From From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, Volume Four
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Callaloo 23.2 (2000) 717



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Statement For Breaking Ice *

Nathaniel Mackey


I write fiction to register a world. The simultaneous availability and fugitivity of the world fiction wants to present necessarily alter our understanding of both. I think of fiction in an open, genre-blending sense. Poetry, as many have pointed out, at its root has to do with making. Fiction I likewise take to mean something made; whether made of words or not matters but isn't all that matters. To allow for the mindmade character of much of what we live is to begin to be metafictional. Music is one of the areas in which black culture has most compellingly made this allowance. From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate is an inquiry into the making of black improvisatory music. A participatory inquiry, it tends to inspect its own mindedness and seeks to make a music of that inspection. Charles Lloyd once remarked, regarding the source of music, "Words don't go there." Music wants us to know that truths are variable, that one included.

Nathaniel Mackey's forthcoming books are Atet A.D. (volume three of From A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate), due out from City Lights Books in 2001, and Four for Glenn, a chapbook of poems due to appear from Arcturus Editions in 2001. He teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

* Written in 1988 for the anthology Breaking Ice: An Anthology of Contemporary African-American Fiction, ed. Terry McMillan (New York: Penguin Books, 1990). Authors included in the anthology were asked to write a short statement on their work; the statements were ultimately, however, not included in the anthology.

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