“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Review: The Street by Ann Petry And Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Ann Petry
The Street is a novel written by Ann Petry in 1946. When first published the book was widely read and sold a million copies. It is an American classic that tells the story of Lutie Johnson, a loner, a mother, and thoughtful African American woman reaching for the American dream from a poverty stricken Harlem neighborhood.

Chapter one describes 116th in Harlem, as cold, discouraging, and strewn with garbage. (1-2) Some readers might ask why Lutie chooses to live in such a desolate and gloomy place. Lutie and her son Bub move to escape the negative influence of her alcoholic father and his drunken girlfriend after being forced to move in with them following the breakup of her marriage. Unfortunately, she cannot afford to live anywhere else.  Her income from her job as a file clerk is barely enough to cover her rent and other bills and so it is Lutie verses the street.
The omniscient narrator allows the reader to see how Lutie’s life came to be through her many, many thoughts about her granny, father, neighbors, employers, and the people who try to take advantage of her. Some of those people fit both into both categories.
For example, Lutie’s father tells she and her husband Jim about the income from foster children which allows them to keep their house, but the father also causes them to lose the foster children because he moves in her house and gives wild parties. Jim cannot find a job. Lutie then has to go and work in Connecticut for the rich white Chandlers as a maid. She listens to and believes the Chandler’s talk about how working hard and being self-sufficient helps people get ahead.  Mind you, the Chandlers inherit and marry their wealth and have friends to help them out when they need it. 

Lutie tries to emulate what they say they believe, but Lutie does not seem to have any friends, and you know she has no money.  She turns to whoever she can for help and things turn out… well, the novel has a sad ending, that is all I am saying.  You won't be able to put it down because you will care about what happens to Lutie and Bub.  Read it for yourself and you will see. 

Michael Crichton
After reading The Street I needed something lighter and comical to think about. I turned to Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes, his last book published after his death in 2008. I miss him.

Pirate Latitudes is about English pirates or privateers on Jamaica in 1665. They steal from the Spanish who controlled most of the Caribbean at that time. There is so much ridiculous violence and sex in this book that even I laughed, and I am usually sensitive to that sort of thing. This book was taken off of his computer and no one is really sure what he wanted to do with it, because they could not ask him, because he was dead. It is different from Crichton’s earlier writing as it is impetuous and ribald entertainment.  Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Sphere, and The Andromeda Strain were about the serious subjects of nature and science.  Pirate Latitudes is a very quick and pleasant read. I recommend it if you like adventure, suspense or just want to have a good time.

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