Title: How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired.
Author: Dany Laferrière (translated by David Homel).
Genre: Fiction, literature, race, immigration, sexuality, writing, autobiographical fiction.
Publication Date: 1985.
Summary: Brilliant and tense, the autobiographical novel is narrated by a young Haitian man who has recently immigrated to North America. Written with wry humour, the narrator wanders the streets and slums of Montreal, eats, drinks and has sex, and writes a book to save his life. This is a novel about the situation of—and society's fascination with—the modern North American black man.
My rating: 8/10.
♥ We're up on the third floor. A narrow room cut lengthwise by a horrible Japanese screen decorated with enormous stylized birds. A fridge in a constant state of palpitation, as if we were holed up above some railroad station. Playboy bunnies thumbtacked to the wall that we had to take down when we got here to avoid the suicidal tendencies those things inevitably cause. A stove with elements as cold as a witch's tit at forty below.
♥ I sleep on a filthy bed and Bouba made himself a nest on the plucked couch full of mountains and valleys. Bouba inhabits it fully. He drinks, reads, eats, meditates and fucks on it. He had married the hills and dales of this cotton-stuffed whore.
♥ Superficially, Bouba spends all day doing nothing. In reality, he is purifying the universe. Sleep cures us of all physical impurities, mental illness and moral perversion. Between pages of the Koran, Bouba engages in sleep cures that can last up to three days. The Koran, in its infinite wisdom, states: "Every soul shall taste death. You shall receive your rewards only on the Day of Resurrection. Whoever is spared the fire of Hell and is admitted to Paradise shall surely gain his end; for the life of this world is nothing but a fleeting vanity." (Sura III, 182.) The world can blow itself up of it want to; Bouba is sleeping.
♥ The only piece of music that can stands up to this insanity comes from on high. The ceiling drops a millimeter in a cloud of pink dust. Then, silence. We wait for the end of the world, impatiently, holding our breath. A private, custom-made Apocalypse. Silence. Then this taut keening cry in high C, sharp and lasting, inhuman, first allegro, then andante, then pianissimo, an endless, inconsolable, electronic, asexual cry over Parker's sax; the only song this dawn.
♥ Things are going terribly wrong these days for the conscientious, professions black pick-up artist. The black period is over, has-been, kaput, finito, whited out. Nigger go home. Va-t-en, Nègre. The Black Bottom's off the Top 20. Hasta la vista, Negro. Last call, colored man. Go back to the bush, man. Do yourself a hara-kiri you-know-where. Look, Mamma, says the Young White Girl, look at the Cut Negro. A good Negro, her father answers, is a Negro with no balls. In a nutshell, that's the situation in the 1980s, a dark day for Negro Civilization. On the stock market of the Western World, ebony has taken another spectacular fall. If only the Negro ejaculated oil. Black gold. O sadness, the Negro's sperm is ivory. Meanwhile, Yellow is coming on strong. The Japanese are clean, they don't take up much space and they know the Kama Sutra like the back of the Nikons. The sight of one of those yellow dolls (4 feet 10, 110 pounds), as portable as a make-up case, on the arm of a long, tall girl (a model or salesgirl in a department store) is enough to make you cry the blues. I hear the Japs are as good at disco as Negroes are at jazz. It wasn't always that way. God didn't used to be yellow—the traitor! During the seventies, America got off on Red. White girls practically moved onto Indian reservations to earn their actual BAs. The co-eds who stayed behind had to settle for the handful of Indian students still left on the campuses. Naturally, a great number of Redskins came running from a great number of tribes, attracted by the scent of young, white squaw. A young Iroquois had his pride, but a free fuck is better than a bottle of rotgut. White girls were doing it Huron-style. A Cheyenne screw was the hottest thing around. Don't underestimate the effect of fucking a guy whose real name is Roaring Bull. At night in the dormitories, each cry, according to its modulation, told of a Huron or an Iroquois or a Cheyenne inseminating a young white girl with his red jissom. It lasted until each and every Indian had come down with chronic syphilis. With the survival of the white Anglo-Saxon race in danger, the Establishment halted the massacre. WASP girls received drastic doses of penicillin, and the Indian students were sent back to their respective reservations to finish the genocide begun with the discovery of the Americas. The universities reverted to their daily routine, gray, washed out, going nowhere, and just as girls were about to succumb to boredom with the pallid, pale, faded Ivy League boys, the violent, potent, incendiary Black Panthers burst upon