In this issue we present a menagerie of pieces, from adventures abroad to an overview of one of the more mysterious forms of executive power. Join us for a long and fraught history of executive orders (1), followed by a poem by Shana (3). Ema takes us along with her family for a tour of the eastern coast of Nicaragua (4), and an anonymous contributor shares why they believe Hum 110 is important despite current criticism (7). Enjoy some fiction by Claire (8), and catch up on a Booker-Mann prize winning novel with Martha’s review of The Sellout (9). Last but not least, Miss Lonely Hearts analyzes a suspicious romantic interest (10). While our community has suffered a sudden loss and the semester comes to a simmer, we hope The Grail can be a source of thought-provoking news and reflections about things Reedies care about.
Anton, Claire, and Guananí
News & Features
Executive orders have been prominently featured in the news lately, given Donald Trump’s highly controversial series of orders that characterized his first few weeks in office. During the Obama administration, executive orders received similar treatment—the opposing party constructed a narrative that the executive order once created holidays and was now a way for the President to act unilaterally; that executive orders offset the balance of power among branches; that they are unconstitutional. But after a long news week, in which a large part of the Republican rhetoric was borrowed by the Democrats, I got curious: what is the legal precedent for executive orders? How constitutional are they? Where does the Supreme Court draw the line? Get ready: we’re in for a long series of grey areas and power grabs.
I feel I should not have to say this to make my feelings valid, accepted, or listened to, but if I don’t, the automatic assumption is that I, the anonymous contributor, am white, upper-class, and a voice of those who history has usually represented. For the record, I am a low-income, first-generation American person of color. That being said, I feel that the protest of Hum 110 is missing the point and making it harder for me to learn.
This is what I remember from a couple days with my family on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. This region was colonized by the English and the population is mostly indigenous and afrocaribbean, so people speak a mixture of Caribbean English, Miskito, Garifuna and Spanish. I am sorry if there are mistakes. If it’s not because my memory fails then I probably never knew what was going on in the first place.
Fiction & Poetry
I lost myself here. When alone time became the hour between labs, laying in bed and listening to musicals. Lost myself in the smell of weeks old laundry and Tabasco and a pet mouse—later two and then four.
There is a house out in the woods.
Its windows are broken, spiderweb cracks shivering the glass.
Frost on the panes like dead ferns.
Snow has drifted up the house’s peeling, weatherworn sides.
Where shingles have fallen, cavities gape. The house’s gums are swollen.
Walls groan with the wind.
The porch has splintered into brittle shards. Warped with time, it buckles inwards.
Rains stain a mottled pattern in the dark paint.
The doors are gaping mouths.
When you pick up The Sellout, by Paul Beatty, please don’t read the back cover. While essentially true, it has the same problem as the blurb of any good book: it oversimplifies the novel into something that it actually isn’t. The first time I picked up the book, I read the back cover and then put it down. The same process occurred the next three times I considered adding it to my ever-impending reading list. I just wasn’t interested in another anger-driven, “rage against the man,” drama-filled opinion piece. The current American political situation provides more than enough headlines of blind hatred and negativity as it is. When I finally bought the novel as part of my quest to read all the Man Booker prize-winners, I was blown away. Rather than a family drama unfolding into an outlandish scheme, the novel is—like its protagonist—intelligent, good-humoured, and fed up with a lack of action in the world around it. As a Man Booker winner, it bears greater resemblance to Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (although it is markedly more brief) than to, say, Hilary Mantel’s historical dramas or Julian Barnes’ introspective societal commentary. The Sellout is far more politically and socially relevant. While not as grounded or perhaps as intense a read as James’ masterpiece, The Sellout and its protagonist, Me, inspire more critical examination of what is going on in the news and also on campus.
Miss Lonely Hearts
Dear Miss Lonely Hearts,
I started seeing someone about a month ago and, on the surface, it seems to be going pretty well. We’ve been on several dates and have a blast every time we’re together.
Seems great, right? But here’s the problem: this is the first time that I’ve ever dated someone casually, and I can’t tell if I am outside my wheelhouse. I might not know how “casual dating” works, but it seems like this guy is stringing me along. When we’re together, I am completely confident that he is interested in me, but lately, whenever we’ve tried to make plans, he’s come off as aloof and has even cancelled on me a few times. At first, this seemed like a clear signal and I assumed that he was no longer interested in me, but he continues flirting with me, texting me all night, making plans with me, and then backing out of those plans.
I really like this guy and want to spend more time with him, but it seems like he’s jerking me around. Is he just flaky or is he uninterested? Or is this all just part of the “dating game?”