RIDING THE DEMON

ON THE ROAD IN WEST AFRICA

The raw cultural, political, and economic vitality of West Africa is sought by newcomer Chilson upon Niger’s lawless, hair-raising, fickle, murderous—in a word, insane—roads. A freelance rural transportation network props up West Africa’s economies. It is overburdened but vital, hideous and intimate, punishing, equalizing, indispensable. It is the bush taxi. Chilson, who spent a couple of Peace Corps years in Niger during the 1980s, returned in 1992 to tap into the bush taxi culture, one that endures in a nation of perpetual upheaval as a “metaphor for Africa’s fight for stability and prosperity.” It is also the driver’s chance to experience a dollop of freedom and power on roads that are seemingly alive and restless, potentially cruel and violent, and critical expressions of Niger’s visceral and spiritual nexus. The cars are the ultimate beaters, little more than mechanical prayers, and the roads are deadly venues, a 100-mile-per-hour free-for-all, where passing on blind curves is a sport and a challenge, and predatory soldiers man roadblocks so common you can see the next from the last. It’s not just fun and games though; for Chilson, the roads are “bowls of human soup, microscope slides of society,” that afford a glimpse into a world where misfortune is as often as not the work of demons, where out-of-body venturing and hallucinations are, if not common, elemental, and where powerful forces are ready to smite wrongdoers, a valuable containing force in a place gripped by male angst, venality, and religious fervor. Chilson’s Virgil is road-savvy Issoufou, a bush cabbie with enough pride in his culture to invite Chilson to take a good look after he has opened doors otherwise locked to outsiders—to marabouts, the contraband trade, a life lived sur la pointe. If Issoufou offered Chilson “a buffet spread of a nation’s economy and politics,” Chilson in turns offers it to us, seen through the dark and scary glass of the road.

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8203-2036-6

Page Count: 211

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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