the campus scene. "Finally, some real blood!" came a choir of exultations from the Joyces, Phyllises, Marys and Kays driven desperate by the medicine-dropper sex of conventional unions and a gray life of frustration with the Johns, Harrys, Walters and Company. Fucking black was fucking exotic. And America loves to fuck exotic. Put black vengeance and white guilt together in the same bed and you had a night to remember! Those blond-haired, pink-cheeked girls practicality had to be dragged out of the black dormitories. The Big Nigger from Harlem fucked the stuffing out of the girlfriend of the Razor Blade King, the whitest, most arrogant racist on campus. The Big Nigger from Harlem's head spun at the prospect of sodomizing the daughter of the slumlord of 125th Street, fucking her for all the repairs her bastard father never made, fornicating for the horrible winter last year when his younger brother died of TB. The Young White Girl gets off too. It's the first time anyone's manifested such high-quality hatred towards her. In the sexual act, hatred is more effective than love. But it's all over now. The second war fought on American soil. Compared to the war of the colored sexes, Korea was a skirmish. And Viet Nam a mere afterthought in the flow of Judeo-Christian civilization. If you want to know what nuclear was is all about, put a black man and a white woman in the same bed. But it's all over now. We cam close to total annihilation without knowing it. The black was the last sexual bomb that could have blown up this planet. And now he's dead. Sputtered out between the thighs of a white girl. When you come down to it, the black was just a wet firecracker, but that's not for me to say. Make way for the Yellows. The Japanese are going to take us dancing on the volcano. It's their turn. The great roulette wheel of the flesh. That's how it turns. Red, Black, Yellow. Black, Yellow, Red. Yellow, Red, Black. The Great Mandala of the Western World.
♥ Hemingway should be read standing up, Basho walking, Proust in the bath, Cervantes in a hospital, Simenon in a train (Canadian Pacific, anyone?), Dante in paradise, Dosto in the underground, Miller in a smoky bar with hot dogs, fried and a Coke... I was reading Mishima with a cheap bottle of wine by the bed, totally exhausted, and a girl in the shower.
♥ She's some kind of girl. I met her at McGill, at a typically McGill literary soirée. I let on that Virginia Woolf was as good as Yeats or some kind of nonsense like that. Maybe she thought that was baroque coming from a Negro.
♥ Miz Literature left her scent in the bathroom. In his journal (Le Retour du Tchad), Gide writes that what struck him most in Africa was the smell. A smell of strong spices. A smell of leaves. The Negro is of the vegetable kingdom. Whites forget that they have a smell too. Most McGill girls smell like Johnson's Baby Powder. I don't know what making love to a girl (over twenty-one, duly vaccinated) who stinks of baby powder does for you. I can never resist going kitchie-kitchie-koo under her chin.
♥ She answers with a smile. The smile is a British invention. Actually, the British brought it back from one of their Japanese campaigns.
♥ Mz Literature is incredible. She was brought up to believe everything she's told. Her cultural heritage. I can tell her the most outlandish stories and she'll nod her head and stare with those believing eyes. She'll be moved. I can tell her I consume human flesh, that somewhere in my genetic code the desire to eat white flesh is inscribed, that my nights are haunted by her breasts, her hips, her thighs, I swear it, I can tell her all that and more and she'll understand. She'll believe me. Imagine: she's studying at McGill (venerable institution to which the bourgeoisie sends its children to learn clarity, analysis and scientific doubt) and the first Negro to tell her some kind of fancy tale takes her to bed. Why? Because she can afford that luxury. I surrender to the least bit of naïveté, even for a second, and I'm one dead nigger. Literally. I have to be a moving target, otherwise, at the first emotion, my ass would be grass. Miz Literature can afford a clean clear conscience. She has the means. I gave up on that luxury a long time ago. No conscience. No paradise lost. No promised land. You tell me: what good can a conscience possibly do me? It can only cause problems for a Negro brimming over with unappeased fantasies, desires and dreams. Put it this way: I want America. Not one iota less. With her Radio City girls, her buildings, her automobiles, her enormous waste—even her bureaucracy. I want it all: good and bad, what you throw away and what you keep, the ugly and beautiful alike. America is a totality. What do you expect me to do with a conscience? I can't afford one anyway. The way things are going, it would be down at the pawnshop in a flash.
I have to make sure not to bug Miz Literature about being so nice. She's still the best thing a Negro can afford in these hard times of ours.
