Mar 31, 2010

REVIEW The Flesh Statue

U.L. Harper

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (July 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440153221
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440153228
  • Source: copy from the author
  • My rating: 5/5

Tired of watching his ailing grandfather wither away from Alzheimer's, 19 year old Langley Jackson moves from his middle class home and subsequently struggles to survive in downtown Long Beach. Here he finds himself part of a social movement bent on destruction and retribution. Through all of this, Langley must decide on trying to subsist in a complicated and unlawful new world of graffiti and poetry or endure in a disheartening old one outlined by the death of his mother and his sick grandfather.
I'm so thrilled that the first book I'm to review after my self-imposed blog exile is one that I thoroughly enjoyed and loved so much. I have to be honest and admit that I didn't think it was something up my alley, but then again, I'm glad I had to eat my words on this one.

The Flesh Statue is a book about revolution, about poetry and about the city. Langley, a nineteen-year-old high-school drop out, abandons the (disrupted) safety and monotony of his suburban life and moves to downtown Long Beach. There he gets to know an interesting group of poets, witnesses police brutality, and gets acquainted with graffiti and destruction of private property as a very creative way of stimulating the economy. When he learns there is a group striving for revolution (or, I'd rather say, anarchy), he wonders if this could be the proper way to express himself and gets his message across. But the city has its own message to transmit, while Langley himself is not so sure about his.

I was captured by the great writing from the first page. It appeared very Hemingway-ish to me. U.L. Harper knows his characters, they are well crafted, down-to-earth, haunted by personal demons, deeply explored and fleshed out, but there is a slight emotional distance on the author's side. Some of the characters (Bert, Cinci, and Langley) are poets and there are several beautiful poems in there. To share but a fragment from one of Cinci's poems:

It's got its buildings,
and its people,
its hate and its love.

It also has opportunity, nourishing this 
creative heart.

At some point, the mind deals with the soul
and says, it's okay, it's okay...

Somewhere around the middle of the novel, when all the revolution talk and destruction started, I grew suspicious. This is not the book I want to read and I took a step back, and begged inside, please, don't let it take this direction. But when the revolution exploded, I recognized the purpose of it and the message-and so did Langley. The Flesh Statue is a book about inner revolution, expanding your limits, finding an outlet for your furry and desperation, a coming-of-age-and-reason novel. It will make you experience a whole range of emotions-repulsion, sadness, excitement, pain, sorrow. It has one of the best scenes of drinking I've ever read. What's so funny about three guys getting wasted on cheep beer, you might ask, but that scene, regardless of how ugly it turns out to be later, was hilarious.

To sum up-a wonderful debut and a book of deep social significance, it's a book I've been constantly talking about to people, raving about how much I love it and sharing quotes on Facebook day after day.  The Flesh Statue provided me with that certain feeling for which I read in first place-the thrill, satisfaction and elation of reading a good book.

To read more about U.L. Harper, visit the official The Flesh Statue website. The story of how it came to this novel being written is remarkable. I also plan to have him over for a little chat soon.

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