Monday, June 7, 2010

Fischer; Bishop

Last night I finished Rudolph Fischer's The Walls of Jericho, a satiric novel of the Harlem Renaissance. Fischer's lightly elevated prose perfectly captures the machinations and meanderings of the various characters involved therein, and his dialogue demonstrates a great ear for not just black speech but for individualized speech. The story revolves loosely around Joshua "Shine" Jones, who is overseeing a pair of at-each-other's-throats comedic types moving a pale-skinned black man into a white neighborhood when he espies a lovely young woman. It's not clear how exactly the various lives and lines of plot will connect, and Fischer doesn't push the narrative into too solid a form, allowing each scene to serve an internal function as well as gradually advance the larger story. The one faltering, to this reader, is that Fischer allows too much sentiment in the relationship between Shine and Linda; he's aiming to be humorous there as in other places, but it comes off as merely sincere, instead. Still, it's a fun novel with smart dialogue and great insights into a time and place that Fischer seems to know, even as he's writing, will soon be past. I may order Fischer's collected short stories; that's how much I liked this.

From Michael Bishop's collection At the City Limits of Faith (picked up at a used book store), I read the first story, "Beginnings." It concerns one of the theives crucified alongside Jesus; still alive, he sees Christ taken down from the cross, which recalls to him a telling encounter with the infant Jesus. The story is beautifully and strangely told, a tale about how our ends are prefigured in our beginnings. Bishop is a science fiction writer, for the most part, but he works outside the genre as well.

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