Palin had delivered at Trump’s event in Iowa. I told him that, yes, unfortunately, I had heard it.

This student wondered how this could happen. Shouldn’t the college teach him how he could become Palin? Instead, the college found it necessary for him to learn the details of grammar and the nuances of English prose, this when a woman of Palin’s stature was allowed to vomit a rat nest of phrases and neologisms, and to do it on television, broadcast it around the world, utterly unaware of her ignorance.

Well, I said, he was also “allowed” to babble whatever came to his head in public, if he wanted. No one would stop him, just as no one had stopped Palin. Did he really want that?

That’s not the point, the student continued. The point is that Palin was less articulate than the sounds of a tin can  blowing down the sidewalk, and had fewer points than a cluster of fishhooks in some drunk’s tackle box, yet it did not interfere with her ability to have a career or cost her any money. In fact, she probably made money by going on stage and unloading her crap. She probably sold some books. She probably got more followers on Twitter.

Sure, I said. That’s what happened. That’s the world we live in.

If the student did this, he complained, he’d be punished with low grades and might not pass his classes. He’d never achieve his dream of becoming an accountant. He could see no route to Palin’s stature that did not also require him to correct his thought process and language skills.

Yes, I said. That’s true.

The student wanted to know what somebody was going to do about it.

I don’t know, I said. It seems everyone’s perfectly well entertained, at least for the moment.

“We have bigger problems than anyone’s talking about,” he said. “This isn’t a joke.”

I agreed with him, a young man of nineteen, born to recent migrants, paying his way through community college by making deliveries, working over 20 hours each week while taking on a full load of classes.

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Photo from Wikipedia