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The Dragon Can't Dance
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The Dragon Can't Dance

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  730 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Carnival takes on social and political importance in this recognized classic. The people of the shantytown Calvary Hill, usually invisible to the rest of society, join the throng and flaunt their neighborhood personas in masquerade during Carnival. Aldrick, the dashing "king of the Hill," becomes a glorious, dancing dragon; his lovely Sylvia, a princess; Fisheye, rebel ide ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 16th 2003 by Persea (first published 1979)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  730 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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I had forgotten how stunning this book is. On this rereading, I found the prologue, on poverty and futility, so poignant and painful that I was minded to desist, and pick up something light and insubstantial instead. I persisted and am rewarded with an engaging narrative of the stories of individuals; the ripening girl destined for whoredom; the vigorous young man seeking to release his energy in warfare; the frustrated artist, with a single annual outlet for his creativity; the outsider, seekin ...more
Indeed, their effort at rebellion was just a dragon dance.... We really had them frighten. We had them wondering if we was going to shoot down the town or what. We really play a mas' eh, Aldrick? You couldn't play a better dragon."

Earl Lovelace is a master storyteller. He is a writer and he knows how to write. I was utterly enthralled with the lives of everyone on Calvary Hill. Lovelace's writing makes you feel invested. What I especially loved about this book was the social commentary, set i
Roger DeBlanck
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Earl Lovelace’s novel left me spellbound with how possibly to express its beauty and brilliance. With the hypnotic lyricism of its prose, the intricacy of its story, and the depth to which Lovelace investigates the struggles of an entire community, this book is an extraordinary piece of art. Only the great Naguib Mahfouz comes to mind as having a similar ability as Lovelace in probing the psychological and emotional depths of his characters.

The story takes places in the poverty-stricken shantyt
LA Brower
May 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: rum drinkers
Like a record by an unknown genius picked at random out of a dollar bin at goodwill, this book, when I brought it home and unleashed it, actually (truly) made me want to dance. Written in “poor-talk,” a highly lyrical Trinidadian Pidgin English which allows for incredible and delightful feats of linguistic dexterity, Lovelace’s 250 page novel depicts the beautifully chaotic, pot-holed, garbage-strewn life of a small shantytown on the outskirts of Port of Spain, Trinidad, as its inhabitants prep ...more
Apphia Barton
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After reading CLR James' Black Jacobins, my head was ablaze. This was the perfect cool down; humorous and relateable as a fellow Trinidadian. His understanding of his/our culture is manifest here. The trend of anticipating the upcoming Carnival season the day after the end of the current year's festivities live on.

"Who hushed to their bosoms an anger older than themselves"

Lovelace is the master of prose-poetry .

Anthropological/ Social commentary; the analysis of race relations in Trinidad, all
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very enjoyable read! Lovelace writes beautifully and is almost Baldwin-esque in his thoughtful prose and perfect imagery.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
First review, 11/26/12:

Earl Lovelace's The Dragon Can't Dance, set in Trinidad, positions the complex ritual of Carnival in a socio-political context. Unpacking Carnival is synonymous with examining the Caribbean self, as Aldrick journeys from an anonymous masquerade dragon to an authentic self.

Lovelace explores characters from various backgrounds, exploring the transformation each undergoes as consumerism and corporate influence creep into Carnival. From the 'bad John,' Fisheye, to the rising
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The main character in this novel is not really Aldrick, who plays the dragon, or Fish-eye the "bad-john", or anyone else, but the district of Calvary Hill itself. Earl Lovelace introduces us to a range of different characters who live in Calvary Hill, a poor district on the edge of Port-of-Spain, and we follow them through the years as the neighbourhood changes and the characters are caught between embracing the new and regretting the loss of the old.

