cover image Why Must a Black Writer Write about Sex?

Why Must a Black Writer Write about Sex?

Dany Laferriere. Coach House Press, $11.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-88910-482-2

As hard as it is to characterize this Haitian American's blend of lyricism, trickery and crude tenderness, it is equally difficult to characterize this book. Is it essay, fiction, riff, social commentary or self mockery? No matter. Piercingly intelligent, Laferriere deconstructs the United States while spoofing himself and the reader. The first section, a purported travelogue, spews such jadedly sexist poison, you think you're reading Brett Easton Ellis. But the author of How to Make Love to a Negro turns out to be satirizing our worst cliches about black male writers. His hilarious encounters with caricatured readers turn his earlier vitriol on its head while introducing a mosaic of clips about success in this country. Tellingly, a black woman pleads for inclusion in his book: ``White writers only talk about white women. So now with black writers onto white women, too, we don't stand a chance.'' Heaping satire upon satire, barbs upon tears, Laferriere tours the halls of American icons from blondes (``purely an American invention-like the black'') to baseball (``like an orgasm''). Having leveled his more acid humor on speculation that Michael Jackson is the ``missing link,'' he turns lyrically sad during an imagined tete-a-tete with James Baldwin, who tells Laferriere that as one of only a few black people in heaven (``they decided to choose hell...They felt more comfortable with the familiar''), he spends eternity singing to God. If, as Laferriere says, ``in the United States...the past is so close you don't get any perspective on it,'' at least his book sheds scintillating light on the present. (Dec.)