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9780374528744

Mr. Potter: A Novel

Kincaid, Jamaica

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9780374528744: Mr. Potter: A Novel

The story of an ordinary man, his century, and his home: “Kincaid’s most poetic and affecting novel to date” (Robert Antoni, The Washington Post Book World)

Jamaica Kincaid’s first obssession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living along the roads that pass through the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side, and suppressed passion fills the air.
Ignoring the legacy of his father, a poor fisherman, and his mother, who committed suicide, Mr. Potter struggles to live at ease amid his surroundings: to purchase a car, to have girlfriends, and to shake off the encumbrance of his daughters—one of whom will return to Antigua after he dies and tell his story with equal measures of distance and sympathy.

In Mr. Potter, Kincaid breathes life into a figure unlike any other in contemporary fiction, an individual consciousness emerging gloriously out of an unexamined life.

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Review:

The refrain of Jamaica Kincaid's clear-sighted, poetic novel Mr. Potter is that reading and writing are incomparable prizes: it is literacy that separates us--not without pain--from the natural world. Kincaid's title character, a chauffeur, spends his life in the bright, unchanging sun of Antigua. Each day his father fruitlessly lowers his fishing pots and his net into the waters of the surrounding ocean, finally cursing God for his bad luck. These are ordinary men, as trapped and elevated by circumstance as any of us, except that without the split in consciousness that reading gives, they cannot see any context for what happens to them. Only the writer--and in this case the narrator, Mr. Potter's grown daughter, a true lover of words--can provide context for such characters, dipping back into history, stepping close to read the men's thoughts, drawing further away to take in politics and social movements. Kincaid's looping, deceptively simple style draws on the work of female modernists like Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein to stitch together the story of Mr. Potter. After a few stiff paragraphs at the opening, the effect is spellbinding. Readers familiar with Kincaid will recognize her preoccupation with family (as seen in My Brother) and her unsentimental assertion that in a world dominated by practical concerns, blood connections matter, even if love does not always follow the bloodline. --Regina Marler

From the Inside Flap:

Jamaica Kincaid?s first obsession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi driver who makes his living along the wide, open roads that pass the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side, and suppressed passion fills the air.

Misery infects the unstudied, slow pace of this island and of Mr. Potter?s days. As Kincaid?s narrative unfolds in linked vignettes, his story becomes the story of a vital, crippled community. Kincaid strings together a moving picture of Mr. Potter?s ancestors ? beginning with memories of his father, a poor fisherman, and his mother, who committed suicide ? and the outside world that presses in on his life, in the persons of his Lebanese employer and, later, a couple fleeing World War II. Within these surroundings, Mr. Potter struggles to live at ease: to purchase a car, to have girlfriends, to shake off the encumbrance of his daughters ? one of whom will return to Antigua after he dies ? to tell his story with equal measures of distance and sympathy.

In Mr. Potter, her most luminous, ambitious work to date, Kincaid breathes life into a figure unlike any in contemporary fiction, an individual consciousness emerging gloriously out of an unexamined life.

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