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The book of Jamaica Unknown Binding – 1980
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"A compelling novel....Banks achieves effects at once beautiful and brutal. A virtuoso performance.""--Publishers Weekly" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
RUSSELL BANKS is the author of poetry, nonfiction, and more than fifteen works of fiction admired for their realism and portrayal of working-class people. Cloudsplitter and Continental Drift were both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes. Two of his novels, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction, have been made into award-winning films. A member of the International Parliament of Writers and former New York State Author, Banks was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996. He lives in upstate New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The beginning of the book started off extremely slow (for me) with the story of the murder and the many different characters involved became confusing at times. I was surprised during the second part of the book to get sucked in to the story of the narrator, the Maroons and Nyamkopong. The characters were very beleivable to me and I ended up loving the book!
Being that it is not written by a Jamaican from a Jamaican point of view it may not be a "guide to jamaica" but for me it captures the feeling of the culture from an American's point of view.
Long story short- It was not what I expected but I enjoyed it and recommend it.
There are several trips back to the island after the narrator's life is completely transformed by his experiences during the first. His wife no longer accompanies him however as their marraige was one of the first casualities of his abrupt new fascination with Rastfarianism, Marroon culture, and ganja. You can imagine! But what starts out as an adventure full of promise, unfortunately follows an inevitable course ending in sorrow and not a little horror. Any attempt to blithely transcend differences of race and class are doomed, the author seems to be saying. And ganja will not of its own power make a story turn out all right, regardless of it's enormous capacity to create an internal state that seems to be mystically protected from all outward harm. In fact the opposite may be true. Ganja may release traits and fuel decisions that create a trend which rushes towards confrontation with dis-associated, unwanted self-aspects and a pressing need to re-assess one's relationship with the basics of self-preservation and the will to continue living.
This is a compelling, well-written novel that has the advantage of having marijuana as one of its central characters. The role marijuana plays in the story and in fueling the psychological development of the protaganist is handled skillfully and raises interesting questions about what effect heavy use may have on the trajectory of one's life. As a Jamaican travelogue, the book will spellbind as it is really a tour de force of gritty observational writing. Banks obviously harbours a deep love for Jamaica and a well-earned respect for the raw power of Jah Rastafari as expereinced through the taking of his sacremental offering; the holy herb ganja.
I loved the atmosphere and plotline of the book, and Banks conveys much of Jamaican culture with great insight and skill. However it was hard for me not to despise the main character, a neurotic American writer who neglects his family to hang out with his fascinating, "exotic" Jamaican friends. An American trying to beat Jamaicans at rum drinking and dominoes is pure foolishness! But it rings true as something a typical American visitor would try to do. Eventually as the central character becomes more involved with the real Jamaica and the lives of his new friends, he gets a lot more than he bargains for. A book well worth reading.
This said, I found the communties and lifestyles described here to be fascinating reading and Banks (at least apparently) wrote with loving respect about the Jamaican culture and people. A nice change from the usual cliche descriptions.