cover image Tales of the Out & the Gone

Tales of the Out & the Gone

Amiri Baraka, . . Akashic, $14.95 (221pp) ISBN 978-1-933354-12-5

The same rhetorical bomb throwing that drew attention to Baraka for his poem "Who Blew Up America" shoots through these stories written from 1974 through the present. Baraka works over issues of politics, race, sex and the afterlife, though the focus is always on ideas and wordplay. In "Conrad Loomis and the Clothes Ray," the narrator's friend Conrad reveals his new invention, a "clothes ray" that zaps the illusion of natty clothing onto the body of a naked person. Loomis describes himself as "outtelligent," which is superior to plain intelligence because it represents a brightness focused outward rather than inward. He also explains that while most people can understand problems, he can both "over and understand them." Linguistic ticks and characters like Loomis represent the engaging but intellectually imprecise core of this collection. At their best, these stories stretch language and churn out grimly whimsical notions, but Baraka also misfires, tweaking language into meaninglessness, or, for instance, melding The Matrix with hoary 9/11 conspiracy theories. (Dec.)