Each week, the Sunday Post highlights a few articles we enjoyed this week, good for consumption over a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your pleasure). Settle in for a while; we saved you a seat. You can also look through the archives.
Moira Macdonald on a dispute over copyright, and the ethics of appropriation when a work is in the public domain — the UW Press has been publishing No-No Boy since 1979 (it was first published in 1957). The Seattle-based novel of a Japanese American returning from internment camps after World War II is an important piece of Asian American art and history.
Now “No-No Boy” is widely recognized as a classic of Asian American literature; taught in countless classes, it’s a crucial, artful record of a chapter in history many would like to forget. And lately, it’s been at the center of a controversy involving two publishers, one local and one national, with some prominent Asian Americans saying the publication of a new edition of the book overlooks the work of those who brought the novel to light and kept publishing it for years, as well as the wishes of the Okada family.
On Father's Day, I often think of this piece by local writer Scott Berkun about how this day can be hard for people who didn't know their father, or had a bad relationship with him. While Scott wrote a whole book "in part to redefine who I am, and how I relate (or did not relate at all) to the father of my birth" there are many who struggle more quietly, perhaps with less ability to frame or explain the hard feelings. Scott's tips on making it through are sound, but I especially like his first:
1. Make it “men who helped you” day. Make a list of other men (or women if no men qualify for you) who helped you in your life. Give them a gift or write them a note that you’re grateful for what they did. Perhaps a high school teacher or coach? A boss who mentored you? Or even an older friend, or uncle, who has given you fatherly advice now and then. Let them know that they helped you.
Ashley Fetters explores Dad jokes: what they are, why they are, and why we can't stop loving and hating them. I'm on the love side, myself (as a Dad, so perhaps obligated), but I can see why so many find them, um, punishing.
But if there’s one feature that can immediately categorize a joke as a “dad joke,” it’s wordplay, especially of the unsophisticated variety. Examples: “Hey, do you know what time my dentist appointment is? Tooth-hurty.” “You know why they always build fences around cemeteries? Because people are dying to get in.” The purposeful confusion of “smart feller” and “fart smeller.” This famous exchange: “I’m hungry.” “Hi, Hungry. I’m Dad.” (Which in turn inspired a popular tweet about parents’ acceptance of their LGBTQ kids: “Mom, Dad ... I’m gay.” “Hi, Gay. I’m Dad.”)
Casey Rae's new book about Burroughs and his influence on music is excerpted in this piece on Long Reads, centering around what Dylan learned from the cut-up writer. Burroughs influence is hard to overstate, the most unique of the Beats — the group he is, by association and very poorly grouped with. Unlike the Beats, Burroughs was not down-and-out — he came from a great fortune, and lived his life as the son of incredible privilege that afforded him the ability to talk about things people of his station did not: drugs, homosexuality, just to name a few. His genius was in the method of communication. And, of course, his influence.
The indestructible Iggy Pop, himself a Burroughs acolyte, notes the Dylan connection in a BBC Radio profile of the author. “He’s even in Dylan’s ‘Tombstone Blues’!” Pop exclaims, before firing up the track, which includes a verse believed to reference Burroughs: “I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill / I would set him in chains at the top of the hill / Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille / He could die happily ever after.” To Dylan, Burroughs was impossibly hip — James Joyce with nasty habits, T. S. Elliot with a cane sword. Dylan’s evolution from shy folkie to idiosyncratic icon was greatly accelerated by his immersion in the rhythm and meter of Burroughs’ writing. As scholar James Adams notes, “Without Burroughs and his experiments, Dylan might not have been pushed to compose lines that resemble cut-ups but still emerge from some more personal, purposeful, honest, and human place like those Dylan wrote in 1965.” Take, for example, the lyrics from “Gates of Eden,” which evoke the illumination made possible by cut-ups: