Fresh and exciting
by bookboy on June 19, 2007The stories in ZZ Packer's Drinking Coffee Elsewhere brims with rich, wonderful prose and incredibly interesting characters. There's a bleakness to Packer's stories in a Flannery O'Connor-ish sort of way. Characters sometimes find themselves in depressing situations with endings that leave it open to the question: What happens next? That's the only problem I found with many of the stories in this collection. They're all good but feel as if they're missing something. I'm not quite sure what the "something" is but with many of the stories, Speaking In Tongues or Geese for example, it feels like something more should be there. Something meatier, if you will. Not to say that all the stories are like that. Brownies is by far the standout here with one of the best surprise twists I've encountered in a short story in a long time. I also enjoyed The Ant of the Self. Even though the main character allows his father to walk all over him, if you read carefully you can understand why.
This is an excellent collection of contemporary black fiction by an immensely talented writer. Packer eschews the girlfriend/black-men-are-no-good mentality of a lot of comtemporary black writers like McMillan and shies away from profound and cerebral writing like Walker or Morrison. Packer's tell-it-like-it-is writing skills are admirable yet sometimes come across as diamonds in the rough. I anxiously look forwards to her first full length novel. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere along with Parks' Getting Mother's Body are two shining examples of new comtemporary black fiction which makes me excited about the future of black writing and has motivated me to get some of my own black fiction out there as well.
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