Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All will be made clear in the end

I've mentioned before about my idiosyncratic method for choosing the next novel to read. And how, whatever book I end up choosing for whatever spur-of-the-moment reason, it all makes sense in the end. I walked out of the local library with an armload of summer reading, which, for no apparent reason included Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury and Ellison's Invisible Man. I was consciously thinking 'American classics', subconsciously, I might have realized I was choosing novels set in the South. But the real insight came courtesy of Hanniford's grocery store in Saint-Albans Vermont, which I've also written about before. There I was browsing the used book table where I've had some luck in the past (paperbacks for fifty cents, hardcovers for a buck, proceeds going to local charities) and scored a hardcover edition of Seymour Blicker's 1969 debut novel Blues Chased a Rabbit in decent condition. Blicker's novel is surprising for a host of reasons not the least of which is that a nice Jewish boy from Montreal is telling the not-so-nice story of a young African American's experience with prejudice in the US south. If nothing else, this novel is noteworthy as an anomaly. I can see why critics didn't really know what to make of it at the time it was published. Readers must have been asking themselves 'what the hell does this white middle-class Canadian Jewboy know about it'? There is surely no precedent in Canadian literature. The better known Jewish-Canadian novelists of the time, from Klein to Richler to Cohen to Wiseman to Kreisel, all stubbornly stayed close to home (religiously, culturally, geographically etc.). The best part is how convincingly Blicker pulls it off. So now I'm reading Ellison and Blicker in tandem and can't help seeing parallels. I'm convinced Blicker must have read Ellison and not only that but looked to Invisible Man as a literary antecedent. It would not be farfetched. Think of the solidarity of Jews and Blacks during the civil rights movement in the '60s. I look forward to writing more about both novels when I'm done them.

No comments: