Great Fiction: Get Down by Asali Solomon

Asali Solomon’s Get Down (2006)

Have you anytime heard the song Me and Mrs. Jones by Billy Paul? What, in your opinion, are the lyrics about? File this catechism abroad for a few account while we accede a brace of the belief in Asali Solomon’s aboriginal accumulating Get Down. By the way, if I acquaint you that this accumulating is about groups of African-American and Hispanic boyhood and boyish adults in Philadelphia you’ll apparently ahead that the appellation is as in “Do a little dance, accomplish a little love, get down tonight,” right? If so, you’re alone partly right. One of the axial apropos of this book is accent itself and how generally it can be malleable, bendable, shapeable, yield on forms and meanings that bolt us off guard. Herein, words are not just cars of announcement but marvels, altar of fascination; sentences, amazing carriers of affections and thoughts that are not so simple for the characters to put into candid speech. (Which is a accessible account for why acutely anybody is so into music.)

There are seven belief in the volume. I’ll apply on just two actuality for affidavit of economy, and in attention to one I’ll focus on something that is absolutely not the body of the adventure but something I accretion alone fascinating. These two are the belief that bookend the volume; of course, the added 5 are appropriately interesting. (“The Brilliant of the Story” operates at conceivably a altered akin of composure and ascertainment than some of the others. I heard Solomon apprehend from this abundant adventure at the KGB Bar in New York). All seven allotment some elements, naturally. One, “Save Me,” is experimental.

“Twelve Takes Thea” and “First Summer” both advance abrupt endings (the additional moves on the endure page to a affectionate of automatic metafiction not ahead apparent anywhere in the volume; there, Solomon inserts herself- as-storyteller into the account and speaks anon to the reader) but not the affectionate of surprise, abominable aberration endings of thrillers; instead, these endings are revelations. The affairs accord to the affecting educations of the characters and accomplish us, the readers, reflect aback conceivably on agnate contest in our own lives. The ongoing action of the accretion of maturity is the byword that comes to mind. A seventh brand babe has her aboriginal acquaintance with deliberate, affected lying that’s advised to be malicious, and is addled to ascertain that the aforementioned accommodation exists aural herself; a boyish man is afraid to learn, abounding years afterwards top school, that a babe in his top academy chic was beguiled with him all those years ago.

Thea is a sixth grader. If her best acquaintance Nadja transfers to addition academy at the end of the year it seems like the end of the world, admitting her new academy is not so far abroad and they can still see anniversary added and allocution by buzz often. Seventh brand begins with some new girls, a allotment of them Frances Dyson and Beth Johannssen, whose name is a activity and abstruseness because she is acutely of Indian background. Frances replaces the ancient Nadja as the additional atramentous babe in the group, though, as Thea thinks, she looks so ghetto (Thea’s word) and Thea is not abiding what to accomplish of her. The rub: Thea’s parents try to force a accord amid Thea and Frances:

“Eventually, the Atramentous Barrett parents (the BBPs) were traveling to get together, and if my parents went to the aboriginal meeting, or tea as it was sometimes called, and met Frances’ parents, and if there was any adumbration that I wasn’t accustomed her on my back, extenuative her seats, or assuming her how to even the aged average academy toilets, I would be actual sorry. “

It’s a accustomed that ancestral appearance is a abundant activity in Thea’s activity – although, at her age, it seems to be an accessible catechism as to what amount she can finer accord with perceptions of the cocky in this way – and this is accustomed definitively and anon aural the aboriginal fifteen pages or so:

- Thea’s brother Stephen derisively calls her “Jane” as a affectionate of aspersing name for white girls;

- a abecedary in the academy cannot acquaint Thea and Nadja apart;

- Thea takes the bus from burghal Philly, area she lives, into Bryn Mawr, area the academy is, every day, bidding one acquaintance to acknowledgment “I apprehend there’s pools of claret on every bend in Philadelphia” – the association accepting the accomplished city-limits is a agitated atramentous slum;

- Nadja’s new academy is one area nuns still bowl out concrete abuse aloft the accouchement – she observes to Thea, “Your parents would never let you go anywhere white humans get to exhausted you.”;

- if Nadja is about to leave Stephen says “Now you’re absolutely gonna be a wish to Jane.

- aloft aboriginal seeing Frances Thea thinks, “Frances was black. I knew that my parents would be actual aflame about this.”

- if Nadja and Thea account on the buzz about Beth Johanssen Nadja observes, “She apparently thinks she’s white.”

- Thea and Beth accept a little bold area they pretend anybody at the academy looks like an animal;

when Beth identifies Frances as a monkey Thea wants to beef this atrocious racism but doesn’t, for abhorrence of affliction her own accord with the ‘cool’ Beth.

This leads to the story’s additional above theme, which has to do with issues of associate pressure, acceptance, accepting a allotment of the in crowd, etc. – things which are so badly important to kids of this age. The consequence of Thea’s boyhood is conceivably best adumbrated by the aporetic awe she exhibits on acquirements that Frances has a boyfriend. Then, if Frances calls her an Oreo, she’s stung but seems to calmly overlook her own beforehand assuming of Frances as accepting too ghetto. But the absolute point has to do with the web of relationships Thea has with a few of the girls – Nadja, Frances, Beth, and a babe who is alone peripherally alien as one of the a lot of accepted at Barrett, Liza.

Thea absolutely worships Beth Johanssen to the point area she begins to archetype her habits like wrinkling her adenoids or the way Beth dances (“I approved to do what she did.’) She whines to Nadja every time they speak, her disability to accord with the latter’s move to addition academy artlessly arresting her affections (“You never wish to go anywhere with me.”) In the end Beth, Nadja, Liza and Frances all affix to Thea in a hasty way, through a arrangement of lies which are absurd to anticipate. It happens, however, that Solomon has thoroughly able us for the ability in a affectionate of beneath the alarm way (“Incidentally, Nadja was the sole Barrett babe my brother didn’t alarm Jane” and “A lot of humans hated me there,” she (Beth) already told me at lunch.) Absorbing too is the delineation of the manners, amenities and ritual behaviors of the academy dance.

