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Long Division Paperback – June 11, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Defying a patronizingly racist spelling bee on live television, 14-year-old Citoyen “City” Coldson’s rant goes viral and becomes an embarrassment on a national scale. Sent to stay with family in the small town of Melahatchie, he distracts himself from Internet infamy, redneck racists, and a grandmother who’s not afraid to make him cut her a switch by reading a mysterious book. Titled Long Division, it also follows a 14-year-old named Citoyen Coldson but in 1985. When a missing girl from the neighborhood turns up as a character, real life and fiction begin to blur across time. Laymon’s debut novel is an ambitious mix of contemporary southern gothic with Murakamiesque magical realism. Though forced at moments, the story is rich and labyrinthine, populated with complex characters. Told from the parallel points of view of the two boys named City, the book elegantly showcases Laymon’s command of voice and storytelling skill in a tale that is at once dreamlike and concrete, personal and political. --Greg Baldino

Review

PRAISE FOR KIESE LAYMON AND HIS DEBUT NOVEL, LONG DIVISION:

"Funny, astute and searching.... The author's satirical instincts are excellent. He is also intimately attuned to the confusion of young black Americans who live under the shadow of a history that they only gropingly understand and must try to fill in for themselves." —Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

"Don't miss Kiese Laymon's Long Division. One Mississippi town with two engaging stories in two very different decades. The sharp humor and deep humanity make this debut novel unforgettable." —Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC

"A novel within a novel—hilarious, moving and occasionally dizzying.... Laymon cleverly interweaves his narrative threads and connects characters in surprising and seemingly impossible ways. Laymon moves us dazzlingly (and sometimes bewilderingly) from 1964 to 1985 to 2013 and incorporates themes of prejudice, confusion and love rooted in an emphatically post-Katrina world." —Kirkus Reviews

"Laymon’s debut novel is an ambitious mix of contemporary southern gothic with Murakamiesque magical realism.... the book elegantly showcases Laymon’s command of voice and storytelling skill in a tale that is at once dreamlike and concrete, personal and political." —Booklist

“Smart, exciting and energetic...the language romps and roars along through some truly wonderful comic scenes and yet the book doesn’t hesitate to comment seriously on questions that matter to human beings everywhere, not just in rural Mississippi.” —Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine and Slapboxing with Jesus

"[One of] our best books of the year so far...Layman’s debut novel is bursting with colloquial language from three generations of Mississippi African Americans, mixed with gut-piercing truths about a long racial divide that persists to this day." —Diane Colson, School Library Journal

“Laymon is a brilliant young writer...this is a book that sings in the heart but challenges readers to take careful consideration of the power of memory. Like the best of Hurston, Ellison, or Bambara, Laymon’s craft flows on frequencies that both honor and extend the traditions those writers established.” —William Henry Lewis, author of I Got Somebody in Staunton

"A little fantasy, a little mystery and a lot hilarious." —Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Smart and funny and sharp...I loved it." —Jesmyn Ward, author of Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, winner of 2011 National Book Award for Fiction

"Long Division is one of those books that I picked up and just couldn’t stop reading...powerful, a classic American novel." —Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop

"Kiese Laymon is an amazing, courageous and brave novelist and essayist.... Laymon fiercely tackles issues of prejudice, adolescence and love with a swagger and confidence all his own. You rarely find novels this honest and engaging. Read this book." —Michigan Quarterly Review

"Laymon’s voice is unique, a rarity in an era during which fiction tends all too often to chase trends.... At times touching, at times poignant, Laymon more than once strikes a beautiful chord in the midst of what often feels gritty and intentionally provocative. Those touching insights make Long Division worth the effort, and readers who stick with the story (stories, actually) will find themselves thinking about City and the people in his life long after they close the book." —Chicago Book Review

"A curious, enjoyable novel...take[s] relish in skewering the disingenuous masquerade of institutional racism..." —Publishers Weekly

“The racial/ethical awareness is as complex as Coetzee’s, and Laymon is just as good a writer. Laymon takes some real risks. I love the interplay of spirituality and sexuality. Nothing sounds forced, pandering or trendy. City, the husky citizen of the imagination, feels totally singular and totally representative. That’s tough to pull off.” —Tim Strode, author of Ethics of Exile
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Agate Bolden; First Edition edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932841725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932841725
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tedra Osell on June 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought this book on the strength of having read Laymon's writing on and off for years on his blog and his work at Gawker. I knew he was an amazing writer. But even so, Long Division absolutely blew me away.

