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Mike reviews: Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley

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  • Mike reviews: Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley

    I'm seriously thinking I don't want to review for The Guardian any more, after they cut today's review of Fortunate Son. Here's their version:

    When worlds collide

    Michael Moorcock enjoys Walter Mosley's masterful dissection of present-day America, Fortunate Son

    Saturday August 12, 2006
    The Guardian


    Buy Fortunate Son at the Guardian bookshop

    Fortunate Son
    by Walter Mosley
    320pp, Serpents Tail, £11.99
    More than any other contemporary novelist, Walter Mosley's work affects the reader on an immediate, visceral level. His anger is as infectious as his humanity. In his urban adventure stories featuring the unwilling sleuth Easy Rawlins and his friend Mouse, Mosley has plotted the history of black life in Los Angeles from shortly after the second world war (Devil in a Blue Dress) to the present. His metaphysical fantasies, such as The Wave, are strongly reminiscent of Charles Williams, while in literary novels such as RL's Dream and The Man in My Basement and non-fiction such as Workin' on the Chain Gang he writes relentlessly on the subject of race, individual conscience and the American dichotomy.
    Article continues
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    Mosley's latest literary novel develops an earlier American tradition represented by the likes of Sinclair Lewis, with its emphasis on social injustice and the great gulf between the American dream and American actuality. In prose soaked in the rich warmth of an east Texas bayou, he tells a story as gripping as Dickens, instantly drawing us into contrasted worlds. Like Dickens, Mosley stands confidently on the social borderline. His lucid style resists sentimentality while constantly offering fresh insights into the mind-set of complex characters, drawn from a wide spectrum of American race and class. Moving between worlds, gathering information, testing ideas, he presents a wealthy, emotionally bewildered white doctor as convincingly as a poor, angry black mechanic. Apparent stereotypes, such as his high school campus queen, become complete individuals. Both furious and forgiving, he assumes our common awareness of social injustice and concentrates instead on what we might have missed. And on the strength of this remarkable book alone, his best to date, Mosley must be considered one of our great novelists.
    Fortunate Son has a plot worthy of any great Victorian novel: it involves two boys who early on bond as loving brothers, one a sickly black kid with his roots in the ghetto and the other a sturdy white boy from a distinctly upper-class background. Tommy is a "bubble" baby, unlikely to survive, watched over in the hospital by his single mother Branwyn. Understanding her to be alone, Minas Nolan, a recently widowed doctor at the hospital, offers her a lift home one night. The relationship between the black working-class woman and the white upper-class doctor deepens and they become lovers. In the face of criticism from her own people, knowing this to be Tommy's best chance of gaining health, Branwyn moves in with the doctor. Owing her son's life to Nolan, she loves him but can't bring herself to marry him; the chemistry between herself and Tommy's father, which she resists, underlines the fact that she does not feel the same passion for the white man whose own young son, Eric, is a lusty, bawling, brawling golden boy.
    What the adults bring to their relationship is reflected in the qualities the two sons bring to theirs. Tommy is sensitive, observant and imaginative; Eric is athletic, aggressive, extrovert. Both receive the benefits of the doctor's wealth and social position until catastrophe throws Tommy back into the ghetto in the uncertain keeping of his father. From then on the two boys, while continuing to recall and even yearn for each other, are separated and experience utterly different lives. Imaginative, artistic Tommy sustains himself on the street as a drug-dealer before he is 10 years old, while extrovert Eric shines as a high school hero, admired by his friends, lusted after by the prom queen.
    Bullied, shot up, imprisoned, raped, the visionary Tommy barely survives a brutal, horribly violent childhood, becoming a street bum. Eric's career is smooth, brilliant, mundane, conventional, with problems of conscience rather than survival, his ride on the golden escalator only interrupted when he has to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Yet both boys are complicated, motherless, somehow certain that they bring bad luck, even death, to those they love. They carry psychic and spiritual burdens which they cannot easily express and keep to themselves, as if airing them will bring worse disaster to those close to them. In avoiding familiar temptations, they fall prey to less obvious ones. How their lives move apart and eventually come together is the substance of a beautifully engineered story constantly asking which of the boys is actually the "fortunate son". &#183; Michael Moorcock's latest book is The Vengeance of Rome (Cape)

    And here's my version (the main changes are in bold):

    CRYING OUT LOUD

    Fortunate Son
    Walter Mosley
    Serpents Tail &#163;11.99
    320 pp.




