Publisher:
Legba Books

Publication Date:
06/24/2024

Copyright Date:
N/A

ISBN:
9798990289901

Binding:
Paperback

U.S. SRP:
14.99

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A MEMORY OF FICTIONS (OR) JUST TIDDY-BOOM

By Leonce Gaiter

IR_Star-black
IR Rating:
4.4
A MEMORY OF FICTIONS (OR) JUST TIDDY-BOOM is a bold novel. Author Leonce Gaiter is willing to take chances with the structure of the book, leading to a refreshingly free-flowing narrative that shines new light on the African-American experience. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal, the prose is always thoroughly engrossing.
IR Approved
The coming-of-age tale of a struggling artist, from his roots in the African American middle class of the 1950s to the LA barrio in the Reagan era.

Leonce Gaiter’s A MEMORY OF FICTIONS (OR) JUST TIDDY-BOOM is a biographical tale charting the struggles of Jessie Vincent Grandier, young, gay, and Black. It is a free-flowing, poetic book that plays with the conventions of the novel. It has verse, the occasional image, diary entries, lyrics, and switched points of view. One moment the reader is in deep with young Jessie in college; the next, they are with Kurt Weill in a 1940s Los Angeles hotel room, thinking about Lotte Lenya. In between, there are snatches of text seemingly from outside of the main narrative: urgent, hip fiction with echoes of the jazz prosody of the Beat generation. It’s an exhilarating mix, and Gaiter is up to the task of riffing on a theme like an accomplished musician—sometimes stepping out of the linear narrative, but never so far that the reader loses their place. Everything, even the occasional graphic stars that dot the pages, is somehow contained within the orbit of the lead character’s aspirations: “He wanted something, wanted it more than his life—to be called an artist, and a great one.”

A MEMORY OF FICTIONS (OR) JUST TIDDY-BOOM seems based on the author’s own life. Both Gaiter and Grandier are itinerant army children with similar Harvard educations. Both went to Los Angeles and found jobs in television. The lead character is well drawn, with certain incidents having a ring of truth and veracity that, though not explicitly stated as such, seem drawn from fact. This bildungsroman (as the author describes it) very much reads as near-autobiography.

The narrative moves easily between childhood and adulthood. There are memories of family life: callbacks to crucial moments in Jessie’s youth and how they fed into his current psyche. Notably, his burgeoning sexuality is highlighted by the young man’s fixation on jockstrap and underwear models in the periodical Male, Inc., as well as the attention he pays to the heightened masculinity of the buddies seen in westerns and cop shows. Here, addressing his Blackness and his education: “It was one of the unspoken ‘can’t haves’ of his existence, passed down from generation to generation, like a birth defect. Him? At Harvard?”

Jessie has tried to be a writer. An artist. He wants to exist ethereally, like his mononymous heroes: Ellington, Bach, Pynchon, Mingus. These are names, the author writes, that “rang like church bells and hung in the air just as long.” As Jessie battles to find his place, to make some kind of mark, Gaiter has him struggling in the shadows of these artistic titans. Figures that almost terrify him with their power: “Immortals. Ghosts both more and less than men whose vaporous forms in sound and image would walk the earth until someone or something reduced it to rubble, who’d haunt the young and old as relentlessly as any ghoul in any horror show.”

A refreshing mix of the highbrow and lowbrow shows that the author is unafraid to mix references to great artists with a few fart gags. Angst and humor rub shoulders; there is both tenderness and brutality—a vibrant lust for life butting up against a strange longing for the permanence of death and the hope of immortality—and it all adds up to an enthralling, entertaining novel.

A MEMORY OF FICTIONS (OR) JUST TIDDY-BOOM is a bold novel. Author Leonce Gaiter is willing to take chances with the structure of the book, leading to a refreshingly free-flowing narrative that shines new light on the African-American experience. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal, the prose is always thoroughly engrossing.

~Kent Lane for IndieReader

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