The saying goes that when you assume, you make an ass of u and me. Well call me Minaj because the theories I had prior to reading Teju Cole’s “Open City” and Ben Ryder Howe’s “My Korean Deli” were wrong and ended up blowing my whole head.
Reading Cole’s “Open City” was kind of like giving someone the black person head nod, and the other person staring back at you like you’re crazy. That’s basically what I felt in struggling to finish this book. I bought the novel as an act of solidarity, because he is a young black writer writing about young black experiences. Now, I won’t stop supporting writers in general and young black ones in particular, but I will keep it real if the work is not engaging. I didn’t recognize myself (or people I know) in the story.
“City” is Cole’s first novel, and details the daily life of Julius, a Nigerian-German psychiatry student in his last year of residency in a New York hospital. The story follows him as he wanders Manhattan and thinks. Cole’s prose is beautiful and reflective and the book is incredibly written. However, the minimal plot and Julius’ general douchiness (a symptom of his privileges – male, socioeconomic, doctoral) left me not really caring about anything happening in the protagonist’s life. Like at all. I don’t care that he walked down to Wall Street to reflect, I don’t care that he hates his white mother, and I don’t care that he goes to Belgium and screws a cougar. I had literary constipation, because I literally did not give a give a shit. Continue reading