Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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Archive for February, 2019

Beaumont’s “Black Country”

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on February 23, 2019

We are eternal outsiders to a few things. We can see them, feel them, experience them, learn about them but they can never be ours however desirable, admirable and wholesome they are. Race, race relations and some products of culture appear to fit this situation. But men and women being what they are, make attempts to transcend these barriers with varied degrees of success. Beaumont’s short story “Black Country” is an engaging tale of this attempt at transcendence. The transcendence is at two levels: one at a white man’s attempt to get into the heart of Jazz music as part of a Jazz ensemble and the other through a marriage across races…

Spoof Collins (Ol Massuh) is the lead of an accomplished black Jazz group and into that comes Sonny Holmes – a white talented kid. It is the journey, confrontations, challenges of Sonny in moving from the periphery of the group to the center stage along with his attempt to declare and win his love of a black woman member of the group – Rose Ann – the core of the story.

What makes “Black Country” a great read is its atmospherics. Beaumont takes the readers – through a dazzling elliptical narrative – into the heart of Jazz without depending on any technical terms..Here is an example of that…

” Now like a scream, now like a laugh–now we’re swinging in the trees, now the white men are coming, now we’re in the boat and chains are hanging from our ankles and we’re rowing, rowing–_Spoof, what is it?_–now we’re sawing wood and picking cotton and serving up those cool cool drinks to the Colonel in his chair–Well, _blow_, man!–now we’re free, and we’re struttin’ down Lenox Avenue and State & Madison and Pirate’s Alley, laughing, crying–_Who said free?_–and we want to go back and we don’t want to go back–_Play it, Spoof! God, God, tell us all about it! Talk to us!_–and we’re sitting in a cellar with a comb wrapped up in paper, with a skin-barrel and a tinklebox–_Don’t stop, Spoof! Oh Lord, please don’t stop!_–and we’re making something, something, what is it? Is it jazz? Why, yes, Lord, it’s jazz. Thank you, sir, and thank you, sir, we finally got it, something that is _ours_,something great that belongs to us and to us alone, that we made and _that’s_ why it’s important, and _that’s_ what it’s all about… “

The second appealing aspect of the story is the narrative style. Beaumont brings a verbal energy and a pace that is deeply appealing and extremely satisfying. And lastly the story has a twist to it which is a trademark of Beaumont.

Black Country is one of the finest short stories written by a truly talented outsider and succeeds in transcending the barriers.

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