Carnival plays a major role in the novel. I h
Debbie Boucher
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
My survey of TT/Caribbean literature continues, and I must say I'm impressed. I wanted to read something by a Creole to get that point of view, and Earl Lovelace didn't disappoint. The book elucidates the Carnival experience here: it's importance, it's facets, etc. But the book is also a social commentary, and that is where its strength lies. Every book I've read about TT so far has done this beautifully, and it enriches my experience here. It also reminds me of how many good books there are out ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An oldie but goodie, set amid the poor residents of Calvary Hill, an urban enclave in Trinidad. I love Lovelace's incredible, patient empathy with his characters. Years go by & they're still plodding along, because that's all they can find to do. But some of them deepen their consciousness & change, personally & politically. It's a very internal novel--gets deep inside the heads of numerous characters. Even when I'm super annoyed with some of them, there's a degree of empathy & c ...more
Luis Diego Gene
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
I was forced to read it. It's a good book but it's definitely not something I'd read on my own free will - hence the low score. 1 star stands for "I didn't like it" and I most certainly did not, but it was bearable, so I'll just say it was ok. Objectively speaking, the author portrays what he intends almost flawlessly, with very detailed and crude descriptions of the setting as well as valuable character depth. I'd recommend it if you're sure you like this kind of Genre, but if you share my tast ...more
Michelle Hirschfeld
Mar 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michelle by: Washington and Lee University
This novel is an excellent portal into Trinidad; a colorful world of Carnival, calypso, and masquerade. The story is both heartbreaking and touching. The novel revolves around Aldrick, who plays the dragon during Carnival, and his interactions with other people in the neighborhood. There's Fisheye, the neighborhood ruffian, Sylvia, the wild beauty, and Parig, the West Indian outsider. It was an entertaining and educational read that taught me a lot about the culture of Trinidad.
Nirmal Maraj
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must read for any Trinidadian. Lovelace paints a realistic picture of Trinidad's cultural history and highlights the fading spirit of rebellion.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
New review forthcoming...
Alex Hoffman
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was not easy to get into, nor was it an easy read, but it was lyrical and thought-provoking. Lovelace tells the story of a shanty town in the late 60s and early 70s in Trinidad. It is a sad story told by the different, clearly individuated voices of the town of Port of Spain, focusing primarily on Aldrick - the dragon. Aldrick spends all year crafting his dragon costume for Carnival - spending all his time not really living, as it were, for two days of life. He comes to realize, howeve ...more
Tj Benson
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Hill. Carnival. Trinidad. The music. Calypso!
This book is a complete shimmering masterpiece. I first read it at the age of 12 and even though i could not understand much of it the pages sang me to the end. The language is an utter miracle. Rediscovering it a decade later was a supreme joy i knew i would savor over and over again. Just completed my fourth read and the magic of it, the pull of the heat and patois and pain and love and hope and nostalgia for Africa and the sound of striving! Ah
Fantastic book set in Port of Spain, Trinidad, that i read for my Random Travel Challenge for Trinidad & Tobago.

Following a group of neighbors living in the slums of Port of Spain, whose year revolves around Carnival, and the steel drum bands, costumes and dances that they prepare all year long for the two days of Carnival. Written in a wonderful style that feels like music. The women characters are a little flat, which was frustrating, but it was still a wonderful read, learned a lot about
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love this author! In this story, told through different characters' viewpoints, the dynamics between them, and their own change and growth is explored. They are mostly poor people, but Carnival gives them a chance to come out of their simple existence and shine. Lovelace has a gift to make a character come to life in your mind's eye and feel, acutely, for them and their individual woes and joys.
K's Bognoter
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-my-bookshelf
A portrait of life in a shanty town in the outskirts of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, in the late 1960's. The carnival and calypso music is at the centre stage of the novel, but do not expect a light, romantic nor easy read. Earl Lovelace is not on a mission to please. Rather, what he is doing in this brilliant novel is the unmasking of the ideology of the carnival seen as a way of allowing the steam out of class struggle. A highly recommended read, although a bit on the heavy side due to the long se ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully realis, nostalgic, and incredibly well written!
A novel that puts a nation on the map through an epic story of family memories, art, authenticitym and the compromises that social mobility requires.
Told through a fantastic plethora of characters, Lovelace brings the Yard to life.
Stewart Smith
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful novel of post-colonial Trinidad in transition
Ethan Parkin
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat poetic in its, inconsistent, often confused sentence and language structure and it's use of time is needlessly sporadic however, despite its imperfections this book is somehow perfect in its own little way.
Michelle Caltrider
Mar 02, 2017 marked it as to-read
Going to read for a class.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"There is dancing in the calypso. Dance! If the words mourn the death of a neighbour, the music insists that you dance; if it tells the troubles of a brother, the music says dance. Dance to the hurt! Dance! If you catching hell, dance, and the government don’t care, dance!... Dance! Dance! Dance!"

