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by Jay Black

  Print book : Fiction  |  1st ed

59 of 65 people found this review helpful.
Simply a Racist Novel   (2009-07-25)


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by Nikos88

            John Richter is the unapologetic racist protagonist in this outwardly racist novella penned by Vancouverite Jay Black (a.k.a. The Blackbird). John Richter is an unemployed ex-military sharpshooter living in Vancouver, Canada. He is unable to secure work and his employment insurance benefits are coming to a quick and frugal end. Richter’s racism is apparent very early in the book. He blames his inability to find work on all non-Caucasians who take advantage of affirmative action-like programs and foolish political correctness. Richter vents his spleen on all persons of color. These characters can do no right regardless of their demeanor, actions or motivations; he hates them simply because their skin color is not white. Richter rails and rages against them all and blames them personally for his imagined sufferings. Richter is finally able to secure himself a job on Granville Island as an exterminator hired to shoot rats whose population has exploded due to a municipal garbage strike.

            It is early in the work that logic, theme, and rational argument become a casualty of immature and undeveloped writing. Jay Black’s “absurdist” disclaimer is merely a smokescreen for the irrational racism that this novella champions. Jay Black’s protagonist and storytelling is not in the least absurdist. John Richter moves through the novella with his own perverse rational motivation. The character is not staggered by the self-realization of the meaningless of an irrational universe where life has no purpose or meaning. He is consciously offended too readily to adhere to any kind of absurdist model.  Richter’s racist reactions therefore are puerile and predictable. When he goes to the corner grocery store, he berates the Chinese clerk for bagging his fruit with “filthy hands” and for not remembering his proclivities. Richter psychologically tortures a fellow worker and then kills him outright. When the police arrive, they accept Richter’s “accidental” shooting of the man with a mere wink and nudge. In his growing delusion, Richter convinces himself that he can make a bid for the Canadian Olympic shooting team and convinces himself that he can win a gold medal if he can shoot the elusive “mother of all rats” which he has named Oprah. As if the plot were not thin enough, it begins to tear like wet tracing paper.  The dialogue between the police and Richter is so unbelievable and unnatural that it is uncomfortable. The sexualizing of the queen rat, Oprah, is non sequitur and banal; it is used only to further the novella’s racist tack.

            It is unclear from where Richter’s hatred stems. Jay Black never states or implies this crucial insight. He imbues his character, John Richter, with an ego to help him move through the plot but this ego is as anemic as the author’s rationale. John Richter gets a job from a white executive with not so much as a background check. He is given the freedom to use a firearm in a public place from a white administrator. White police officers dismiss him as a good old boy after he murders a person of color. Who is getting the special treatment here? The obvious logical inconsistencies dash this plot against the literary rocks. In addition, the “suicide by cop” at the end of the story is as predictable and bland as turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving dinner.

            This novella lacks literary merit. It does not share any insights with the reader. It does not expose any literary richness. It does not expose any psychological observation. It is an immature racist rant written without imagination or craft. There is no sweet song from this Blackbird. The only redeeming quality for the reader and society is that this book is so poorly written that it is essentially unreadable.

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