WHITE BOYS by Reginald McKnight

WHITE BOYS

Stories
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Four stories and a novella, linked by their depictions of conflict, mostly racial, in a second collection from McKnight (after The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas, 1992). There's nothing particularly distinctive about McKnight's storytelling, though he tries for affect with first-person narratives. Still, the voices here all sound alike, though two shorter pieces--``He Sleeps'' and ``Palm Wine''--do seem to be told by the same character. Both concern an African-American researcher in Senegal who's collecting proverbs for his dissertation in folklore. In the first, he finds himself dreaming fecund narratives that reflect both the sexual mess he left back home and the torrid lovemaking he overhears in the next room. His retellings, though, are deflated by his native guide, who reminds him that dreams mean only one thing--you're asleep. The narrator's increasing frustration with the Senegalese leads to a lot of bad vibes (and defeats any sense of Roots-y solidarity). In the latter story, his quest for the legendary native elixir leaves the teller where he began: queasy, suspicious, and angry. The slangier narrators of ``The More I Like Flies'' and ``Boot'' complain about life stateside. The first is told by a young black civil servant who works in the Air Force Academy kitchen and resents his co-workers for their lack of sympathy and, once, their racial commentaries. Race matters less in ``Boot,'' about hierarchical conflict in the military and the narrator's regret that he sided with a whiny complainer rather than with his D.I. The long title piece explores interracial life on an Air Force base in Louisiana, where a bootstraps-and-stern-minded African-American family moves next to a white family whose racial attitudes are far more confused than anyone realizes, including a legacy of miscegenation, lust, do- gooderism, and simple friendship, all coming out in twisted fashion. Cultural conflict and racial wounds: McKnight sounds few unusual notes in this competent if not compelling volume.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8050-4829-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1997




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