It's too bad that describing a great book often involves plot points, because the shock of discovery is part of what makes this novel so just incredibly fun to read. So, and since part of what the story is about is the beauty and power of a well-crafted sentence, I'll just offer a couple of examples of the latter:

"It made me kind of mad that the museum was named after a grimy drunk dude who called a girl 'baby,' but I figured lots of museum were named for part-time losers."

"Embarrassed, I understood on that stage, was just another way of saying I felt alone."

"F*** a book. Ain't no one reading no books in 2013 unless you already a star or talking about some damn vampires and wolfmen."

(I've bowdlerized that last quote lest Amazon remove it for violating some rule about appropriate language in reviews or something; Laymon isn't such a prude, and his characters speak like real people.)

There is so much going on in this novel. It's funny and it will make you cry, it's a page-turner that will make you want to read it as slowly as possible just to savor it, it'specific and regional but also makes a legitimate claim to be a Great American Novel, it does metafiction and scifi, it's wise and honest, and I guarantee you'll want to read it more than once.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Marlo on May 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
I won this book early in the goodreads giveaway. I still do not know what to say. I read Kiese's essays but nothing could have prepared me for this book. The writing is pitchperfect. I have never seen any young writer do what he is doing here. I'm sure it's not for everyone but once you figure out what he is doing with time and authorship, I think you will agree that this book could be the modern classic a number of us readers of African American fiction have been waiting for. This is the first novel that I have finished and looked forward to giving to my daughter.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Read-A-Lot on August 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the writing in Long Division and the humorous way in which the author turns a phrase. The writing is in the spirit of Paul Beatty and Victor Lavalle. If you are a fan of these authors, you will love this book. The protagonist is City, short for Citoyen. He is a young boy growing up in Mississippi. There is a lot of energy in the novel, and brief rifts on various subjects, mainly race and location. And not just location geographically speaking, but also time-period wise.

This is where I think the novel weakens. The book within a book thing can be a useful maneuver, but to take you through different eras in this artifice, the novel took a turn towards the simple and silly, rather than humorous and sensible. Cleverness becomes folly, intelligence becomes dumbness, and what could have been an absolute great novel becomes just average.

City is able to travel through time from 2013 to 1985 and 1964. This is all done through a door in the woods near his grandmother's home in Melahatchie, MS. He isn't actually doing the time travel, but is reading about it, in a book called "Long Division." In that book, he finds a character who narrates the publication and has the same name as him, City.

The publication is given to City, by a school official and their is no author of this book. As he begins to read the unauthored "Long Division" he recognizes names including his own, and one of his fellow peers who is currently missing. How does this all fit into what City is going through presently? Definitely some interesting moments. The novel by Mr. Laymon takes you on a sometimes exciting ride, but oftentimes an incongruous one. I would go 3.5 stars because I think the writing is mostly smart, humorous and engaging. But, since that is not an option, I must fall back to 3.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By RLA on May 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
There simply are no words to describe how amazing it is to read this book. For many people of color in the 21st century, it may be the first time they see themselves reflected in a modern piece of literature. "Long Division" treads the range of human emotion and thought carefully, so that every chapter, every page is yours to savor and appreciate.

I'm so excited for the rest of the world to discover "Long Division" and the man behind it, Kiese Laymon. It's about time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sheree L Greer on January 8, 2015
Format: Paperback
After reading Laymon's essay, "You Are the Second Person" which details some of the challenges he had in getting this novel published, I couldn't wait to read it. And when I did, let's just say as a writer, I instantly hated everything I'd ever written and thought maybe I should quit. What Laymon does in this novel is nothing short of brilliant. The book is beautiful and ugly at the same time -- dude uses different fonts and strange chapter breaks which are like, what? But so much of this book is like that -- what? A sentence-bee? A wide-hipped hero obsessed with brushing his waves and saying dumb s*** that's actually not dumb, and is more accurately, the very thing you would DREAM of saying in the same situation? Dream. Because you wouldn't say it. You don't say it. That's what this novel is like, a dream about the things you want to say, you want to ask, you want to discuss, and demand of yourself and others. And the time travel? WHAT? See. I don't even know how to explain what this book is or how it works. It's confusing and maddening, but full of so many things we know intimately, heartbreak and hope, distrust and regret, courage and cowardice, and love. So much love. Read this book and be inspired. Stop dreaming. Shalaya and City like Lawrence Fishburne at the end of "School Daze."
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