Philip Lewis Life of Death

ISBN 13: 9780932511751

Life of Death

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9780932511751: Life of Death
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Life of Death is a potent, poisonous powerhouse of rage, desperation, and desire laced with maniacal comedy. In one long delirious outburst, narrator Louie Phillips takes aim at life in a crumbling suburb of Washington, D.C., and skewers the bourgeois attitudes that keep him from succeeding as an artist. Phillips, living in a state of rock-bottom exasperation, plots to escape his parents and the education at a black college that he believes is designed to whiten him up.
Determined to make enough money to launch his European art career, Phillips accepts a job for low wages at the Dummheit Cafe, a branch of a worldwide corporation with investments in South Africa. There his co-workers' petty politics and hysterically erotic lifestyle ensnare him. Although he resents his exploitation, the need for money daily lures him back, and fear of his parents' and bosses' reprisals tempers any expression of his true feelings. Finally, when his mother steals the pittance he saved from his wages, he retaliates by swiping her jewelry and all the money from Dummheit's safe and fleeing to Istanbul.
Life of Death creates a stunning narration of a young black man's initiation into adult life and the American workplace. It is a remarkable debut from a writer unafraid of exploding the comforting myths masquerading as contemporary American culture.

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About the Author:

Philip Lewis was born in Atlanta in 1967. He attended Howard University in between living in Egypt, learning to write and taking various restaurant and office jobs. He has most recently been spotted in Berlin, Athens, Syria, Romania, Turkey, Holland and the Dominican Republic; he has recently completed a second novel.

Review:

"Rapes of Wrath," by James Hannaham In Claude Brown's The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger, a friend of the title character describes a novel he intends to write consisting of six or seven hundred pages, each emblazoned with the phrase "KISS MY BLACK ASS." He would make the rounds of the college lecture circuit, he goes on to say, and explain it to all those white academics who would want to know what it really means.Philip Lewis, writing his incendiary first novel, Life of Death, must have had the same idea, but with only 253 pages at his disposal, he decided to write this instruction twice per page, in boldface. Not literally, unfortunately, but with a narrative so abrasive, outrageous and violent that it can only have been meant satirically. "People, in America, when they said this, will automatically call for its destruction," declares thinly disguised author stand-in/protagonist Louie Phillips at the onset. "To them, it will be an object of....evil....thrown together by some psycho nigger." Phillips parents, a part-time whore and an addle-brained syphilitic, don't support his artistic leanings. His mother beats him for drawing at an early age and later destroys any artwork she finds in his room. He decides to leave home. In preparation for his departure, he opens a bank account and takes an ax to the living room. But before he can escape, his parents, who never figure out that he's the one responsible for the mayhem, decide he should go to college and major in business. He drops out. Desperate to find work after fleeing Coon State University, Phillips goes against all principles by taking a job washing dishes at a D.C.-area resturant chain called the Dummheit Cafe, "a staunchly conservative organization which did big business in South Africa." The cruel and unusual bosses are white, while the dishwashers, busboys, and cashiers are Black, Asian, or Hispanic. Though Phillips is an artist, the book is framed as the expose he intends to write. No one's particularly human in Life of Death, though. Lewis's relentlessly cynical vision paints the multiracial Dummheit patrons as a self-indulgent pack of bourgeois pigs, the white managers as loud-mouthed, thickheaded goons who run a drug cartel, the women cashiers and waitresses, especially when Hispanic, as cartoonish, insatiable supervixens, and men, including Phillips, as sex-hungry psychotics. Lewis does has an eye for the complete lack of empowerment at the core of many Black American experiences. The Dummheit captures the worst working-for-the-man nightmares any overworked, underpaid, unappreciated brother or sister could have. The epithets fly as fast as the dishes hurled at coworkers, all the characters rabid to put down anyone different from themselves. The book offers only one faint hope, which is quickly dashed--Phillips plans to flee the country, but he can't get it together because his mother raids his bank account. Phillips loses his potential value as a sympathetic character fairly early on in the novel. He's just as unredeemable as his coworkers, eavesdropping from a broom closet on the following after-hours scene, unwilling to rescue the victim: "His dick is in full erection, pointing up at her--'I'm gonna rape your spick ass, okay? SUCK IT! SUCK IT NOW!'....He jumps wildly on her broken arm....gets over her and plows it right in, ripping one of the lips....'Do you like it, you fuckin taco twat?!'....He just kept whacking away at her corpse and shoved the fucking thing in a plastic bag, which he pissed in....and threw it in the elevator." What's most shocking about Lewis' novel is not the content of these scenes--he's already prepared us for potential reverse peristalsis--but that they attempt to function as satire. Lewis seems to know satire's words, but not its music. Unable to dig deep enough to find humor at its natural source, the depths of despair, he substitutes pure bitterness for what should be cruel humor, arriving at a gruesome approximation, not unlike a tasteless soy cheescake. By preventing any character from emerging except as a repellent stereotype, Lewis sabotages a potentially sharp, visceral critique, alienating even readers who might agree in principle with his nihilistic attitude. And, tragically, he makes his book's politics easier to dismiss as a result. -- James Hannaham, Village Voice, November 30, 1993

