Give Gravity a Chance: A Love Story

Theodore Roosevelt Gardner, Author
Theodore Roosevelt Gardner, Author Allen A. Knoll Publishers $20 (0p) ISBN 978-1-888310-98-6
Reviewed on: 11/30/1998
Release date: 12/01/1998
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Harold and Maude meet Pygmalion--sort of--in Gardner's ninth novel, a rather queasy comedy about two fat Angelenos, one black, one white, who fall in love on a mock date arranged to shock the white woman's mother. Nearly 40 years old and terminally single, Maybelle Sutton gave up on weighing herself when her scale boinged out at 250. Now, however, her pretentious, reactionary mother--""a woman who never uttered an unkind word about the Ku Klux Klan""--is pressuring Maybelle to bring a ""beau"" to her annual birthday bash at the Bel Air Hotel. Hoping to silence such invitations forever, Maybelle accepts the advice of an African American co-worker, Eustace, to hire as an escort Eustace's brother Clyde, ""the biggest, blackest, ugliest buck"" she knows. Any reader who cringes at this phrase will squirm halfway down the page when Eustace tells Maybelle, ""I got a bunch 'o sisters who spit out babies like a Vegas jackpot. [Clyde's mother] takes the overflow, so to speak, and the county pays her so much a head."" The heebie-jeebies proliferate from there. Although Gardner has written a spoof of Archie Bunker-type racists, the unexamined stereotypes that populate this satire--not to mention the embarrassingly inaccurate, minstrel-show dialect of the African American characters (""Gravity, huh. Dat whut yuh puts wid meats and tatoes?"")--undermine what seems a well-intentioned, even sweet-tempered romantic comedy. (Dec.)
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