Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Monday, October 24, 2005

trip master monkey (kingston), stagolee shot billy (brown)

A while ago i read Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior(1976) and basically loved it and only wished that it had been about something more relevant to my own life as a white guy. The writing was superb and i wanted to check out more by her. So Michelle kindly picked me up her (Maxine's) 1989 book Tripmaster Monkey: his fake book. Which basically wow what a let-down. I should have known from the antagonistic and opaque title that the book itself would be antagonistic and opaque.

Who's that guy who was the first to write a novel and then throw all the pages in the air and recompose them in random order ? Capote ? Well, let's say it the deserialization of a book. There are certain books which are untransformed by deserialization: that is, each page pretty much can come between any two other pages without changing the overall structure or feel. The last Tom Robbins book i tried to read definitely fell into this category. I think it was Jitterbug Perfume.

Anyhow: Tripmaster Monkey is homomorphic under deserialization. I can't for the life of me tell the difference between any two pages. Granted this is after reading only about 40 pages (Chapter one and a few other pages). But i really tried. I really wanted to have another wonderful Kingston to read, but when i closed in in exasperation for the fourth time, i figured i'd had enough.

Instead, i am stealing Stagolee Shot Billy from our living room. I think it's Kai's. By Cecil Brown, it's a history of the famous eponymous song, and looks to be pretty interesting. Apparently the basic facts of the most common version (Stagolee shot Billy over a five-dollar stetson hat) are pretty much totally rooted in an actual, court-documented event in St. Louis, circa 1895. Brown analyzes how various versions of the song contain elements of race struggle, class struggle, law-enforcement struggle, etc. How white folk coopted the figure of Stagolee (The original Stagolee's name was "Lee Shelton", nicknamed "Stack Lee") into* a white man, not the black man he was. And i'm not sure what else. It looks pretty interesting. 228 pages before the footnotes and such.

* "coopted into" ? is that okay ?


  • yah, i was bummed too.
    have you read it ?

    the stagolee book is pretty rad tho.

    sometimes i think he's like attributing all culture of all types to the song stagolee, but occasional hyperboles aside, i'm loving it with both hands.

    By Blogger good old o, at 1:08 PM  

  • Judging by how many copies of the Kingston book we have at my bookstore that have never sold (and are signed in hardback for 8$, I was afraid it might suck). But see how good I am, I didn't even say boo when you said you wanted to read it!

    By the way I am now incorperating the phase "loving it with both hands" into my everyday vocabulary. You are so cool!

    By Blogger The Sensualist, at 2:57 PM  

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