Saturday, April 10, 2010

Black Cracker

Back in October of 2008 I blogged (is that a word?) about Josh Alan Friedman's incredible book Tell The Truth Until They Bleed (Coming Clean In The Dirty Business of Blues and Rock'n'Roll) (Backbeat Books, 2008), which if you haven't read, give yourself detention for a month. Anyway, I mentioned that I'd read Friedman's autobiographical novel Black Cracker, which had been passed along by a mutual friend as a computer file and which had not yet found publisher. Well, the brave souls at Wyatt Doyle Books have finally published Black Cracker, and I take it as my responsibility to hip you to its charms as I just don't think the N.Y. Times Sunday Book Review is going to feature it anytime soon. Friedman's memoir takes us back to Long Island, New York, 1962 where he and his brother (cartoonist Drew Friedman) are the only two white students left at South School, in Glen Cove, L.I., and here we find a cultural tell all that will leave you howling. There's an unforgettable cast of misanthropic tykes led by a kid called Bobo, who lives with his family in a shack on back road. Despite the family attempt at lynching young Josh, Bobo and Josh soon bond, and for the next few years Friedman experiences a cultural metamorphosis where once he leaves the confines of his suburban home, he becomes the black cracker of the title. Kind of pre-pubescent, anti-Johnny Otis if that makes any sense. In these peculiar times when "political correctness" fights it out with
Ann Coulter, while the rest of us keep our heads down, try and pretend that none of it matters, and avoid the tough questions (Does the president's wife straighten her hair? Why are the Little Rascals banned from TV? Why does all hip hop sound like "humpty dumpty sat on a wall"? Is Patti Smith really a Rock'n'Roll Nigger?), I simply can not recommend this book highly enough. It may or may not enlighten you about the dual nature of race relations in this country, but it will sure as hell make you laugh, shake your head, and maybe even think.
BTW Josh Alan Friedman's blog-- Black Cracker Online is well worth checking out, especially for his Josh' Lost New York features.

8 comments:

Donna Lethal said...
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Donna Lethal said...

I second that - get the book, I read it in two sittings. The tale of Bobo and Josh on Wonderama alone is worth it.

Joe Bonomo said...

Man I'm a fan of all of Josh's books. Can't wait to dig into this one.

J.D. King said...

"I simply can not recommend this book highly enough."

AMEN!

In a heartier decade (the 1960s, the 1970s) "Black Cracker" would've been published by Grove Press, or even a major. And it would've gotten a glowing review in the NYT Book Review.

It is the funniest thing I've ever read. But, importantly, much of that humor comes in truths revealed, large and small.

"Black Cracker" says a lot about the human condition. For instance, the chapter where the Wilshire brothers go to Detroit, a couple of Joad-like Appalachia hillbillies, looking for work, looking to help out in the war effort - and find themselves smack dab in the center of a race riot, one brother beaten to a pulp, the other brother beaten to death.

After that, the entire Clan Wilshire takes on a new depth. They're no longer simply hateful and laughable crackers. There's a story behind their story.

The cast of characters in this book... Drake O'Leary, Uncle Limpy...

I could go on and on...

Mavis Martini said...

I plan to order this book as a gift to myself in celebration Jayne Mansfield's birthday, April 19th. Wonderful review~!

cc22 said...
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Todd McGovern said...

I've read his other books and look forward to sitting down with this. St. Mark's Books hadn't heard of it/had no record of it, nor did Barnes&Noble. Will get it on Amazon, I guess.

Jim, Any idea where I might find it otherwise?

The Hound said...

"Jim, Any idea where I might find it otherwise?"

There's a link on Black Cracker Online to order it:

http://joshalanfriedman.blogspot.com/

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