A man lies in a newspaper-lined room dreaming an other life. Bob Marley’s spirit flew into him at the moment of the singer’s death. A woman detaches herself from her perfunctory husband and finds the erotic foreplay she longs for in journeying round the island. A man climbs Blue Mountain Peak to fly and hear the voice of God. Sonia paints her new friend Joan and hopes that this will be the beginning of a sexual adventure.
Dawes’s characters are driven by their need for intimate contact with people and with God, and their need to construct personal myths powerful enough to live by. In a host of distinctive and persuasive voices they tell stories that reveal their inner lives and give an incisive portrayal of contemporary Jamaican society that is unsparing in confronting its elements of misogyny and nihilistic violence.
Indeed several stories question how this disorder can be meaningfully told without either sensationalism or despair. For Dawes, the answer is found in the creative energies that lie just the other side of chaos. In particular, in the dub vershan episodes, which intercut the stories, there are intense and moving celebrations of moments of reggae creation in the studio and in performance.
Kwame Dawes has established a growing international reputation as a poet and these are stories that combine a poetic imagination with narrative drive, an acute social awareness and a deep inwardness in the treatment of character. In the penultimate story, ‘Marley’s Ghost’, Dawes’s imagination soars to towering myth.
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Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books, and is widely recognized as one the Caribbean’s leading writers. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.