TABLE OF CONTENTS

BLACK LIGHT: DAVID HAMMONS AND THE POETICS OF EMPTINESS

1. MY UNCLE TOSSY USED TO SAY THAT THERE are two kinds of Niggers in the world: Niggers and Crazy Niggers. Tossy was in the latter category. Handsome in a rough kind of way, he was highly opinionated, always funny, and frequently drunk. For Tossy, style was content, and he was stylish in a Pierre Cardin suit, Stacy Adams shoes, Kangol hat, Kojak sort of way—so fresh and so clean. Tossy (his real name was Elton, but nobody ever called him that) lived in my grandparents’ basement, which was set up as a kind of mock bachelor pad with a sofa bed covered in gray-pink mohair, a teak coffee table with blue tile inlays, and a console radio/record player that miraculously picked up long-wave transmissions from Europe. It was on that machine that my older cousins introduced me to James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Richard Pryor, and it was in that basement that they introduced me to “practice”

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