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3.36  ·  Rating details ·  295 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
Lincoln Agrippa Daily, known to his drifter cohorts on the 1920s Marseille waterfront as Banjo, passes his days panhandling and dreaming of starting his own little band. At night Banjo and his buddies prowl the rough waterfront bistros, drinking, looking for women, playing music, fighting, loving, and talking - about their homes in Senegal, the West Indies, or the American ...more
Paperback, Black Classics, 284 pages
Published 2000 by The X Press (first published 1970)
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Jul 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the superficial level ‘Banjo’ is a picaresque story of a group of vagabonds – beach boys who spend their days wandering about the dodgy districts of Marseilles from one bistro to another singing, dancing and drinking. McKay's descriptions of the port life in 1920’s are lyrical and enticing but the novel is far more than a romantic account of times long gone. The cosmopolitan port where the whole world meets and no one is really at home is the ideal settingfor McKay to bring up the question of ...more
Mick Bordet
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thin on plot, but full of character and a wealth of thoughts on race and life below the bread line, all set in depression-era Marseille.
Carmen Petaccio
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
"'You got a li'l' book larnin', Goosey, but it jest make you that much a bigger bonehead.'"
May 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was a bit disappointed by this novel. The characters came across as repetitive, a bit stilted and somewhat lifeless as opposed to joyous/passionate characters fighting to live in their own fashion outside of the constraints/demands of the rest of the world - which I think was the author's intent. Part of this was the language. I'm sure McKay wanted to convey the story as real as possible, and perhaps in the 1930's it worked or gave voice to the authentic lingo of life on the Marseilles beaches ...more
Dec 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: jazz enthusiasts, Kerouac fans
Banjo is a masterpiece of lyric prose. I can't do Claude McKay any more justice than to quote him. This passage follows a description of a band in an alley-way dive bar playing a song called "Shake That Thing":

"Shake that thing! In the face of the shadow of Death. Treacherous hand of murderous Death, lurking in sinister alleys, where the shadows of life dance, nevertheless, to their music of life. Death over there! Life over here! Shake down Death and forget his commerce, his purpose, his haunt
Ross Torres
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This text speaks of beautiful amorous relationship with mother earth. Roy and the crew live like flowers in 1920s Marseilles. Living, dancing, drinking, crying under the sun and moon. It was a time when one could slip through the cracks of bureaucratic controls although one can feel the cracks dissapearing.

Mckay demonstrates the intricacies of black/African culture and its clash with and oppresion by the dominant white/European culture.

It seems to be a clash of ideologies one warm with the bloo
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
A good teacher should profitably teach this in the right AP setting. Marks a bold contrast to some of the more tired American novels of the 1920s, while still contemporaneous with them and thus occupying a large part of their fictive space. Striking African diaspora themes amongst a marginalized underclass in a European port town. The third chapter is a highlight. A wonderful evocation of true "jazz" and concomitant ethnic pride. Structurally we have some problems, yet the individual episodes ar ...more
Dylan Suher
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
It took me a while to get into this; I think McKay needs the surrogate of Ray to comfortably represent the subjects of the novel and indulge in the considerable speechifying to which he is prone. But there's a fun rhythm to the action, which contrary to the subtitle, never feels aimless, simply comfortable. As the book draws to a close, the sense of tragedy and injustice feels almost choking. Flawed in many respects (see: speechifying), but a decent read.
Apr 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
A picaresque work that follows the "beach boys," a group of diapora black men (from the Caribbean, U.S., and Africa) in Marseilles in the 1920s. McKay ultimately uses the novel as a way to suggest that primitive African culture might be a useful counterpoint to the crushing, consuming nature of capitalist cultures. Sometimes it drags as a read, but it's an interesting work to compare with other Harlem Renaissance works.
Kit Fox
Nov 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never read anything by a Harlem Renaissance writer before, and this is a great one to start with. Seriously, I need to move to France. Like, right now. And even though this was written in the 1920s, the author's observations on race still feel incredibly topical. Be forewarned: this one's kinda a-narrative but awesome nonetheless.
Jasmine Ames
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Read for My Harlem Renaissance class as well....
More difficult and less intriguing book compared to the other ones we read this semester.
But if one is to teach this book for a class unit it would be a good recommendation to add DuBois readings along side, there are a lot of his references throughout this book.
Jan 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
There's a lot of complexity in this McKay volume. If only he placed emphasis on conciseness :) At the very least, the interplay between Ray, Banjo, and the rest of the gang bankrupts monolithic images of black identity; an important job given our reductive envisioning of the New Negro aesthetics.
Oct 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I wanted to give up on this book several times. I found the dialect of the novel nearly impossible to get through, and without classroom discussions would not have appreciated the work nearly as much.
Mar 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Not much of a plot, so I got bored, but the ideas on race and civilization are really interesting.
jason levins
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
totally worth reading.
Episodic and often hilarious. I'm not sure whether it's subverting stereotypes about people of African descent or upholding them; the depiction of women is also troubling.
Jessica Zu
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cmlit570
A pretty pleasant read, if you don't mind the intolerable macho tropes ...
Sonja Snow
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Aug 12, 2009
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Festus Claudius "Claude" McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet, who was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He wrote four novels: Home to Harlem, a best-seller that won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo, Banana Bottom, and in 1941 a manuscript called Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem that has not y ...more
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