The Gentleman Recommends: Kiese Laymon

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2017 by Chris

Kiese Laymon is the author of “Long Division,” a novel, and “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America,” which is either a collection of essays or one of the more ghastly and unnecessary do-it-yourself books ever published. Due to time constraints, I’m unable to determine which. (Editor’s Note: It is a collection of essays.)

His essays have been published all over the internet. I encourage you to query his name in your internet search bar and read some of the results.

Book Cover: Long DivisionI also recommend “Long Division.” It is a novel about a young man with a tremendous vocabulary and an even more impressive head of hair. Our well-coiffed narrator goes by City. Our story gets going during a “Can You Use That In A Sentence?” contest. The first word that City is asked to use in a sentence is one he rightfully finds offensive. He lays into the judges and America, and he becomes a YouTube sensation. He finds a book titled “Long Division” (no author name), and is disturbed to find that the narrator is named City and that one of the characters shares a name with a girl that went missing a few weeks prior. His uncle begins following him and filming him with a cellphone in preparation for a reality television show. His grandmother gives him a vicious spanking prior to preparing him a nice meal. He gets taunted and kicked in the back by some racists. His grandmother chains one of the racists up in a shed.

The City of 2013 reads “Long Division,” a novel narrated by a boy named City in 1985. 1985 City finds a hole in a forest that transports him to 2013, where he steals a laptop and a phone (or fancy calculator, as he perceives it), before returning to 1985, and then goes to 1964, and returns to 2013 to have his mind boggled by the enormity of both a television and the number of channels it offers. He also goes back to 1964 to fight the KKK. If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. It probably would have helped if I’d read it in one sitting, as it is a quick read and worthy of a one-sit reading experience, but recent weeks have found this gentleman distracted by, among other things, unruly butlers and pizza.

I am sure this is a funny, smart and strange novel that has a lot to say about race, human nature, vocabulary, young love and a sweet comb.