♥ Which makes for a rather baroque atmosphere. Two blacks in a filthy apartment on the rue St-Denis, philosophizing their heads off about Beauty in the wee hours. The Repast of the Primitives. The kettle is boiling. We have no radio, no TV, no telephone, no newspapers. Nothing to keep us in touch with this lousy planet. History is not interested in us and we repay the favor. It's even-steven. All that matters is this grave and gratuitous conversation between me and that crazy ape-man Bouba. The fate of Judeo-Christian civilization is on the line. Two blacks on the dole hold the keys. We are discussing matters of life and death..
♥ Just before daybreak, you come to appreciate his terrifying rhetorical machine. Endless argumentation broken by fits of coughing. His monologue can last for hours, flowing uninterrupted, serpentine, snaking, sinuous, Proustian sentences like a long, many-colored ribbon. The Word is his poison.
♥ He's in no hurry. He has plenty of time. Eternity is on his side. Outside, people are stirring, awakening, getting their clothes on, gulping down breakfast and rushing off to work. Brainless ants. The world is in terrible need of marginal thinkers, starving philosophers and impenitent sleepers ("The sleeping man reconstructs the word," said Heraclitus) to keep on spinning. Bouba spends most of his time on the couch reconstructing the world.
♥ Bouba drains his teacup and goes quietly back to bed like a black maharajah in his St. Denis harem. Let the world hurl itself towards nuclear culmination. Bouba is sleeping.
♥ "You're reading! Oh, I'm sorry."
And believe it or not, she really is sorry. Reading is sacred in her book. Besides, a black with a book denotes the triumph of Judeo-Christian civilization! Proof that those bloody crusades really did have some value. True, Europe did pillage Africa but this black is reading a book.
♥ Miz Literature climbs into my bed. I put the book down at the foot of the bed, next to the bottle of wine, then bring her down to my level. Europe has paid here debt to Africa.
♥ I'd dreamed of it. I'd licked my chops over it. I didn't dare ask her. An act so... I knew that as long as she hadn't done it, she wouldn't be completely mine. That's the key in sexual relations between black and white: as long as the woman hasn't done something judged degrading, you cam never be sure.
Because in the scale of Western values, white woman is inferior to white man, but superior to black man. That's why she can't get off except with a Negro. It's obvious why: she can go as far as she wants with him. The only true sexual relation is between unequals. White woman must give white men pleasure, as black men must for white women. Hence, the myth of the Black stud. Great in bed, yes, but not with his own woman. For she has to dedicate herself to his pleasure.
♥ I'd love to know, I'd like to be one hundred percent sure whether the myth of the animalistic, primitive, barbarous black who thinks only of fucking is true or not. Evidence. Show me evidence. Definitively, once and for all. No one can. The world has grown rotten with ideologies. Who will risk taking a position on a subject like that? As a black, I don't have enough distance. Are black men sensual pigs? Are white men pale pigs? Yellow men refined pigs? Red men bleeding pigs? Only Pig is Pig. I don't know why I always imagined the universe like that Matisse painting. Something about it truck me. It's my essential vision of things. I'm talking about "Grand Intérieur Rouge" (1948). Primary colors. Strong, alive, violent and loud. Pictures inside a larger canvas. Everywhere flowers in different-sized pits. On two tables. A dark chair. On the wall a painting by the artist (the pineapple one) separated by a black demarcation. Under the table, a calico cat chased by a dog. Stylized, allusive strokes. Splashes of bright color. The skins of two beasts under the curved legs of the table on the right. The painting is primitive, animal, gregarious, fierce, flightly, tribal fantasy. You can feel a playful kind of cannibalism verging on immediate happiness. Right there, before your eyes. With those loud, primary colors and violent sexuality (despite the calm the eyes feels) offering a new version of love in this modern jungle. When I ask myself hard questions about the role of color in sexuality, I remember Matisse's answer. I have been carrying it with me ever since. I didn't yet know it would not be enough to counter the storms of life, and that I would probably die with the teeth of that problem sunk into my neck.
♥ I stay in bed. No showers for me after love-making. I keep the smells.
♥ I stop breathing. She brakes and stops at the corner. Red light: her left foot on the pavement, her back bent gracefully, the nape of her neck exposed. Girls like to keep their hair short in the summer. Her body like a bent bow. Green light: she shoves off with her right foot on the pedal. Her body like the arrow that flies. Last image: her back a pure line, the graceful movement of her hips, her slender, adolescent thighs. The emotion: the pain of losing someone forever whom you've loved totally, if only for twelve and three-tenths seconds.
