THE COLLECTED STORIES OF CHESTER HIMES by Chester Himes

THE COLLECTED STORIES OF CHESTER HIMES

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Himes (d. 1984) is well served by this collection of 61 stories (25 never before published): mostly short takes that deal with the black experience, ranging from impoverishment and prison life to the excesses and satisfactions of religion. While there's a good deal of rage here, and the tone of many pieces is sardonic, Himes is at his best when he qualifies such rage with dramatic irony. In ``Headwaiter,'' for example, Dick Small (``Flawless service for discriminating guests evokes in him a complete satisfaction'') does not so much recognize racism and his own lowly status as take on the patronizing tone of his white employers in his dealings with underlings. In ``A Nigger,'' Joe, a black woman's lover, listens from the closet as her elderly white sugar-daddy asserts his ownership, then opens the closet to look at Joe ``as if he was another garment he had bought for her.'' Such shadow play between the races reaches its bitter apex in ``A Modern Fable,'' a satire of Senator McDull, who can't understand why a worker would take a shot at him for opposing the WPA. In ``Dirty Deceivers,'' a couple, both pretending to be white, finally confess their pretense, only to begin ``feeling betrayed by each other.'' Other highlights: prison stories (``Prison Mass,'' Himes's most formally ambitious; ``Pork Chop Paradise,'' the story of a prisoner who becomes a successful street-preacher before a lust-filled decline) and a host of very short sketches that make their points and then stop. Himes will be best remembered for his Harlem detective novels (Cotton Comes to Harlem, etc.) and other longer narratives. While some of the pieces here read like dated magazine fiction, the best rise above their time and bear witness to the racism that compromised the humanity of white and black alike.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1991
ISBN: 1-56025-020-8
Page count: 446pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1991




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionCHESTER B. HIMES by Lawrence P. Jackson
by Lawrence P. Jackson