THE PORTABLE PROMISED LAND
Touré takes a measured yet whimsical look at the ups and (more often) downs of modern African-American life and culture in his successful debut collection of stories, lists and essays, most of which use racial stereotypes as their jumping-off point. He gets things off to a funny start with "The Steviewondermobile," a snappy yarn about a resident of the mythical Soul City named Huggy Bear Jackson, who installs in his Cadillac a state-of-the-art sound system that will play only the blind soul singer's tunes. "Attack of the Love Dogma" takes a pointedly satiric tack as it portrays a detox center where black men are slowly weaned of their "Blonde Obsession," while "A Hot Time at the Church of Kentucky Fried Souls..." finds one Daddy Love setting up a chapel in an abandoned restaurant formerly run by "that good ol neo-massa Colonel Sanders." Touré displays a fine eye and ear for language in a pair of word-based conceits, "Afrolexicology Today's Bi-Annual List of the Top 50 Words in African-America" and "The African-American Aesthetics Hall of Fame." His over-the-top sense of humor serves him well, although occasionally his sharp but somewhat hyperactive style gets away from him, most notably in a trilogy of stories about a female hip-hopper-cum-ghetto guerrilla named the Black Widow that degenerate into facile diatribes on racial politics. A few missteps aside, this respected essayist and Rolling Stone editor should find an enthusiastic audience for his lively brand of social commentary. (July 1)
Forecast:City markets in particular should do well with this clever collection, and the Rolling Stone connection may help boost sales. Touré's fiction and essays have been widely published elsewhere, too (the New Yorker, Zoetrope), and his pop-star one-word name is nicely catchy.