Thursday, January 25, 2007

Earl Lovelace's Trinidad

The Dragon Can't Dance, Earl Lovelace, Persea Books 1979. Most writers of fiction have good intentions (not that that's a requirement for good literature!), but good writers are rare, and good writers whose experience of the world equips them to shed some light for the rest of us are rarer still. Earl Lovelace manages to transport us to an urban neighborhood of Port of Spain, Trinidad, where the impoverished residents live tot-to-toe with each other, and with their own thwarted dreams. The persistence of the human struggle to achieve something against the powerlessness of poverty is the theme here, woven into stories of young love and bad decisions, jealous neighbors and provocative new bicycles, and strategies for walking past the tough guys on the corner. Carnival, music and costumes are the vehicles for people stubbornly championing their sense of self-worth. You might not want to walk up Calvary Hill and explore around yourself, and Lovelace does us all a service with this devotional writing, preserving a sense of a hard-to-see world.

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