    MORE THAN that of any other contemporary novelist Walter Mosley’s work affects the reader on an immediate, visceral level. His anger is as infectious as his humanity. In his urban adventure stories, featuring the unwilling sleuth Easy Rawlings and his friend Mouse, Mosley has plotted the history of black life in Los Angeles from shortly after the second world war (Devil in a Blue Dress) to the present. His metaphysical fantasies, such The Wave, are strongly reminiscent of Charles Williams while in literary novels like RL’s Dream and The Man in my Basement and non-fiction like Workin’ on the Chain Gang he writes relentlessly on the subject of race, individual conscience and the American dichotomy.
    With the possible exception of Don Delillo, Mosley offers a depth and seriousness which shames the efforts of more fashionable novelists like Roth or Updike. Mosley chiefly identifies with the black underclass which moved from Louisiana and Texas in the 1940s to take manufacturing jobs in Los Angeles as white men were called to the war. They came to inhabit the suburbs of Watts and Compton, which to those of us not familiar with the pointers of wealth and privilege in America, seem considerably more attractive than the ghettoes of Houston and New Orleans but where, in the 1960s, riots occurred advertising an anger most recently expressed in the vertical slums on the outskirts of Paris and are the background of his urban adventure Little Scarlet.
    Mosley’s latest literary novel is again true to his themes of race, class and power, developing perhaps an earlier American tradition, represented by the likes of Sinclair Lewis, with its emphasis on social injustice and the great gulf between the American dream and American actuality. In prose echoing the rich warmth of an East Texas bayou, he tells a story as gripping as Dickens, instantly drawing us in to contrasted worlds. By page three of Fortunate Son I was already on an emotional roller coaster, helplessly involved in the lives of its characters. Like Dickens, Mosley stands confidentally on the social borderline. Avoiding the obvious, his lucid style resists sentimentality while constantly offering fresh insights into the mind-set of complex characters, drawn from a wide spectrum of American race and class. Moving constantly between worlds, gathering information, testing ideas, he presents a wealthy, emotionally bewildered white doctor as convincingly as a poor, angry black mechanic. Apparent stereotypes, like his high school campus queen, become complete individuals. Both furious and forgiving, he assumes our common awareness of social injustice and concentrates instead on what we might have missed.
    On the strength of this remarkable book alone, his best to date, Mosley must be considered one of our great novelists.
    Fortunate Son has a plot worthy of any great Victorianinvolving two boys who early on bond as loving brothers, one a sickly black kid with his roots in the ghetto and the othera sturdy white boy from distinctly upper class background. Tommy is a ‘bubble’ baby, unlikely to survive, watched over in the hospital by his single mother Branwyn. Understanding her to be alone, Minas Nolan, a recently widowed doctor at the hospital, offers a lift home one night. The relationship between the black working class woman and the white upper class doctor deepens and they become lovers. Against criticism from her own people, knowing this to be Tommy’s best chance of gaining health, Branwyn moves in with the doctor. Owing her son’s life to Nolan, she loves him but can’t bring herself to marry him because the chemistry between herself and Tommy’s father, which she resists, underlines the fact that she does not feel the same passion for the white man whose own young son, Eric, is a lusty, bawling, brawling golden boy.
    What the adults bring to their own relationship is reflected in the qualities thetwo sons bring to theirs. The boys become mutually supportive. Tommy is sensitive, observant and imaginative. Eric is athletic, aggressive, extrovert. Both receive the benefits of the doctor’s wealth and social position until catastrophe throws Tommy back into the ghetto in the uncertain keeping of his father and his father’s mistress. From then on the two boys, while continuing to recall and even yearn for each other, are seperated and experience utterly different lives. Imaginative. artistic Tommy sustains himself on the street as a drug-dealer before he is ten years old, while extrovert Eric shines as a high school hero, admired by his male friends, lusted after by the popular and pretty prom queen..
    Bullied, shot up, imprisoned, raped, the visionary Tommy barely survives a brutal, horribly violent childhood, becoming a street bum. Eric’s career is smooth, brilliant, mundane, conventional, with problems of conscience rather than survival, his ride on the golden escalator only interrupted when he has to marry his pregnant girlfriend. Yet both boys are complicated, motherless, somehow certain that they bring bad luck, even death to those they love. They carry psychic and spiritual burdens which they cannot easily express and keep to themselves, as if airing them will bring worse disaster to those they love. In avoiding familiar temptations, they fall prey to less obvious ones. How their lives move apart and eventually come together is the substance of a beautifully engineered story constantly asking which of the boys is actually the ‘fortunate son’.
    Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 08-12-2006, 12:18 PM.

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  • #2
    What can happen to you if your text is changed to a point that it could be construed by someone as deflammation of character Mike? Can you be found liable and be facing lawsuits or does the responsibility fall back on the editor/publisher?

    Comment


    • #3
      Few book reviews, which are usually just an expression of opinion and the taste of the reviewer, could come into the defamation area, I think. (And here I've cut my earlier remarks, which aren't really appropriate but among other things grumbled about D.J.Taylor's lazy reviewing, as I saw it, of a couple of my books).
      Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 08-12-2006, 12:21 PM.

      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
      The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
      Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


      Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
      The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
      Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

      Comment


      • #4
        It's also the third review that they've printed this year with the title "When worlds collide".

