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Culture Watch

And Consider This

by Toni Morrison
Published by Knopf 2003 - 208 pp

Reviewed by Jody Bush

When L introduces the story, its background, setting and flavor, her language comes through like singing. Toni Morrison can do that. When she does, it's a struggle leaving each sentence because it's so savory and exactly right; the vernacular is lyrical, earthy, clear, wise, and compelling.

Bill 'Papa' Cosey, now dead, lived as the owner and patriarch of the Cosey Hotel and Resort, "the best known vacation spot for colored fold on the East Coast," In the 1940s and 50s, as a grand, benevolent collector and predator of women, he was also a man "ripped, like the rest of us, by wrath and love." Cosey's ghost haunts and animates the story of six women who struggle with the consequences of having been, in one way or another, entangled by his influence.

The chapter headings, Father, Benefactor, Husband, Guardian, Lover, etc., tell how each woman defines her life under Cosey's shadow while fighting like "rigid vipers" among themselves. Years have passed since the glory days of the hotel and Cosey's death. Heed, his lower class 'child bride' lives in the deteriorated resort with Christine, Casey's only surviving blood relative whose birthright has been lost. May, his daughter-in-law, terrified of racial unrest, has become a hoarder and a thief. L is his former chef whose quiet, wise narration serves as the story's connecting thread. Celestial was his mystical "sporting woman"; Vida, an adoring former employee.

When Junior, a young, sexy, runaway girl from reform school, enters the story seeking a job at the defunct resort, Morrison begins the journey back through the mysteries and conflicts of these lives; and through the intervening decades of changes and choices that sketch some of our cultural and racial history.

But Love is not an essay. It also is not Beloved. But is a deliciously crafted, magnificent, accessible novel which delves into the capriciousness of power while generously and thoroughly awarding the reader with the thoughts and hearts of its characters.

Life of Pi
By Yann Martell
Published by Harvest/Harcourt – 319pp

Reviewed by Julia Sneden

This intriguing little book is not for the fainthearted.

The story involves a young boy from India, named Piscine Molitor Patel. He is the son of a zookeeper who sets forth aboard a Japanese freighter with his family, to immigrate to Canada. With them are several of the zoo animals, being transported to various locations in the Americas.

A few days out, the freighter suddenly sinks, and Pi seems to be the only human survivor, along with a zebra, a hyena, a chimpanzee, and a tiger named Richard Parker. The natural order of the food chain prevails, and soon Pi finds himself alone in the life boat with a 450 pound tiger.

Challenges of survival in impossible circumstances do not make for comfortable reading. This is not to say they should: the book is, after all, not a feel-good adventure. What it is, is a study of the human spirit, and the measures that must be taken to keep the spirit alive and the psyche intact.

The final chapter is a stunner. Brace yourself.



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