BLACK MARIA

Kevin Young, Author
Kevin Young, Author . Knopf $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4209-8
Reviewed on: 12/20/2004
Release date: 02/01/2005
Paperback - 241 pages - 978-0-375-71050-6
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Tough and unlucky in a rainy city or on a Hollywood back lot, poetic detective A.K.A. Jones seeks answers, dodges bullets, and drowns his sorrows as he pursues the alluring and mysterious Delilah Redbones in Young's fourth volume, a book-length sequence of linked short poems grounded in film noir scenarios and in the short, bluesy lines Young has made his signature. In just ten years since his debut, Young has become a leading poet of his generation: the splendid Jelly Roll (2003), whose poems of erotic devotion and heartbreak imitated an encyclopedic range of musical styles, rightly landed on many year-end best-of lists. The saga of Jones, Redbones and their quirky, mostly anonymous supporting cast ("The Gunsel," "The Boss," "The Snitch") confirms Young's mastery of his syncopated verse line, his way with witty rhyme, and his facility with his chosen genre. Yet the many lyrical asides and point-of-view changes make any plot hard to grasp, a problem alleviated, but not quite solved, by prose summaries which introduce each of Young's five sections (called "reels"). And Young's devotion to film noir atmosphere here makes it hard for the tone to vary from poem to poem: in visits to Las Vegas, the sagebrush West, even the set of a science-fiction film, their beat-up, hard-done-by gumshoe sounds more or less the same. (Feb.)

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