Reviewing books makes us SLEEPY. Everybody read Michiko Kakutani's total evisceration of Jonathan Lethem's new man-hipster novel in the NYT this week, yes? See? WE TOLD YOU NOT TO WRITE ABOUT HIPSTERS. You think we don't know what we're doing because we cuss a lot, but we are SMART.
Today's theme song: Just listen to a lot of Woody Guthrie and set something on fire.
No. 5: Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy
Lucy is a spare, merciless, and utterly beautiful book, a ruthlessly honest portrait of a complex and perilous adolescence. One does not often encounter a book so complete, so perfectly realized from its first sentence to its last; a book in which every word has weight and is in exactly the right place, peppered with gems of sentences so flawless they beg to be read aloud, over and over again. One has the impulse to tattoo this book upon one's heart. Lucy 's eponymous narrator is a ferociously honest with herself as she is with other people, and it is this devastating honesty that elevates her anger into insight. The story, like its language, is deceptively simple; Lucy is a young woman who has come from her home of Antigua to a nameless East Coast city to work as an au pair for a wealthy white couple, Lewis and Mariah. As much out of place in her birthplace as she is in her new home, Lucy coolly dissects her own homesickness, the obliviousness of her new employers, who entreat her to consider herself a member of the family even as they are paying her to raise their own children, and her own complicated feelings for Mariah, whose helplessness inspires in her a freighted melange of pity, contempt, and love. Kincaid's stunningly precise language contains the weight of a hundred shades of meaning in every terse sentence; Lucy is as much a lesson in craft as it is a virtuoso feat of storytelling.