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"Oh, don't try me": Pavlić on the politics of style and Serena Williams

Professor of English and creative writing Ed Pavlić presents a wonderful meditation on Serena Williams today on Africa Is A Country:

If craft—as opposed to mechanical technique—bears some similarity to style—as opposed to the vanity of surfaces, of disguises—then, possibly, it, too, exists in an inverse relationship to “make believe.” We’ll come back to the “make believe” connection at the end. For now, let’s imagine that to develop a craft requires myriad confrontations with realities of world and self in order to become something alive and awake in the moments when it encounters its toughest tests. Style and craft can’t be borrowed or bought, they have to come out of the person, the real person doing the crafting and styling. Ergo the notion of “wood shedding” and the mythos of Thoreau at Walden, Charlie Parker in the Osarks and Robert Johnson off at the crossroads playing dice with Legba. Of course, according to the myth, this smelting of self and world into craft is done off by one’s self, in private, mostly in silence. In David Bradley’s lost classic, The Chaneysville Incident, John Washington refuses Judith’s early offer to help him think through what’s on his mind, “Struggling,” he informs, is “natural and necessary, but it’s vulgar and ought to be done in private.”

Pavlić's writing is the rare combination: luscious and edifying. We can go overboard with sports fandom sometimes and miss the spectacluar subtleties expressed here - even though our appreciation is intact and accurately directed. Our thanks to Pavlić, who has a new book out about James Baldwin that you will read more about right here, very soon.

Image: Serena Williams, via BEATS and Africa Is A Country.

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