The World Doesn’t Require You

Liveright: Norton. Aug. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9781631495380. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631495397. F
In this collection of 12 stories, Scott imagines the magical, disturbing world of Cross River, where aquatic female phantoms emerge from the river’s depths to seduce unsuspecting lovers to death beneath the waves. First seen in the prize-winning Insurrections, the town was reputedly founded by leaders of the country’s only successful slave revolt. In “David Sherman, the Last Son of God,” God is from Cross River. Not metaphorical God—actual, literal God. In this musically themed story, reminiscent of Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” two brothers must come to terms with themselves and with each other. “The Temple of Practical Arts” is a bizarre tale of a music cult that comes to a violent end. There are a couple of send-ups of academia: in “The Nigger Knockers,” two goofy academics, in the guise of researchers, pound on random doors, then run and hide and observe the puzzled, sometimes angry reactions. Academics at odds with political correctness will appreciate the ironic tone of “Special Topics in Loneliness Studies,” a novella in the form of a college course that documents one professor’s disastrous exercise in self-pity. Like Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “Special Topics” mocks the studied literary analysis of academe with both seriousness and humor.
VERDICT In a narrative playing fast and loose with grammatical convention, Scott offers a strongly developed sense of place that, fantastical though it may be, is evocative of Anderson and Faulkner. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/19.]
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