OFAY by Earl Shorris


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Ofay""-- ""white man foe"" to the Negro-- is a word that the hero Josh takes a long time learning in this novel. Feeling that Negroes have the only life and vitality left, Josh quits his newspaper job in Chicago to sling mailsacks in St. Louis. Here he is introduced to the Plaza, a hotel hangout of prostitutes and addicts. Honeybee, a social worker, tries to talk him out of his inflated ideas but Josh bumbles around in the harsh world, trying to be hip, ending up juvenile. Honeybee rejects him-- he is white, and the novel ends after he plans to cool it back to the second city... The novel is too hip, although Earl Shorris does vaguely grapple with the irony of Josh's ignorance and faces some issues of the Negro-white struggle of hatred, and, as he concludes here, doomed friendship. But there is too much shock talk, shock sex, and the so-called crucial myths and truths are often shallow. Maybe Shorris was Josh once, and though he experienced something important, he doesn't pull off its dramatization. But it's a tough job to write of this world and even young, self-conscious words are something.

Publisher: Delacorte