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Linguistic pyrotechnics fail to ignite this first novel by the southern poet, story-writer, and enlightened good ole boy Butler, who here narrates ""the deeds of a warrior-saint in the cause of justice. ""All 18-year-old Roger Wing of Jackson, Mississippi, really wants is ""Jesus and Patsy Wingo's ass."" And he gets the latter by witnessing for the former in the only way he knows how--through the martial arts. No saint by design, he sets up his studio on the wrong side of town and finds himself thrust into a situation immune to the peace-loving wisdom of both Christ and the East, the racial turbulence of the 60's. Or, as Marcus Aurelius Gandy, the narrator, puts it, the time when ""the shit hit the fan,"" when ""one turd after another stood up and sprayed himself all over the papers."" During the time of the novel, Marcus befriends his strange white neighbor and invites him into his equally hospitable family, headed by the wise Abe Lincoln Gandy, a man who's seen his share of grief and trouble. By the end of the novel, he and the ""honorary nigger"" in the black-belted white jacket discover a whole heap more to lament. For Roger, it begins with losing simple things: his weekly tumble in bed with his best student, a rich and bored belle; and his job as a special security-agent at Roger Tutwiler's band, where fear of race war is rampant. And it's the vision of just such a riot that leads to honest Abe's overwhelming sorrow--the death of his son T.J., who gets talked into a crackpot scheme to kill the racist governor during a game at Ole Miss. A long hot summer on ""the shitpile of creation,"" to be sure. Lots of fulminations and flapdoodle about everything from race and religion to ""titties"" and Deconstruction suggest the strained humor and immodest ambition often in evidence here.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1986
Publisher: August House