I am thankful that this book has a gorgeous cover. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't have noticed it among the hundreds of other books available throu...moreI am thankful that this book has a gorgeous cover. If it didn't, I probably wouldn't have noticed it among the hundreds of other books available through Goodreads' First Reads Giveaways and I wouldn't be sitting here trying to tell you a little something about it. After I won Burning Bright and added it to my to-read list (I wasn't planning to read this book had I not won it), Karen Brissette (known to most of you as karen brissette) called me a bastard. Then she called me a rotten, rotten bastard. She is right. After all, Ron Rash is one of her favorite authors and Karen is one of this site's most beloved reviewers. Whatever algorithm Goodreads uses to give these books away should have led to a win for her. Instead the book went to a rotten, rotten bastard who had never heard of Ron Rash before.
Long story short, I told Karen that I would give her the book once I had read it. She demanded to return the favor and it just so happens that she works at a bookstore where Tim O'Brien will be appearing next month to sign copies of the 20th Anniversary edition of The Things They Carried, which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite books. She offered to send me a signed and personalized copy of that book. We were both so excited about our proposed book swap that we practically had sex with each other over the internet. You should see the back and forth between us. "I'm the greatest person in the world?!! No, no, you are the greatest person in the world!! I can't believe this is happening!! This is so amazing! I've always dreamed of this. I can't believe it's actually coming true!!!" I've never used so many exclamation points and smoked so many cigarettes in my life.
So we were both pleased as punch with our arrangement until yesterday when I sat down and actually read this stunning book. Holy shit. I want to put a diaper on it, wrap it in a blanket, feed it a bottle, and put it to sleep. I want to be there for him the first time he looks up with his big blue eyes, the first time he gets sick, when he goes off to kindergarten, when he gets in his first fight, we he drinks his first beer, when the love of his life leaves him, when he spends his first night in jail, when he steals all of my valuables to pawn them for meth, and when he and his buddies take over my house and scare me out into the shed. Now you're telling me I have to take him down to the post office and mail him to New York City? I don't know if I can do that. (less)
Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. -- African proverb
In 1750 or thereabouts, a British man named Tho...more Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. -- African proverb
In 1750 or thereabouts, a British man named Thomas Thistlewood became restless after failing to establish himself as a farmer (would you expect a genius to take to farming?), boarded a ship headed for Jamaica, arrived to find a land quite welcoming to white folks (despite the fact that 95% of the countryside population was black), and settled in for the life he so richly deserved. Thistlewood’s diary details all of the great fun his thistlewood had upon arrival – 13 women on 59 occasions in his first year on the island; hundreds over the course of his thirty plus years. Did you know that Jamaican women love the white man’s penis? He even took some time away from poking the natives with his thistly prick to invent stuff. Maybe you’ve heard of Derby’s dose? No? It’s an ingenious form of punishment designed to keep the slave population subdued. Here’s what you do: you find a slave who needs to poop (Thistlewood found a slave named Derby who famously loved prunes), you force that slave to poop into the mouth of a slave you want punished, then you wire that slave’s poop-filled mouth shut for a few hours. You don’t want them contemplating an uprising, do you? Of course not. You may also have to chop off a few heads here and there and display them in the slave quarters. Branding their tits, pussies, balls, and cocks and sticking hot pokers up their asses also gets the job done. Nothing’s off limits when it comes to keeping these people in check, folks. Public school teachers should consider similar tactics. The heathens may outnumber you, but they can’t outthink you. _____
That made me feel dirty. _____
As I reached the end of Marlon James’ brilliant novel, The Book of Night Women, I found myself thinking that Quentin Tarantino would love this book. The book is so drenched in violence that the reader can do nothing but stomach it if she has any hopes of understanding the story. She can’t skim pages until it’s over because it’s never over. Similarly, if you attempted to cover your eyes and ears during every violent scene in a Tarantino film, you’d miss half the film and most of the point.
Once I had Quentin Tarantino on the brain, I realized that he would also love this book because it is a lot like his latest film, Inglourious Basterds. Without spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it or the book for those who haven’t read it, I’ll just say that Tarantino attempts to use the power of cinema to rewrite the past and James uses the power of the novel to take history to task. In his acknowledgments at the end of the book, James gives thanks to the history he learned and the history he had to unlearn. I don’t want to imply that this book completely rewrites the history of Jamaican slavery. I'm confident that it is more historically accurate than Inglourious Basterds, but it’s the idea of turning the tables, of reappropriating the past, that I’m trying to get at.
Don't just listen to me, though. In a brief discussion that can be found here on Goodreads, Marlon James says that he is obsessed with the past, specifically with the stories that haven't been told yet, and that this novel is a reckoning with history. James says that he's interested in the lion's point of view. If James keeps writing books like this one, I do believe the lion would be honored to have him as its historian. (less)