“So, what’s the problem?” We were sitting on the pier and watching our bobbers float around pointlessly, and Stan was in some kind of funk. He sighed and said he really hated keeping a secret from his wife. Then he sighed again and fell quiet, so I had to ask again, “And…?” Stan told me that that morning he’d found the seven of clubs laying under his recliner and realized the last three months of gin rummy with his wife were probably meaningless. He followed that horrendous admission with another sigh. I didn’t really know how to respond so I said, “Well…” and went back to watching the pair of fellows on the next pier catch another bass which had somehow eluded us. After a long beat Stan said the situation reminded him of a book he just read, and this time I sighed… in relief. I really didn’t want to get involved in Stan’s marital turmoil.
He went on to tell me about CROOK MANIFESTO which is the sequel to HARLEM SHUFFLE, the terrific book by Colson Whitehead, both of which tell the story of Ray Carney a hard-working son of a crook, who owns his own business and dabbles just enough on the wrong side of the law to help his wife and two kids live a slightly better life than the tough 1960’s and 70’s Harlem has to offer. Stan said the book is full of, not only beautiful cryptic dialog, but also has scenes in which what is left unsaid among the characters is understood because of their shared experience in a dangerous world.
He said what reminded him of his own situation is that this character, Carney, has to keep his less legal activities from his wife. He is, after all, seen as a success in their world – a businessman, a father, an occasional church-goer – and he is, in fact, a good man. But the combination of his upbringing, his relatives, and the demands of his neighborhood sometime require a suspect approach to life. If a nephew shows up with some jewelry of skeptical origin and needs someone more experienced in such things to “move it”, then so be it. The nephew needs protecting, and life has its demands.
I told him the book sounded interesting, and he suggested, that while CROOK MANIFESTO is, as they say, a stand-alone novel, I start with HARLEM SHUFFLE because it’s a very good read getting to know Ray and his surrounds.
I thanked Stan for the referral, and we watched the pair next door land another bass. Stan sighed again, and I said, “Pal, maybe you should just tell your wife you found the seven of clubs.” And he said, “Yeah… and maybe about that boat I just bought.”
If you know of a book Stan might like let THE BREEZE know at email@example.com