♥ In the Western world the word "fantasy" is the next most powerful thing after the atom bomb.
♥ I go looking for an exact count of the calories and mineral salts that fill the bellies of the black world. Shrimp and rice: 402 calories. Pork fried rice: 425. Chicken fried rice: 425. We're doing all right. Rice wherever you look. I could never share the fate of a civilization that ostracizes rice. In no way could I trust people who believe yogurt is superior to rice. The taste of rice is greater than the most sublime elevations of the soul. It is one of the forms of black happiness. Black paradise found. The white (and floury) land promised since the first Slave Trade contract was signed. Is a psychoanalysis of the black soul possible? Is it not truly the dark continent? I'm asking you, Dr. Freud. Who can understand the crisis of the black who wants to become white, without losing his roots? Can you name me a single white who one fine day decided he wanted to be black? If there are any it's because of rhythm, jazz, those sparkling white teeth, the eternal suntan, the free and easy life, that high, sharp laughter. But I'm talking about a white who wants to be black just for the sake of it. I'd like to be white. Let's say I'm not totally impartial. I'd like to be a better kind of white. A white without the Oedipus complex. What good is the Oedipus complex, since you can't eat it, sell it, drink it, or trade it for a round-trip ticket to Tokyo? Or even fuck it (well, maybe so). If my wishes were granted and I suddenly turned white, what would happen? I have no idea. The question is too important for suppositions. I would see blacks in the street and know what they think when they see a white. I wouldn't want people staring at me with that covetous look in their eyes.
♥ I move in slow motion. A ticket to eternity. I take her from behind and she howls. High-pitched, eccentric screams. She's a nervous yet trusting fuck. It's not difficult to give her what she wants: penetrate her violently, till it hurts, then pull back nice and easy. Elementary, indeed. But surprising all the same from a Sir George girl. Looking at her tastefully dressed, you'd never suspect the voracious, insatiable little animal lodged deep in her vagina. I feel my legs tremble, the nape of my neck growing tense. The cry uncoiling deep in my stomach. The heart of my sex in jubilation like a fish swimming upstream. The Koran says, "Is it the truth that you are preaching, or is this by a jest?" (Sura XXI, 56). I carry her to the bed with no let-up in the rhythm, holding her at the end of my cock. Like a flower blossoming at the end of my black rod. The window still open on the Cross of Mount Royal. Miz Sophisticated Lady lying on her back. Displayed. All moist and soft. Allah be praised! This Judeo-Christian girl is my Africa. A girl born for power. So what is she doing at the end of my black rod? The juices flow between her white thighs. Her eyes are turned inward (reminding me of a childhood image of St. Thérèse of Lisieux in ecstasy). Her bent neck rests on my left shoulder. ("His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me"—The Song of Solomon.) No sounds. Non-verbal communication. Just fucking. Fucking. Fucking. I slow the rhythm. She moans a personal Sura. I can't make out this perverse, animal esperanto. I put my ear to her mouth. "Fuckme fuckme fuckme fuckme fuckme fuckme fuckmen fuckme fuckme fuckme fuckme..." I'm coming! Let me push you over the edge. A combination of quick jabs (one two—one two three—one two) before finishing off with one from close in. Winded. She sits up suddenly then throws herself back onto the bed in a single movement as waves of spasms flow through her. I move in deep and slow. I want to fuck her subconscious. A delicate task that requires infinite control. Think about it: fucking the subconscious of a Westmount girl! I catch a glimpse of my oiled thighs (coconut oil) against this white body. I take her white breasts firmly in my hands. The light down on her white marble body. I want to fuck her identity. Pursue the racial question to the heart of her being. Are you a black man? Are you a white woman? I fuck you. You fuck me. I don't know what you're really thinking when you fuck with a black. I'd like to put you at my mercy, right here. Slow movement of the pelvis. Almost monotonous. Changes of rhythm scarcely perceptible. What about you? You're there in total metaphysical concentration and I don't know what you're thinking. But I do know there's no sexuality without fantasy. You seem unfeeling. You hardly move. Are you indifferent? Is it coming from the deepest part of your being? My sex celebrates your golden hair, you pink clitoris, your forbidden vagina, your white belly, your bowed neck, your Anglo-Saxon mouth. To touch your WASP soul. Metaphysical fucking. Mystic vapors. It's all clothed in unreality. There you are, prone, with your Ophelia face. Slowly you slip from the material world. I will pull out of this inert, unfuckable, indifferent body. I pull out slowly. What is this cry? Where does it come from? It is the cry of the vagina itself. I hear its voice: "Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yeeeeeeeeees." A taut, keening cry in high C, sharp and lasting, inhuman, first allegro, then andante, then panissimo, an endless, inconsolable, electronic asexual cry, modulation for modulation a perfect copy of the primal scream from Beelzebub's chamber above.
