Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities
Kazim Ali, . . Wesleyan Univ., $22.95 (116pp) ISBN 978-0-8195-6916-5
“What do I really want to share with people? Not of my methods but of myself?” asks Ali in his third collection, a captivating song of himself that passionately excavates the interdependence between geography and identity. Ali, who is also a novelist, presents a candid history of his wandering life—“I have lived in six cities in five years”— which has perpetually taken place by a river (the Hudson, Nile or Seine), always carrying with him a desire to uncover the hidden aspects of a city and, in turn, his multitudinous self (“Under any city other cities exist. Under any body other bodies”). Ali recounts his journey backward in lists of images and thoughts, and the book's 15 sections are each devoted to a particular city, maintaining a strong narrative arc throughout, crossing genre lines to read as a kind of literary-journalistic, autobiographical text. Ali knows the power of facts; he writes of his time in New York City: “I was in exile, living out of a suitcase in a completely empty apartment in the deserted money district.” This is a fascinating work, brimming with bold meditations on religion, sexuality and what it means to live the life of an artist.
Reviewed on: 07/20/2009