One of the novels from my childhood, I've been inspired to pick up The Dragon Can’t Dance again after meeting and chatting with the author yesterday. The novel is a triumphant celebration of the culture
Dorothy Tweets
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by a Caribbean writer's bookclub at the local books store, I am thrilled that I picked up a copy and plowed through it.

Lovelace sets his novel in the late 1960s, a few years after Trinidad gained its independence from England. The nation, like Aldrick who plays a dragon in the annual Carnival, is struggling to define its identity and "personhood".

The novel demanded my full attention; the language was so lyrical and nuanced that I was prone to re-read whole sections just to relish t
Dec 15, 2007 rated it liked it
This book is a little unique in that I'd give it 4 stars for content and portrayal of the culture in Trinidad and maybe 3 for enjoyment of reading. Therefore, maybe a 3.5 total.

My interest in this book primarily comes from my recent and future travels to Trinidad and my desire to learn more about the people and culture of the island. In that way, I found the book extremely interesting. Those who don't have as big of a stake in Trinidad may not find it as interesting.

The book is about the relati
Jennifer Collins
As much as surveillance is a nearly palpable force within this work, the narrative is surprisingly humorous and quickly paced. Lovelace's wonderfully written work is grounded in a shantytown of Trinidad, and rings with the dialects and carnivals of the area, but each of the colorful characters in his narrative is also personally at war with the shadows of a postcolonial reality that makes even festivals seem something of a farce at real living. As a novel and as a narrative, this is an entertain ...more
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book adds to the reasons I love rummaging through the used book shelf at many bookstores. The authors lush depiction of Trinidadian culture juxtaposed against economic distress is captivating. There's a triumph the book captures as the characters turn their everyday struggle and feeling of powerlessness into the yearly festivity of Carnival. As a person of West Indian descent, I became spellbound into the futility and societal impact of dancing and music the prose cultivates. The characters ...more
Nicolette Bethel
May 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read this book, oh, 20 years ago now, but it remains part of my blood and bones. Of all the books by Caribbean novelists I've read, this is my favourite. Lovelace's language is lush and his characters are archetypal and unique all at once, and the story is about carnival from the inside, from the bottom up, carnival as self-expression, as social protest, as equalizer, as power to the powerless, all these things. I read the end of the book while waiting in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge for a ...more
Bob Arbogast
Mar 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book a year ago and it’s still with me. It’s rare for a book to be so present in my thoughts for such a long time. The Wide Sargasso Sea had a similar impact. Both of these books contain so much longing and pain; they’re like ghosts that refuse to be laid to rest.

Dragon is about people’s need for acceptance and validation, and their inability to connect. Mr. Lovelace’s characters are flawed and human. Throughout the book we witness their missteps. None of the characters are bad. The
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Novelist, playwright and short-story writer Earl Lovelace was born in Toco, Trinidad in 1935 and grew up in Tobago. He worked for the Trinidad Guardian, then for the Department of Forestry and later as an agricultural assistant for the Department of Agriculture, gaining an intimate knowledge of rural Trinidad that has informed much of his fiction.

He studied in the United States at Howard Universit