Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Concentrated Cultural Catalogs

In my book Bad Men, I introduce this term "concentrated cultural catalog," which refers to writers presenting and referencing a large number of historical figures, concepts, and sites in a single composition. These cultural catalogs are concentrated based on how much is covered or presented in one place. 

Amiri Baraka was a wonderful cultural cataloger. His poems "Jungle Jim Flunks His Screen Test" and "Digging Max" make references to dozens of people. Black Thought's most famous freestyle is an amazing feat of cataloging with an abundant array of people, historical events, and artifacts listed in the course of a single performance. Consider too Robin Coste Lewis's "Voyage of the Sable Venus" as a concentrate cultural catalog with her citing a profusion of art objects from 38,000 BCE to the present. In his novel The Sellout, Paul Beatty incredibly mentions hundreds of people, places, things.  

It's good to see the work of  vigorous cultural catalogers. They give you a sense of all these elements, items, or people that comprise a creative domain. You check out their catalogs, and you get a sense of how immersed they are in a particular realm, or you witness them making connections across multiple areas of thought. 


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