Few writers drop n- and f-bombs as provocatively as Marlon James does in his second novel, The Book of Night Women. The book’s subject matter largely justifies it: Set on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the start of the 19th century, the novel follows one teenage slave, Lilith, and her increasing entanglement in the lives of both her white owners and her fellow female slaves as they plan a revolt. In James’ reckoning, slave culture opens up a whole universe of debased instincts; his depictions of (many) murders, whippings, and rapes are so detailed and lurid that Lilith’s sexual relationship with an overseer practically qualifies as a love story. As disturbing as the book’s imagery may be, it’s clear James believes that being polite would be worse, and the patois he uses underscores that sense—the book’s staccato style amplifies every abuse and resists every effort to prettify the hellishness of that place and time.
JAMES DISCUSSES AND SIGNS COPIES OF HIS WORK AT 12:30 P.M. AT BORDERS, 1801 K ST. NW. FREE. (202) 466-4999.