Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Will Become A Classic: Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins

I'm not the sort of person who seeks out the works of artists who died before their time, but there are now two I know of that in my heart, I will always deeply miss for the art they never got to make. The first is Jeff Buckley and I found his music 6 years after his death, and the second artist is Kathleen Collins, who died six years after I was born.

Kathleen Collins was one of those virtuoso artists who created in many forms, she was the first black woman to produce a feature length film, Losing Ground, I have to mention that she also wrote and directed it. She was a person who had creative endurance and flexibility. Her creative flexibility and endurance can easily be found in her posthumous short story collection Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? A collection of stories that focuses on, for the most part, the interior lives of black artists from the span of the 1960s up to the 1980s*. In these stories readers will discover that Collins writing is playful, at ease with different styles, and sensual. As much as Collins writes and explores the issues of race, she explores the subject in relation to the issue of creative need and the desire to connect to another. She addresses these subjects with a smoothness and clarity that so many writers try so hard to get to.  

Atong Atem
Gabriel Moreno
The smoothness of Collins's writing is what struck me the most, while I know she must have scrapped and rewrote, her writing flows very easily, you never get a sense that she was writing and agonizing over the perfect word. The only other writer I am familiar with who has a similar genius in smooth writing is Neil Gaiman and whatever Collins and Gaiman's writing techniques were and are, they both achieve the rather miraculous when they write, a smooth clarity of difficult subjects. The smoothness of writing is what makes Collins's short story collection so worth seeking out. Short story collections are currently enjoying a resurgence, but I think sometimes readers can be put off by them  because they can frequently become a rather masturbatory exercise by a writer to show just how "writer-ly" they are.  Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? is not that, Collins clearly understood and enjoyed writing in the format of short story. It comes across again and again that she should/would have become force within short story writing, but her untimely death stopped that possibility.

I highly recommend this collection of short stories and especially if you want a prime example of what is the opposite of belabored writing.

*One issue I am taking though with other reviewers of this book is everyone who keeps mentioning this collection takes place in the 1960s, yes, some of the stories do take place during that era, but quite a few have no time reference, and made me think they were taking place during Collins's present time period when she wrote.

 Books and Films to go with Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?
Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
Single, Carefree, and Mellow: Stories by Katherine Heiny

Middle of Nowhere
Something New

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