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À mon chevet: We Were Eight Years in Power

À mon chevet is a series of posts featuring a quote from whatever book is on my nightstand at the moment.

book cover
In January of 2008, six months before I took the trip to Aspen, I logged into BlogSpot and set up an account. I had so many ideas back then and nowhere to put them. At that time, outlets were still limited, and pitching was often laborious. I would post four or five times to the blog each day. They were loose threads that would sometimes come to nothing and other times become the basis for grander artistic pursuits. In the header I scrawled a couplet from the rapper MF Doom:

He wears the mask just to cover the raw flesh.
A rather ugly brother with flows that's gorgeous.

At first, only two people read this blog, and those two people were my dad and me. We'd come up with the idea together. He paid me a stipend -- small in amount, huge in impact. It was steady money, which is to say a lifesaver for a family that turned "in over one's head" into a creed. More, it was an investment -- the time spent on the blog was time to practice my craft in public while also garnering enough money for groceries. The blog offered limitless space to write, and then publish at whim. And slowly, with some links from other bloggers thrown my way, more and more people cem to read it, until, by that summer I had attracted a backing chorus -- a steady group of commenters who read and offered their thoughts. The blog also drew the attention of The Atlantic, which offered to take it on and pay me a regular, less small salary.

-- Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, pp. 41-42
After enjoying the first book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, I was glad to receive his new book of essays for Christmas. These are long reads published over the course of the last decade, most of which I had already read, but with some context from the author about his circumstances as he wrote them. One of the stories he tells in the book, which was news to me, is in this excerpt, that his father "paid" him to write the blog that eventually brought him to The Atlantic. That original blog, sadly, appears to have been deleted when it was transferred to The Atlantic. The memoir component of the book is by far its most compelling material.

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