They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

*Reposted from my prior “review” on Goodreads*

Although I feel it’s a bit of an injustice to an author’s talent to compare them to another author, putting a frame of reference on something that you just read in an effort to increase its visibility is best done by associating the unfamiliar with the familiar.

Abdurraqib made me feel the same way that reading Nick Hornby did years ago. I absolutely devoured Hornby’s “High Fidelity” due to its conversational style and informative pop culture references and this book was no different. I loved reading the music criticism, and found some new tracks to listen to.

That is not all this book is talking about though. As a black man in America, Abdurraqib obviously holds strong opinions regarding “race relations” in this country of ours. The fact that he is able to seamlessly weave back and forth between musical criticism and political opinions is an enviable skill. Additionally, although I didn’t agree with all of his points, I did enjoy the food for thought. Where else would you find an eclectic blend of opinions that runs the gamut from Allen Iverson, Carlie Rae Jepson, Fall Out Boy, and Chance The Rapper to many others?

I am a huge fan of the semantic landscape of an author’s work as well. The way an idea is conveyed is, in my opinion, sometimes even more important than the substance of said idea. I’ve read on certain subjects that, in the hands of a weaker author, would bore one to tears. This is not meant to diminish the punch that some of these essays convey, it just means that the man can formulate an idea in a way that makes the passages a true “experience”. Some of the sentences that Abdurraqib puts to paper in this book were heartbreakingly beautiful. The best example of what I mean is the essay “Brief Notes On Staying // No One Is Making Their Best Work When They Want To Die”. Wow, that one was beautifully depressing but oh so beautiful.

I enjoyed this book more than the one I read by Taheesi Coates a couple of years ago, honestly. While I felt Coates was an impressive wordsmith as well, I didn’t get the feeling that he allowed for the nuances in relationships (and his book came across as browbeating) while Abdurraqib conceded, at times, the flaws on either side of the “race discussion”. There are still some of the broad generalities I disagree with that feed his narrative, but it is the man’s prerogative to feel the way he feels; I’m just here to be the audience.

When all is said and done, this was an impressive work and I highly recommend this book.

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