“In the Hour of Chaos”: I review Charles Johnson’s short stories

at AmCon:

Somebody–I hope a commenter will remind me who it was–has suggested that the Left typically thinks in terms of an opposition between oppression and liberation, whereas the right typically thinks in terms of an opposition between civilization and barbarism. I would reframe the latter opposition as order vs. chaos; if we do that, it’s obvious that both oppositions are unrelentingly relevant, yet few thinkers or artists are able to hold both conflicts before our eyes at once.

I just finished Charles Johnson’s 1986 short-story collection The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Tales and Conjurations, a bag of broken glass which is equal parts liberationist and reactionary, yearning for freedom and knuckling under to fatalism. Centering on black American lives, mostly set within black communities, his stories shouldn’t be missed—he’s an intensely intellectual visionary, a reader of Plato who remembers that the heart of Plato is in the Symposium, a black Buddhist for whom education is not so much self-improvement as self-abnegation.

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About Eve Tushnet

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