♥ Making love to a Negro isn't frightening; sleeping with him is. Sleep is complete surrender. It's more than nude; it's naked. Anything can happen during the night, when reason sleeps. Do we dream our lover? Do we penetrate his dreams? Shifting of sands, says the Western world. Danger. Beware. Danger of osmosis. Danger of true communication.
♥ But it was monumental. Irreparable. It must have been when I said that Negroes are still at a Big Feed stage and that for them eating a bowl of rice is sometimes preferable to the mysteries of love. Normally, the Negro should be upset, indignant at still being in such a terrible situation. There's no reason for an English girl to get upset. Besides, comparing a Westmount girl to a bowl of rice is a philosophical reflection beyond my means. Mao did not make the revolution so that every Chinaman could enjoy a Chinawoman, but so that every Chinaman and Chinawoman could enjoy a bowl of rice a day. Therefore, for the Chinese, man or woman, rice is a sacred thing. Whereas for Miz Sophisticated Lady, a bowl of rice is a bowl of rice. She won't let me call a cab. The pride of the powerful. The exits. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that it really wasn't a fight over rice, but an old historical misunderstanding, irreparable, total and definitive, a misunderstanding over race, caste, class, sex, nation and religion.
♥ Roy at the Peterborough Memorial Centre, with a certain Vicky. Roy at the Lord Beaverbrook (this time she wrote "Roy Roy Roy" on the poster in black felt-tip pen). Roy at Toronto's Massey Hall and the Winnipeg Concert Hall (consumption in the hall that night: one ton of marijuana). The last concert was on Vicky's sixteenth birthday. On a Roy poster she scrawled in eyebrow pencil, "I just feel like killing myself."
♥ I can hear the water running in the bathroom sink. Private sounds. A wet body. The luxury of soft Anglo-Saxon intimacy. Big red-brick house with walls scaled by ivy. English lawn. Victorian calm. Deep armchairs. Old daguerreotypes. The patina of antiques. Shiny black piano. Engravings from another age. Group portrait with corgis. Bankers (double chin and monocle) playing cricket. Portraits of young girls with long, fine, slickly features. Diplomat in pith helmet to New Delhi. Odor of Calcutta. This house breathes calm, tranquility, order. The order of the pillagers of Africa. Britannia rules the waves. Everything here has its place—except me. I'm here for the sole purpose of fucking the daughter. Therefore, I too have my place. I'm here to fuck the daughter of these haughty diplomats who once whacked us with their sticks. I wasn't there at the time of course, but what do you want, history hasn't been good to us, but we can always us it as ab aphrodisiac.
♥ Poor Bessie. Poor Mississippi. Poor muddy-water girl. Poor Bessie with her lynched heart. Black bodies running with sweat, bent over the snowy grace of the cotton. Black bodies shining sensual, beaten by the cruel wind of the Deep South. Two hundred years of desire thrown together, boxed in, piled up and sent down the Mississippi in the hold of a riverboat. Black desire obsessed with pubescent white flesh. Desire reined in like a mad dog. Desire flaming up. Desire for the white woman.
♥ "You're afraid?"
"Afraid of what?"
"Afraid of the goddamn blank page?"
"Squeeze it, man, grab it and make it cry for mercy, humanize your goddamn blank page."
♥ You have to read Miller in the summer and Ducharme in the winter, alone in a cottage.
♥ "Where do you come from?" the girl with Miz Literature wants to know.
Every time I'm asked that question, flat out like that, without any previous National Geographic references, an irresistible desire to kill fills me. The girl is wearing a tweed skirt complemented by a white blouse in some refined material. No doubt about it, she's a snob. Miz Snob.
"What country do you come from?" she asks me again.
"On Thursday evenings I come from Madagascar."
