Well, so much for that

I’ve always been one to put down novels very fast. A few years ago I judged mostly on prose, sometimes plot. Now I judge on those and the author’s treatment of race as well. If a character of color is introduced in a stream of stereotypes, I won’t make it through the rest of the book. Here’s something from a recent novel featuring a female private eye:

The minute she steps out of the elevator, Maxine can hear Daytona Lorrain down the hall and through the door, set to high-dramatic option, abusing the office phone again. She tiptoes in about the time Daytona screams, “I’ll sign them muthafuckin papers then I’m outta here, you wanna be a dad, you take care of that whole shit,” and slams the phone down.

Uh, not a solid indication that the book is suffused with an awareness of racial justice, but I’ll give it another chance. After all, the narrator doesn’t say Daytona is Black. She could just be a mouthy white girl, which in the circumstances might actually be less distressing to read. That’s page 5. Then at the beginning of Chapter Three:

“Oh, Daytona. Whatever this is, I’m sorry.”

So it all comes plotzing forth, the usual emotional cash-flow statement, full of uncollected receivables and bad debts. Bottom line, “Do not, ever, associate with nobody from Jamaica the island, he thinks joint custody means who brought the ganja.”

“I was lucky with Horst,” Maxine reflects. “Weed never had any effect on him at all.”

“Figures, it’s all that white food y’all eat, white bread and that,” paraphrasing Jimi Hendrix, “mayonnaise! All in your brain—every one of y’all, terminally honky.”

I’m so close to being out of here. I scan down the page:

“That is the craziest crazy-white-chick story I have heard yet.”

I’m gone. The novel is Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon, and I guess I’ll never know how it ends.

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