I took few quotes from A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James—perhaps because taking quotes was like “taking bleeding chunks” from Wagner: the beauty is in the whole. But I did take some quotes, and—as must always the case—they say more about me than about the book or the author.
Below the quotes is what I wrote about the book on Goodreads.
This is ghetto. Reason is for rich people. We have madness.
Death is the scariest monster, scarier than anything you dream up as a pickney and you can feel it like a demon, swallowing you slow, big mouth swallowing your toes first and the toes go cold, then the feet and the feet go cold, then the knee, then the thigh, then the waist, and the little boy grab me shirt and bawling no, no, no, it coming up on me, no, no, no . . . and he grab you hard, harder than he ever gripped anything because maybe if he put all the strength, all the will in just those ten fingers on a living thing, maybe he can hold on to life.
Book is for wisdom. Also for foolishness.
How you go from saving life to taking life? Doctor Love say doctors take life too, hombre. Every fucking day.
When you come into the real truth about yourself, you realize that the only person equipped to handle it is you.
As small as America’s dick is, those limeys will stretch across the Atlantic to suck it.
Some jealousy sure, but every woman have that in them.
This is something I’ve picked up from American women, this trying to read every single thing a man does as containing a secret message for me.
I never think about the fucking past. That shit will fuck you up and you can’t fuck it back.
I swear if doctors would get out the way nurses could get on with actually healing people.
My comment on Goodreads:
Towards the end of this long book Marlon James tells the story of an Irish writer who saw somebody on a train reading his book. “Are you enjoying it?” he asked. The answer, in James’s words was, “Some of it but other times it’s a slog.” He said how this made the day of the Irish writer. I couldn’t help thinking that this is the main reaction that James expects to his book: some of it, much of it, is brilliant, but it is a slog.
Most of it (or so it seemed) is written in Jamaican patois, and James provides an answer to what whiteys think of that: “That Jamaican lingo. It’s so musical it’s like listening to Burning Spear and drinking coconut juice.”
The book is an extraordinary achievement, and I think of it as an achievement rather than enjoyable. It’s full of violence and sex, but the humour and the language make it all tolerable. (Although there is one scene from the crack house at the end that sticks uncomfortably in my mind—and that I can’t repeat. I wonder how long it will linger.)
The story of the attempted killing of Bob Marley and the sequelae is told in a complicated way through multiple voices, and towards the end of the book a group of gangsters are questioning, torturing, and killing a journalist who has written a seven-part story with the same title as the book in the New Yorker, James was, I think, imaging himself confronted by the gangsters he’d written about. Luckily they’re all safely dead.