THE SONG OF THE MOLIMO by Jane Cutler

THE SONG OF THE MOLIMO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Cutler (Spaceman, 1997, etc.) recreates St. Louis's 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in all its grandeur for this incisive study in cultural parochialism. Harry Jones and Ota Benga arrive on the St. Louis train platform at the same time, both soon ending up under the wing of Harry's cousin Frederick, a junior member of the Exposition's Department of Anthropology whose racial views are decidedly more enlightened than those of his bombastic boss Michael T. Macdougal. Ota Benga is small of body but large of character, with a quick, humorous intelligence; watching him play a counting game and defuse potentially dangerous situations with the help of his molimo (a tall musical instrument), Harry gets plenty of chances to see how inane are Macdougal's pronouncements about the inferior intelligence and moral sense of Africans. Cutler, though falling prey to parochialism herself by referring to Ota Benga as a ""Pygmy"" even when the more accurate ""Mbuti"" would be appropriate, expands Harry's horizons in encounters with two other historical figures: brisk, brilliant photographer Jessie Beals, and enigmatic old Geronimo, an ""exhibit."" There is a plot line, but it's barely visible against the glittering, vividly rendered background; anyway, more absorbing are the lively characters and often amusing (not to say ironic) clash of cultures. Harry's re-examination of his preconceptions will invite readers to check their own.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0595528953
Page count: 179pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"