Things Go Better with Coke

41SoF+5kmlL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgMy college girlfriend was a tiny, big-eyed girl who rode the Santa Monica bus passing for ten years younger than she actually was. Add to this a cute, a coquettish demeanor and some well-practiced babydoll expressions and she paid half-fare. One day at lunch she told a joke she had heard about the Pepsi salesman who was boiled and eaten by natives in the heart of darkness. She then smiled, poked her dimples, and added that the cannibals ate the poor salesman, all but his Thing.

Of course the punch line is the explanation that Things go better with Coke.

Reading Alain Mabanckou’s novel African Psycho, I could only smile every time the author referenced the main character’s Thing. But much like the American novel with a similar title, the narration is often involved with a gruesome and deadly sexual attack, or projected attack.

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Was Gatsby Black?

Gatsby It’s a subject that has been explored in several novels: Passing, Kingsblood Royal, The Stain. What if a person appears to be of one race when they are actually of another, not as well-accepted, race. Then there are the others works which deal with the experience of racial inequality from the other direction, such as Black Like Me. But there is a third, and far more subtle, method of exploring the difference between the races and that is to say nothing and leave it all up to the reader to make assumptions from the text … assumptions that might not be true.

Early-on in my study of literature at the university the class was reading Faulkner’s Light In August. Obviously a very important book replete with textual difficulty and powerful themes. But in the midst of it all, the professor quietly asked: “What color was Joe Christmas?” He followed up reading a passage where a white scar is described as standing out on Christmas’s face … a white scar? Is the suggestion being made that Joe Christmas is a black man? If so, it changes the reading of the narrative and themes drastically. Is there reader prepared for such a shift?

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