        Comment


        • #5
          Another cut here. Sorry, pards, but I regret what I think was a fairly unprofessional outburst about the arrogance of some reviewers and editors.The arrogance of editors has always astonished me. It was one of the reasons I tried to edit with more respect when I did New Worlds. In some ways it spoiled some of our writers for the 'real' world. I must say neither The Telegraph nor The Spectator, nor The London Magazine, for whom I also review, have behaved like that.
          Last edited by Michael Moorcock; 08-12-2006, 12:23 PM.

          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
          The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
          Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


          Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
          The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
          Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

          Comment


          • #6
            By the way, Miqque, I think the Pyat books, which are essentially one novel, one continuing immediately on from the previous book, are best read in order. As you know, I hardly ever suggest that this is necessary, but in Pyat's case it's probably not an especially good idea to start, as it were, in the middle. If you have trouble getting Byzantium, let me know.

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
            Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

            Comment


            • #7
              Mike,have you checked whether Taylor's review for "The Vengeance of Rome" wasn't edited badly,too?I mean,since you have realised Guardian is unreliable in editing book reviews.
              Crap,and I thought Guardian was quite good.I used to buy it years ago in order to practice my English.

              Wouldn't it be better if these posts were transfered to a new topic?Berry?David?Anyone?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Heiron
                Wouldn't it be better if these posts were transfered to a new topic?Berry?David?Anyone?
                Indeed. I was thinking that we should have a sub-forum for Mike's reviews, etc. in the Q&A, since it will help people find them more quickly than might otherwise be the case. It's the same reason why we have a sub-forum for obituary threads - if people are going to take the time and effort to post a few thoughts on someone whose passed away it seems a shame for them to be subsumed amidst all the other threads that get started.
                Last edited by David Mosley; 08-12-2006, 01:33 PM.
                _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Good idea, David. I'd earlier said how I didn't like Taylor's review of Vengeance of Rome. It wasn't cut to distort the argument, as far as I know. Anyone interested can find it at the Guardian website. I felt a bit pissed off with myself, using this Q&A to air a grievance, so hope readers won't mind that I've removed most of the complaint!

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Mike,


                    Please know that I,for one,would like to hear any grievance that you might have and any other thoughts that are on your mind.



                    -Lemec

                    "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
                    - Michael Moorcock

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Mike Wrote
                      I felt a bit pissed off with myself, using this Q&A to air a grievance, so hope readers won't mind that I've removed most of the complaint!
                      I appreciate being able to semi-understand what you have to deal with on a professional level. Thanks for sharing your original views with us. We all look up to you Mike and anything that you feel comfortable sharing here is a bonus for us all.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'd like to chime in here regarding the Q&A thing.

                        I would rather see Mike's reviews and etc. appear in his blog.

                        Mike, do you have any desire to write pieces for your own blog? Would you like to learn how to use your blog here? We can point you to simple documentation that would teach you how to do it. It's just a slightly different purpose between posting stuff here, and creating a blog article. You'd use the Q&A to communicate with everyone in your usual manner, but you'd publish reviews and etc. in your blog, and talk about them in the Q&A.
                        Infinite complexity according to simple rules.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thanks for sharing. I suspect the cut had more to do with space than content--even worse! I remember once asking Robert Fripp to write a review of Critical Synoptics. He responded, "What? Fripp write a review?" I looked through his condescension and took his meaning, and I looked in the mirror and decided I wasn't going to write any more reviews--and so I stopped at review #15. Anything might be more useful: As Wittgenstien said, he often thought he should devote his life to something more useful than teaching philosophy at Cambridge, like standing at a railroad crossing raising and lowering the gate as the trains went by. I don't mean to sound cynical, but rather advancing a goofy response to the above.
                          Last edited by nalpak retrac; 08-12-2006, 07:13 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
                            . . . one of the reasons I tried to edit with more respect when I did New Worlds.
                            PX is fortunate to have Perdix and LSN for editors, who certainly perpetuate threads of this philosophy.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I know it was done for reasons of space, Carter. My argument is that they used to tell you if something was too long and ask you go modify it, not just whack away at an argument. In both the East End piece and the Mosley piece there were social observations made which were in my view important to the piece. I could have cut it -- I've been a professional journalist all my life -- but I didn't want someone who didn't really know about the book cutting it. The review now suggests, for instance, that I seem to think Mosley's from East Texas and my interest in Mosley is precisely because he does map the background to Watts and Compton and how those particular black suburbs came to exist.
                              A blog would be too tempting, Reinart. Especially at the moment when I have so many deadlines to meet and a flakey computer to meet them on.
                              I try to keep up with the Q&A for the most part -- that is, answering readers' questions -- but don't have a LOT of time for rambling. When I DO ramble, I'm usually too tired and my judgement is poor.

                              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                              The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                              Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                              Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                              The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                              Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

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