Breton (ed., Hot and Cool Jazz Stories, 1990, not reviewed) collects 25 tales from Caribbean writers working in each of the languages found in the region, including the generally forgotten Dutch. As the title suggests, what links these otherwise disparate tales are the languid rhythms of the islands of the Antillean chains and the sense of class, gender, and racial divisions that their colonial and postcolonial cultures have engendered. In the witty opening piece, ``Cloud Cover Caribbean,'' Puerto Rico's Ana Lydia Vega finds a perfect metaphor for the Caribbean condition: a Haitian, a Cuban, and a Dominican battling one another in a foundering boat, only to be rescued by a nasty American and warned by a Puerto Rican menial about the strictures facing them. It's all part of what one of Vega's characters calls ``the royal pain of being black, Caribbean and poor.'' With contributions from V.S. Naipaul (a wryly ironic tale of religion and superstition), Jean Rhys, Claude McKay, Guillermo Cabrera Infante (a sardonic story of a failing affair), Reinaldo Arenas, and Jamaica Kincaid, there are more than enough familiar names. Some of the strongest writing, though, comes from authors less familiar in the US. Samuel Selvon, a Trinidadian novelist, contributes the hilarious tale of a calypso singer who isn't as clever as he thinks. Haitian-born Edwidge Danticat presents a moving dialogue of unsent letters informed by the dire conditions in Haiti prior to the restoration of Jean- Bertrand Aristide. And Naipaul's father, Seepersad Naipaul, shows where his son's mordant sense of humor comes from with a story of an overly clever government worker. An excellent introduction to the wide range of writers and styles to be found less than a hundred miles from our shores, each story nicely complementing the one before it in tone and subject matter.
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