Sunday Post for September 18, 2016

Edward Albee, Playwright of a Desperate Generation, Dies at 88

One of the great tragedies of a good obituary is that someone needs to die in order for it to be read. I've seen a number of Albee plays, but knew very little about the man himself.

Sent to an adoption nursery in Manhattan before he was three weeks old, baby Edward was placed with Reed Albee, an heir to the Keith-Albee chain of vaudeville theaters, and his wife, Frances, who lived in Larchmont, N.Y. The couple had no children and formally adopted Edward 10 months later, naming him Edward Franklin Albee III after two of his adoptive father’s ancestors.

Patrician and distant, the Albees were unsuited to dealing with a child of artistic temperament, and in later years Mr. Albee would often recall an un-nourishing childhood in which he felt like an interloper in their home. In a 2011 interview at the Arena Stage in Washington with the director Molly Smith, he said that his mother had thrown out his first play — he described it as “a three-act sex farce” — which he wrote at age 14.

Pity the Substitute Teacher

Nicolson Baker has written a book about education, after going undercover and working in a school district as a substitute teacher. This is the part of the book review site where we link to another book review.

At 700-plus pages, Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids is a surprisingly hefty contribution to the life-of-a-teacher genre, especially given that Baker clocked only 28 days in the classroom—a place he’d love to liberate kids from. (He enjoyed a 1970s school-without-walls progressive education himself. ) Scattered across three months and six schools, grades K–12, each of those days is chronicled with the moment-by-moment vividness that Baker has made one of his trademarks. In his novel The Mezzanine, for example, he plumbs an office worker’s thoughts during an escalator ride; fireplace rituals receive punctilious attention in A Box of Matches. Well before his teaching stint has ended, Baker the substitute has shifted into saboteur mode—the reporter as mischief-maker.
My father was an abusive sociopath, and i was the only one he had left

A hard personal story about obligation and family.

The last time I saw my father alive I was 22 years old and working at the Metropolitan Opera. I wasn't making much money but that is a relative statement, given that I had an apartment in Manhattan instead of a double-wide in mid-Michigan, like most of my childhood friends. It was the first time I truly believed I was not just getting out but staying out of the poverty that haunted our family tree.

The phone call came on a Tuesday while I was at work. This was long before I learned not to answer calls from numbers I didn't recognize. It was a hospital. My father had fallen and broken his back, and since he lived alone, no one had found him for 24 hours. He was still alive, somehow, when a cleaning lady discovered him at the bottom of the stairs and called 911. The hospital social worker found my phone number in his wallet. It was the only number of any kind that he had on him.

The Myth of the “Race Card”

Talking about race in America means talking about race in America:

Two essential quotes come up often among the black women in my professional cohort. The first is one that we attribute to Zora Neale Hurston: “If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” The other is from Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals: “Your silence will not protect you.” We trade these quotes to nudge one another toward self-advocacy in situations when speaking up for ourselves might be difficult—such as in work or social settings where we are in a minority as women of color and our experiences of sexism or racism may be minimized or disbelieved, if we are vocal about them.