Ceelow,"" the gang calls him--after he proves he is ""down"" with the ""bones"" (dice). His surname doesn't matter--the...


CITY COOL: A Ritual of Belonging

Ceelow,"" the gang calls him--after he proves he is ""down"" with the ""bones"" (dice). His surname doesn't matter--the concern here is only with Ceelow's identity within the gang, the Super Sixers of Harlem, a bunch of prankishly rowdy ""characters"" at the lightest, a fist of restless dudes at the worst. De Jongh and Cleveland's title implies some skepticism, but all the standard inner city themes sneak through: Ceelow and Executioner and Lil' Boy are making desperate gestures of imagined manhood; they form their own tight families to replace the shattered real ones; they must pay the awful ""price"" of belonging; they must learn what truly will get them out of the ghetto. (Ceelow's gang has a plan to get federally-backed jobs and keep the slum cool but are thwarted by a mafia-backed gang.) Violent youth is a difficult fiction proposition-the characters are doomed to be ill-defined, individualized only by hobbies or walks or, here, the size of sexual equipment. The Great Mistake, the meeting with fate, is the only development. And there is always the regulation West Side Story rumble, updated here by the brutal images of boys carrying automatic weapons, of burning rooms. All this dÉja vu is redeemed somewhat by the vivid street scenes of the gang jes' foolin' around, hittin' on some joint. Otherwise, City Cool reads like a message script, moving with hip haste toward the climax, the relentless street talk depressing the will with its facile sentimentality.

Pub Date: April 13, 1978


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1978