All of usattending last night’s gathering of The Artist’s Bookshelfseemed to agree that the novel at the center of our discussion (Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid) offered some profound insights into contemporary American culture. These insights, delivered via the voice of the immigrant protagnistfrom a fresh, rebellious, and at times quite angry perspective,proved often times to be just as humorous as they were provocative.
We began the evening with a guided tour of the Body Politics, which in many ways turned out to be an ideal introduction to the themes of the novel. The very first image of the show (a slightly abstracted representation of a topless, grass-skirted “native” woman, supposedly gyrating and freely expressing her inner-child,romantically exoticized and eroticizedin a manneronlyEuro-males from previous centuries seem capable of mustering) said it all.
That woman could very well be Lucy, or how people in her new land perceive her, or how she perceives others perceiving her. (Please note the exponential layering of complication.)
Some of us liked the novel’s simple and direct narrative style, others faulted its lack of descriptive detail and traditional narrative drive. We found it to be refreshingly void of sentimentality, and continually surprising and revealing in its observations of human relationships.
Like the very bestpost-colonial literature, the novel works simultaneously on a number of levels. As if to drive home that point, we ended with a discussion of a somewhat disturbing but highly revealing passage:
“I thought on one hand there was a girl being beaten by a man she could not see; on the other there was a girl getting her throat cut by a man she could see. In this great world, why should my life be reduced to these two possibilities?”