cover image Diss/Ed Banded Nation

Diss/Ed Banded Nation

David Nandi Odhiambo. Polestar Book Publishers, $13.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-896095-26-4

Soulful, sexy, with an aversion to capitalization and a fondness for the virgule, debut writer Odhiambo's story rhymes/raps its way through the consciousness of a talented Kenyan immigrant loose in Vancouver's musical demimonde. Benedict, a lapsed student of theology, hooks up with Jazz, a well-connected jazz musician, and becomes the vocalist for a hip ensemble. A dizzying mixture of drugs, insomnia and starvation make his days melancholy and his nights unbearable. As his band comes closer to clinching a recording deal, the singer finds his private life increasingly difficult to control--an old girlfriend reappears and becomes pregnant, immigration officers threaten to deport him--and Benedict is plagued by memories of his straitlaced colonial childhood. Pared-down dialogue evocative of David Mamet lends an edgy realism to the characters' interactions. Unfortunately, Odhiambo's stylized lyricism turns mawkish with overuse: Benedict is ""failing, like before, to meet another commitment misplaced in the maze of this perpetual haze he's become."" His bucking of generic constraints has a political dimension--""to subvert colonialism""--but often obscures. (Mar.)