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Middle passage
Johnson, Charles Richard
Adult Fiction JOHNSON

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A savage parable of the black experience in America, Johnson's picaresque novel begins in 1830 when Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed Illinois slave eking out a living as a petty thief in New Orleans, hops aboard a square-rigger to evade the prim Boston schoolteacher who wants to marry him. But the Republic , no riverboat, turns out to be a slave clipper bound for Africa. Calhoun, a witty narrator conversant with the works of Chaucer and Beethoven and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, hates himself for acting as henchman to the ship's captain, a dwarfish, philosophizing tyrant. Before the rowdy, drunken crew can spring a mutiny, African slaves recently taken on board stage a successful revolt. Blending confessional, ship's log and adventure, the narrative interweaves a disquisition on slavery, poverty, race relations and an African worldview at odds with Western materialism. In luxuriant, intoxicating prose Johnson ( The Sorcerer's Apprentice ) makes the agonized past a prism looking onto a tense present. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

This out-of-the-ordinary adventure yarn describes the harrowing experiences of one Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave who wanders to New Orleans from rural Illinois in 1830. He becomes entangled with Isadora, a prim, devout schoolmarm with her eyes set on marriage. To escape this fate, Calhoun ships out on a leaky vessel that turns out to be an illegal slave ship under the direction of deformed, perverted Captain Falcon. The horrors of the voyage are chronicled in grotesque detail in Calhoun's journal, and his outlook on life undergoes a radical alteration as a result of the trip. A colorful, imaginative tale that strains credibility, particularly at the end, but succeeds as entertainment.-- Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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