♥ With a mixture of 48% ex-hippie, 12% Black Panther, 9.5% blasé and 0.5% sexy, I let on, "Patrick Straram le bison ravi organized a private screening the last time M.D. was in town."
♥ And when you consider that these girls were sent to a serious institution like McGill to learn clarity of thought, analytical capacity and scientific doubt! But they're so full of Judeo-Christian propaganda that when they get around a Negro, they immediately start thinking like primitives. For them, a Negro is too naïve to lie. But they didn't start the ball rolling: before them was the Bible, Rousseau, the blues, Hollywood and all the rest.
♥ But Miz Snob has a good pusher.
Hats off, Colombia. White satin. Black pain.
♥ Miz Mystic is foaming with held back rage. Her desire to throw herself out the window is so strong it seems legitimate to me. In cases of great conviction, we should make an exception. Let her do it. Someone wants to kill himself. So be it. ("Say: Nothing will your flight avail you. If you escaped from death and slaughter you would enjoy this world only for a little while.")
♥ I sit down on a park bench with the book I started last night. Written by a certain Limonov. A Russian dissident. The "different dissident" approach. Instead of wasting his time playing the prophet of doom, Limonov gets off with the blacks in Harlem. His book is called The Russian Poet Prefers Big Blacks. It begins with a rebuttal: The Black Poet Dreams of Buggering an old Stalinist on the Nevsky Prospect. New Frontiers Publications.
The Iron Curtain seen as a giant chastity belt.
♥ "Black and white are the same to me."
"We're talking sexuality, not arithmetic."
"Since you've challenged me, I'm going to tell you exactly what I think. Black and white are equal when it comes to death and sexuality. Eros and Thanatos. And I think that when you mix black man and white woman you get blood red. With his own woman the black man might not be worth the paper he's printed on, but with a white woman, the chances of something happening are good. Why? Because sexuality is based on fantasy and the black man/white woman fantasy is one of the most explosive ones around."
"Emotions are black—isn't that myth a little worn pout?"
"It might be. But you can't have whites winning coming and going. They say they're better than blacks in everything, then turn around and want to be our equals in one area: sexuality."
"What about whites who don't think they're superior to blacks?"
"Those whites, obviously, don't have sexual hang-ups."
♥ "Should we stay?"
"Fine with me."
It's that easy when it's working. Smooth as silk.
♥ The West no longer cares about sex; that's why it tries to debase it.
♥ To get there you have to climb a steep stairway welded to the Robutel like a handle on a coffee cup. The prince of admission is a stack of copies of the NBJ, the magazine for avant-garde poets. Total cost: $2.50. Whiter Mayakovsky and the era of free poetry? Inside, every rejection-slip poet in Montreal. Alcoholic, mystical, lumberjack, truck-driver, tubercular poets and cruised-out poetesses.
♥ Horizon obscured. I can't make out much. I've been in isolation for three days with a case of Molson, three bottles of wine, two cans of Ronzoni spaghetti, five pounds of potatoes and this goddamn Remington. Next to the bell downstairs, I put up a sign that any idiot can understand: "Do Not Disturb: Great Writer Writing Last Masterpiece." After three days of straight typing, the lower-case letters are beginning to look iridescent. The capitals resemble those hairy spiders from the tropics. The room pitches lightly on a sea of Molson. Waves of dense heat flow over my back. The consonants fornicate and whelp as I look on. The dishes pile up. The garbage can is overflowing. I'm suffocating. I watch, inert, as the cockroaches go about their business. The room is running in ultramarine humors. How not to consider yourself a genius under such conditions?
♥ All you need is a good Remington, no cash and no publisher to believe that the book you're composing with your gut feelings is the masterpiece that will get you out of your hole. Unfortunately, it never works that way. It takes as much guts to do a good book as a bad one. When you have nothing, you can always hope for genius. But genius has refined tastes. It doesn't like the dispossessed. And nothing is all I've got. I'll never make it out of here with a so-so manuscript.
♥ I write by day.
And dream by night.
In my dream I walk past the Hachette bookstore on St. Catherine Street. I see my novel in the window under an enormous poster: "A Young Black Montreal Writer Puts a James Baldwin Out to Pasture." I go inside. My book is positioned between Moravia and Greene. Good company. That book, holding its own, with that red and yellow cover and jazz look—that book is me. Completely me. I am those 160 tight little pages. Someone is going to come in any moment now, pick up my book and leaf through it, dubious at first then delighted, he's going to go to the cash and give the cashier thew $12.95 that will get him the book. The cashier will put my book in a Hachette bag and give it to him. The guy will go home with his new purchase: my book. And this man, miracle of miracles, will be my first real reader.
