Monday, September 12, 2005

The lyrical and ironic tone of Phillips' narrative voice may owe something to the prose of W.E.B. DuBois--who finished writing The Souls of Black Folk in February 1903, at just the moment Dancing in the Dark begins. The novel reads like a gloss on DuBois' theme of "double consciousness" in African-American life.

The black artist's challenge, wrote DuBois, was to escape "this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity" and "to merge his double self into a better and truer self."

It is hard to recognize that effort in the antics of Williams and Walker. (DuBois himself would have shuddered at the spectacle.) But this elegant, painful novel finally gives them the honor their audience never did.

-- From Scott McLemee's review of Caryl Phillips's new novel, Dancing in the Dark.

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