paper trail

Roxane Gay on not forgiving; Alexander Chee on the future

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay begins her regular opinion contributions to the New York Times with a powerful piece on the rhetoric of forgiveness for crimes such as Dylann Roof's, and on her own unwillingness to forgive: "Black people forgive because we need to survive. We have to forgive time and time again while racism or white silence in the face of racism continues to thrive. We have had to forgive slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lynching, inequity in every realm, mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, inadequate representation in popular culture, microaggressions and more. We forgive and forgive and forgive and those who trespass against us continue to trespass against us."

As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on same-sex marriage, the novelist and Bookforum contributor Alexander Chee tries to imagine what the future may hold for gay people in America, writing movingly in the New Republic of the "very strange sort of ambivalence" he is feeling: "At my most pessimistic, I fear that this decision, along with the appearance of PrEP, is a sign of some sort of Freudian repetition cycle the whole country is in, in which marriage equality is always being fought for and decided, and AIDS is always the ground for advances in treatment instead of a cure—all while these other very serious issues also need attention, and we fight forever over the same inch of ground."

It's been a good week for New York Times correction-watchers. After a British teenager managed to scam the newspaper into including imaginary details about Dylann Roof in one of their reports—notably that Roof had blogged about "My Little Pony"—public editor Margaret Sullivan reflected on the embarrassing incident, and on the importance of fact-checking: “'If your mother tells you she loves you,' says the journalism aphorism, 'check it out.' Not enough of that happened here."

And at Vulture, Boris Kachka reports that fact-checkers may soon be more in demand than ever, as some book publishers are apparently deciding it's worth paying for their services. Susan Orlean tells Kachka of her initial surprise at the vast difference between publishing in the New Yorker and putting out a book. “Publishers assume that writers do their own fact-checking,” Orlean says, “but that’s a little bit like having an internal-investigation department that’s run by the people being investigated.”

Presumably the new precautions wouldn't apply to fiction writers, though perhaps they should—Shin Kyung-sook, the South Korean novelist and past winner of the Man Asian literary prize, is in trouble for plagiarizing passages from Yukio Mishima's work and, after an initial denial, has told a newspaper that "everything is my fault."

Let's hope Terry Gilliam's latest attempt to adapt Don Quixote will confirm the rarely cited seventh-time-lucky rule.