Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Alien Worlds

The New York Times this week is carrying the first chapter of Tony D'Souza's new novel, Whiteman. What I like about this one is that in the space of 2,000 words D'Souza manages put his protagonist right smack in the midst of a world far more alien than anything you'll find in a month of Star Trek novelizations:
"She rolled her eyes from the weight of the load and planted her hands on her hips, which were wrapped in a wildly colored bolt of cloth depicting cellular phones. The cloth was a pagne celebrating the arrival of Nokia to our stretch of West Africa two weeks ago, and many women in Séguéla were wearing them, were tying their infants snugly onto their backs with them. Coups and guinea worm and female circumcision and HIV and mass graves in Abidjan full of the Muslim north's political youth, and the women had turned traditional dances all night around bonfires to celebrate the arrival of the cell phone. This was what West Africa was about: priorities."
They say your first novel is always an autobiography, which is why my first novel remains safely buried, but also explains why D'Souza, a former Peace Corps volunteer who spent three years living in West Africa, has written a novel about an employee of a fictitious international aid organization who lives in West Africa. For me this is probably a "library" book, not a "buy" book, as the extended description on D'Souza's site suggest that it starts out promising and then goes wandering off into romantic potboiler territory, but then again that may merely be Harcourt's marketing copy.

Anyone here already familiar with this book, or with anything else by Tony D'Souza?