Pale Wire (Popscene)

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Boatful of Laughs


Finished reading Charles Johnson's National Book Award winning novel Middle Passage while whistling along the CTA this afternoon on my way back from City Hall. Far and away, the funniest thing I've ever read about the slave trade. But, at the same time, it's not slight or insulting. This is a serious novel. SERIOUSLY FUNNY.

Okay, really, I'll cut it out. Story: Rutherford Calhoun, freed slave, wiseass and debtor, stowsaway on a slave clipper bound for the Gold Coast of Africa--shit hits the fan about 10 times. There's a crazy sea captain, scurvy, man-boy love, unlikely friendships, an african demi-god locked down in the hold, mutiny, a slave insurrection, gunshot wounds, suicide, scurvy, spiritual transformation and, finally, vindication.

You'll dig it. It's short, sweet and pow'rful. Not as silly as I'm making it sound.