From Publishers Weekly
As hard as it is to characterize this Haitian American's blend of lyricism, trickery and crude tenderness, it is equally difficult to characterize this book. Is it essay, fiction, riff, social commentary or self mockery? No matter. Piercingly intelligent, Laferriere deconstructs the United States while spoofing himself and the reader. The first section, a purported travelogue, spews such jadedly sexist poison, you think you're reading Brett Easton Ellis. But the author of How to Make Love to a Negro turns out to be satirizing our worst cliches about black male writers. His hilarious encounters with caricatured readers turn his earlier vitriol on its head while introducing a mosaic of clips about success in this country. Tellingly, a black woman pleads for inclusion in his book: "White writers only talk about white women. So now with black writers onto white women, too, we don't stand a chance." Heaping satire upon satire, barbs upon tears, Laferriere tours the halls of American icons from blondes ("purely an American invention-like the black") to baseball ("like an orgasm"). Having leveled his more acid humor on speculation that Michael Jackson is the "missing link," he turns lyrically sad during an imagined tete-a-tete with James Baldwin, who tells Laferriere that as one of only a few black people in heaven ("they decided to choose hell...They felt more comfortable with the familiar"), he spends eternity singing to God. If, as Laferriere says, "in the United States...the past is so close you don't get any perspective on it," at least his book sheds scintillating light on the present.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A follow-up to the controversial novel How to Make Love to a Negro (not reviewed), and a hard look at race, sex, class, and fame in America. When ``an influential East Coast magazine'' commissioned a long article from Laferrire, he took it as an opportunity to crisscross America. This assemblage of field notes from his travels covers such diverse subjects as his return to the bar where he hung out as a struggling writer; the Nigerian taxi driver who criticizes his work as a betrayal of his race (he replies that defending his people ``doesn't make for good writing'' and all he cares about is ``fall, decadence, frustration, bitterness, the bile that keeps us alive''); the beautiful blonde who insists that life with her African lover involves feelings as well as sex; the young black who complains that he gives too much press to white women and cajoles him to write about her next. Laferrire also takes a moment to fill us in on the diverse reactions to How to Make Love to a Negro (one woman threw a glass of wine in his face; another had the title tattooed on her body) and his impressions of everyone from Miles Davis to Ice Cube, who argues that blacks are still slaves while Laferrire believes that they have created contemporary America together with whites. If this sounds like a series of snapshots, even the author admits that it is: ``American reality...is more cinema than novel, more jump cut than dissolve, scenes that run over each other and don't follow any logical sequence...This book is no exception.'' (See also the review in this issue of Laferrire's novel, Dining with the Dictator, p. 1295.) The strange mix of humor, honesty, impertinence, and self-importance may satisfy Laferrire's dedicated fans, but most readers will find it about as meaningful as a one-night stand. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.