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4 out of 5 stars
Long Division
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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
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
on August 24, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified 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
on June 1, 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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have never read a book like this before. The story and characters are so compelling that I read it in one sitting the day I bought it and I'm currently reading it again. It's dark, it's sad, it's hopeful, and it's human. And finding a story like this centered around the lives of African Americans as real people; not just stereotypes, symbols, or afterthoughts is priceless. This is a brilliant book about adventure, race, gender, and life and I think it's an important addition to modern fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Yes, Keise Laymon's novel is about intertwining & delayed (ellipses) time, race, gender, culture, everyday pain & beauty, sharp-edged history, the momentum of now: but over-archingly, it's about how we move through life, whether up close and personal or witnessing what has gone before and what may be waiting in the deep woods. I could not put the book down; I laughed out loud, let the tears come, hung on for the ride: what momentum in the language and circling around theme(s). There are only a few books that I have felt I "lived in," and this is one of them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I would put this on the very short list of books that permanently changed the way I write.

If you're irritated by sci-fi, fairy tales, and magical realism, you probably won't enjoy it. If you hate Gibran and Tagore, you probably won't enjoy it. If you have no natural curiosity about the world, you probably won't enjoy it. If you hate reading slow, you probably won't enjoy it.

But for me, as someone who grew up in 1980s Mississippi just like Laymon did, this book is a revelation. And I would say that even if I *wasn't* specifically looking for an authentically American work of magical realism, which this undeniably is.

Highest possible recommendation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Word Magic
Very inventive, funny, weird and sweet.
All the important things. Great great language, unusual characters and good history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Do yourself a favor, purchase two books - Long Division and How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America. Both books are by Kiese Laymon. I just finished reading both in one week. Like they say in some black churches, “I’m glad to be in the service, one more time.” These texts resonated with my life as a gulf coast, southern, Christian, raised by a black mama, kinda of smart, post-Civil Rights Era America, hip-hop generation, waves all over my head, “southern hip-hop loving, deeply flawed, black boy. It was honest. We need more honest writing. It was "southern" (whatever the hell we imagine that to be). It was great writing from a black author who lived after the pantheon of black writers that we have grown to love -Baldwin, Hurst, Hughes, Wright, Ellison, Walker, Morrison, etc. It speaks to the sensibilities of those whose families did not migrate out of the south to northern or western metropoles. It expresses the sensibilities of folk that I know, that are often relegated as "ratchet" (whatever the hell that word means), a disgrace to the black race, backwards ass, ghetto, country, unworthy, or inarticulate. These are my cousins and friends, and me. These texts grapple with twenty first century life by offering critiques of post-racial assumptions. I love them both. I am glad that I am alive for such a time as this--to witness good black southern writing. The south has a lot more to say, and these books are testaments to that. Here is Bun B, Rick Ross, David Banner, 8Ball, and MJG telling yall again. http://youtu.be/CQL-IFEk6hw
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