♥ "I read your book and I laughed, but it seems to me you don't like women."
Miz B. smiles. I won the first round,
"But you go a little far..."
"When people reveal their fantasies, you'll usually find something for everyone—or against everyone. Let me point out that for all intents and purposes there are no women in my novel. There just types. Black men and white women. On the human level, the black man and the white woman do not exist. Chester Himes said they were American inventions, like the hamburger or the drive-in. In my book, I give a more... personal version of them."
♥ "..Your novel is perhaps the first portrait of Montreal from the pen of a black writer. Admit that you were a bit harsh."
"You think so?"
"But your readers like that because they're used to a more plaintive sort of Negro."
"The ones in my novel never stop complaining."
"Yes, but the tempo is different. They're tougher, sharper, more pugnacious. They're complainers, but they know how to hit back. Humor is their most effective weapon."
"That's the way life is. You parry the blows and you strike back."
"Their weapons are quite different. Generally blacks appeal to Africa, but your characters never do. Why not?"
"Because they live in the Western world."
"But they're Moslems!"
"True. Their faith belongs to Islam, but their culture is totally European. Allah is great, but Freud is their prophet."
"Odd Moslems indeed!"
"The portrait is real. For when a black man and a white woman meet, the lie is the predominant feature."
"Aren't you painting things a little too black?"
"Last night I was in a bar downtown. A black man and a white woman were sitting next to me. I knew the guy. He was all but telling her he was a cannibal, fresh out of the bush, that his father was the big medicine-man in his village. The whole mythology. I watched the girl: she was nodding, in total ecstasy at finding a real bushman, homo primitivus, the Negro according to National Geographic, Rousseau and Company. I know the guy and I know he's not from the bush. He's from Abidjan, one of Africa's great cities. He lived in Denmark and Holland for quite a while before coming to Montreal. He's an urban man, a virtual European. But he'd never admit that to a white girl for all the ivory in the world. In the white man's eyes, he wants to be a Westerner; but with a white woman. Africa serves as his supernumerary sex."
"What about the girl?"
"She was beside herself. She had found her African. Her primitive."
"You're a harsh judge of people."
"A harsh judge for harsh times. Don't forget that the guy was wounded in his way too. Do you know what he told me in the men's room? He asked me, "Do you know why Whites never say that a black is ugly?" I didn't know the answer; he did. "Because, so far, they're not sure of our true nature."
"Can you elaborate?"
"We never say that a cat is ugly. Either we praise the animal or we keep quiet. We're not entirely sure about animals. We say that the tiger is a handsome animal, but we don't know what the other animals in the jungle think. And we never talk about specific tigers. We say, the tiger. It's the same thing for blacks. People say, the blacks. They're a type. There are no individuals."
"Aren't you exaggerating a little?"
"I may be."
"How have blacks reacted to your book?"
"They want to lynch me."
"Why is that?"
"Because I let the cat out of the bag. They don't like being caught with their pants down. They say I've sold out, that I'm playing the white man's game, that my book is no good and the only reason it was published was because whites need a black man around to carry on and give whites a clear conscience."
"Is that your opinion?"
"I have no opinion. I make no statements without consulting my lawyer—unless they're about writing. That's not what the Moral Majority thinks. They say my book is the kind of trash that pollutes the reader, whose only goal is to debase the white race by attacking its most sacred object: Woman. You see, I've hit the jackpot."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
"What? Debasing white women?"
"No. Your black readers' opinion."
"To be a traitor is every writer's destiny. I hope that's the first cliché in this interview."
♥ But these days I'm on a diet. I've lost my taste for gimps, drunks, poetesses, what-the-cat-dragged-ins, sick of all those girls that nobody will take except bums and blacks. I want a normal girl with a conservative father ans a bourgeois mother (both racist to the core), a real live normal girl. Not a blow-up doll smashed on beer. Shit, I've got a thirst for a decent life. I am thirsty. The Gods are thirsty. Women are thirsty. Why not Negroes? The Negroes are thirsty.
♥ Dawn came up, as always, independent of my will, Sweet adolescent dawn. The lances of the sun without their sting. Gentle and cajoling. My novel stares at me from the table, next to the old Remington, in its fat red folder. My novel is a handsome hunk of hope. My only chance. Take it.