Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Beginning to draw

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2018).

Our son Ben recommended this novel to us. (Thank you, Ben!) Washington Black draws upon slave narratives, the Bildungsroman, magical realism, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Ralph Ellison, and Toni Morrison to create a story of self-discovery, of scientific discovery, of friendship and the limits of friendship. George Washington Black, Wash, the novel’s narrator, begins life as an enslaved child on a plantation in Barbados. Christopher Wilde, Titch, inventor and naturalist, is the plantation owner’s brother.

For me, the novel’s one weakness is its reliance upon figures of speech that seem out of place in a nineteenth-century narrative: “like a thread of music,” “like thread on the landscape,” “like a thread of poison poured into a well,” And so on. Those figures will just disappear when Washington Black is adapted for television.

It is, by the way, great fun to read a novel, say it should become a movie, and then learn that it will. Get me Sir Ian McKellen’s agent on the phone. I see McKellen as Titch’s father James.


11:05 a.m.: Elaine mentioned “orange.” How did I forget “orange”? “The weak orange light,” “the orange light of the lantern,” “a low orange glow,” “a smoky orange warmth.” And so on. Here’s where an editor could point out that such repetitions might weaken the prose by distracting the reader.

comments: 2

Elaine Fine said...

And there's a lot of "orange light" in there as well.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, alas.