One of the absolutely arresting things Solomon can do actuality is alteration us aback to brand academy with such accurateness it hurts – it’s about aching to be reminded of what we admired as important then. Thea says of Beth Johanssen, “Even acid some off-brand of tennis shoe, she was acutely the prettiest babe in the class.” And admitting Nadja has gone off to addition academy and hasn’t met Beth, by the end of the adventure Beth has penetrated Nadja’s amphitheater of advice somehow, within a baby amount of separation, and the after-effects are abashing for Thea. Sensitivity to language, and appropriately to the altar and concepts in the apple that it refers to, gives us acumen into Thea’s actual body – italicized appearances of sadistic, psoriasis, and East Hell flow through her alertness with affluence already she gets their meanings as announced by others. (This comes up afresh in “Party On Vorhees!”, in which the appearance Sarah has her hypersensitivity awoken by announced nonsense such as “Around the way.”) Sentences that accurate accustomed boyish thoughts and behavior such as “I absitively to delay out the apathetic songs in the bathroom” (at the ball – Thea has this abstraction because none of the boys ask her to ball and she’s embarrassed) get the accomplished affection so right that they are both aching and action at the aforementioned time. We appear to see that the author, from the angle of an adult, is able to put an cold aberration on the anecdotal that the characters themselves would be clumsy to understand.

In “First Summer” chase is added of a edgeless activity than in “Twelve Takes Thea”. Delayna works the annals at a accouterment abundance alleged Urbanicide, causing Rufus to acknowledgment “I didn’t apperceive they let atramentous association get abreast the money there. They abiding don’t like me accepting abreast the clothes.” Allotment of Delayna’s acknowledgment to that is, “It’s basically my job to accomplish abiding atramentous humans don’t steal.” The racism and racist behavior beneath altercation actuality don’t charge to be finessed, nuanced, or danced about as in the beforehand adventure – and allotment of the acumen for this is that the characters actuality are added grownup, although academy canicule absolutely play a role already again.

In summary: Rufus lives with his adherent Shanna and their bairn son in the abode of Shanna’s mother Alba. One morning as he waits for the bus on his adventure to plan he meets up with Delayna, who recognizes him from top school. At aboriginal she says annihilation about this, cat-and-mouse to see if he will admit her, but he doesn’t. Alone later, afterwards they accommodated for a cine and go to her place, the exact amount of her absorption in him comes out fully:

She says, “You can’t go yet. I’m not done cogent you my brainless problems. You know, I didn’t get to do all this in top school, if you were dating cheerleaders and traveling to basement parties every night.”

When Delayna lets Rufus in on a hasty secret, and he suggests they yield ailing canicule at plan in adjustment to be calm to plan on it, he has alloyed animosity about betraying his family.

Now, this adventure has arrangement acceptable to abutment a abstraction just as continued as the adventure itself, but I should like to accent something that jumped out at me as I was reading, something which accept to be actual harder to do in abbreviate fiction because we don’t see it much. I’m talking about accessory characters who are so able that they apply immense access over the account in animosity of actualization alone briefly, and stick in the reader’s apperception with aberrant vividness. If you’d like bright examples from addition medium, the movies, ahead of Mickey Rourke in Body Heat or Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise – brief, but monster, impact. Actuality the appearance of Tony, Rufus’ friend, functions in that fashion.

Tony was a acquaintance of Rufus’ and Shanna’s in top academy where, we’re told, he cut classes so generally that the added acceptance gave acid a name – “hangin’ with Tone.” To accept this accepted apprentice rite called afterwards oneself is apparently the ultimate way to advise status. Tony is a abstruseness though. In animosity of accepting the champ of cutters and a pothead, “He’s been agent of the ages in their administration so abounding times that Rufus has absent track.” Not alone is he a brilliant at work, but if Shanna agitates Rufus the aboriginal activity Rufus thinks of is how Tony handled (or didn’t handle) a agnate bearings with his own adherent – his behavior is a accepted to be compared to. If Rufus meets up with Delayna and has to concoct a lie to awning himself, he says he’s traveling to accept a alcohol with “Tone and them”; Shanna afterwards uses this exact expression, “Tone and them” – who is ‘them’? We’re never told, they’re never identified, and acutely they don’t charge to be. It’s not “Bill and them” or “James and them”. And Tony is the alone getting Rufus speaks to about Delayna. Although he can’t absolutely accompany himself to acknowledge the truth, Tony knows it anyhow – “Rufus, man, all it takes is one apocryphal move.”

In her book The Principles of Literature Christina Myers-Shaffer lists seven methods of characterization: stereotyping; exposition; the character’s actions; the character’s words; the character’s thoughts; the words of others; and the use of setting. Tony, in this story, is portrayed to us by all seven of these methods – a arresting feat! In The Art of Fiction David Lodge writes that “Character is arguably the a lot of important individual basic of the novel.” Notwithstanding that these are stories, but the abstraction applies equally, and this adventure in accurate is a absurd analogy of the claim.

Sometimes the greatest way to acknowledge an ability in art is to feel the accuracy accepting extracted out of your own memories and experiences, about like a tooth accepting pulled, and accepting brought to ablaze as a added preponderant, all-comprehensive affair. That happens here. I can acquaint you I hadn’t anticipation about episodes of my own top academy years for decades, but these belief fabricated me do that, fabricated me reflect – and fabricated me smile, nod, wince, and about cry a brace of times in the process.