Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Essay: "Do He Have Your Number, Mr. Jeffrey?" Gayle Pemberton.

Review: The author of this essay is black and has a PhD in English literature from Harvard. She tries hard not to display her bitterness about the roles of blacks in America, as mirrored in the movies. But she can’t help it. She describes her life in the movies—no, not as an actress, but with her mother as a child in the movie theater in LA in which she “could sit before the silver screen and see a different world projected than the one they lived in.”

Quote: “I couldn’t get the idea of black servility to white power out of my mind.”

Quote: In one scene in the essay, she is working for a caterer at a large, posh white residence after she has earned her PhD in literature and she reveals her stark bitterness in her own mind in an imaginary voice-over to the scene she is witnessing: “You self-satisfied, rich, feeble-brained, idiotic, priggish, filthy maggots! You sit here talking literature—why, you don’t even know what the word means. This is high intellectual discourse for you, isn’t it? High, fine. You are proud to say, ‘I thought the theme honest.’ What, pray tell, is an honest theme? It might be better to consider the dishonesty of your disgusting lives. Why, here I am a PhD in literature listening, to this garbage, making a pittance, while you illiterate pig-running-dogs consume food and non-ideas with the same relish.”

Quote: She is enraged when she watches again Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, when Jimmy Stewart tries to call his detective friend, and the phone is answered by a black servant who asks, “Do he have your number, Mr. Jeffrey?”

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books. 1995.

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