Stranger! henceforth be warned; and know, that pride,
Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
Is littleness; that he who feels contempt
For any living thing, hath faculties
Which he has never used; that thought with him
Is in its infancy...
- William Wordsworth
I just read Push by Sapphire. I now have no desire to see the movie at least for some period of time. Maybe on video. Film has a way to make what is horrific, more horrific, what is wrong, oh so very wrong. I can handle violence in books in a different way from movies. I can stop. Take a walk. Look outside. Breathe deeply. Think for a while. Contextualize. I can wait for my brain to catch up to my body. Or for my body to catch up to my brain. Film (especially seen in movie theaters) doesn't allow this. The viewer is forced to ride forward without stopping and forced to see everything (or at least to hear it if you cover your eyes).
I loved Push. I haven't read Sapphire before that I can remember. But she does amazing things sculpting the language, the writing of her character, Precious. Precious wrote the book, the entire book is in her voice, in her grammar and syntax, using her vocabulary and her words. The book is a feat because it puts us into her mind and doesn't allow pity. We see characters in the book--social workers, teachers and the like--who react with pity and we immediately see how they fail to reach Precious, how she stumbles past them and they stumble past her. People fail her constantly. Constantly. And yet, the book is, in some sense, a story with an upward arc of learning and growth. And yet, it is not overdone. No one could call the book self-help or a story of uplift. Thank God. Things are just too complicated.
I got into literature, I think, because I am colorblind. Since I can't see color, I have been betrayed numerous times by my sight--painting the wrong colors, drawing wrong, seeing wrong, dressing wrong. Words provided a place not to worry about the fact that I see differently than other people. Words could not betray me in that way (though I have learned now they can still betray). I wonder what this has to do with Push by Sapphire.
Sapphire forced me to read Wordsworth for the first time deeply. I am sure I have read him before in some class at some time somewhere. When I first opened Push, I largely skipped over the baroque, stilted language of the epigraph by Wordsworth. But after finishing the book, I read the epigraph in a wholely different way. Sapphire made Wordsworth speak again in a totally different context, in a Harlem in the eighties context, in a USA 2009 context. Thanks.
So in conclusion, I won't be seeing the movie for at least a while. I'll just read Push by Sapphire and be sad and angry and sickened and inspired and then go take a walk in the sun and think.