Seemingly a post-apocalypic accord is recorded in the first published book of Philip Lewis, Life of Death, where his Dummheit Cafe becomes an operational theater to illustrate that the pathology afoot in this society is not confined to any single patient. Indeed, the madness has taken pandemic proportions. With racial epithets throughout the text, rape a tolerable event, chaos and despair a usual part of the work ethic, the Dummheit Cafe is shown as the real metaphor for American life. The juxtaposition of this novel with the supposedly sane, purportedly sober side of America raises many questions on just what is "normalcy." How the downtrodden and disenfranchised--in many cases being disproportionately African-American, urban, Asian, Latino, and working class--are used as scapegoats for the ills of this society is marvelously documented. Laced with "street wisdom," critical insight, and philosophy born of experiences beyond the brutality and utter disgust on many pages of Life of Death, there is a keen sensitivity and a conscious choice not to become part of the nightmare of conformity. This disturbing novel, with flashes of eroticism and violence, forces the question of its readers--just what is the factor called "Life" anyway? -- Kwaku O. Kushindana, Small Press, Winter 1994

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Book Description Northwestern University Press, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Life of Death is a potent, poisonous powerhouse of rage, desperation, and desire laced with maniacal comedy. In one long delirious outburst, narrator Louie Phillips takes aim at life in a crumbling suburb of Washington, D.C., and skewers the bourgeois attitudes that keep him from succeeding as an artist. Phillips, living in a state of rock-bottom exasperation, plots to escape his parents and the education at a black college that he believes is designed to whiten him termined to make enough money to launch his European art career, Phillips accepts a job for low wages at the Dummheit Cafe, a branch of a worldwide corporation with investments in South Africa. There his co-workers' petty politics and hysterically erotic lifestyle ensnare him. Although he resents his exploitation, the need for money daily lures him back, and fear of his parents' and bosses' reprisals tempers any expression of his true feelings. Finally, when his mother steals the pittance he saved from his wages, he retaliates by swiping her jewelry and all the money from Dummheit's safe and fleeing to Istanbul.Life of Death creates a stunning narration of a young black man's initiation into adult life and the American workplace. It is a remarkable debut from a writer unafraid of exploding the comforting myths masquerading as contemporary American culture. Seller Inventory # BTE9780932511751

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Book Description Northwestern University Press, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Life of Death is a potent, poisonous powerhouse of rage, desperation, and desire laced with maniacal comedy. In one long delirious outburst, narrator Louie Phillips takes aim at life in a crumbling suburb of Washington, D.C., and skewers the bourgeois attitudes that keep him from succeeding as an artist. Phillips, living in a state of rock-bottom exasperation, plots to escape his parents and the education at a black college that he believes is designed to whiten him termined to make enough money to launch his European art career, Phillips accepts a job for low wages at the Dummheit Cafe, a branch of a worldwide corporation with investments in South Africa. There his co-workers' petty politics and hysterically erotic lifestyle ensnare him. Although he resents his exploitation, the need for money daily lures him back, and fear of his parents' and bosses' reprisals tempers any expression of his true feelings. Finally, when his mother steals the pittance he saved from his wages, he retaliates by swiping her jewelry and all the money from Dummheit's safe and fleeing to Istanbul.Life of Death creates a stunning narration of a young black man's initiation into adult life and the American workplace. It is a remarkable debut from a writer unafraid of exploding the comforting myths masquerading as contemporary American culture. Seller Inventory # AAN9780932511751

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Book Description Northwestern University Press, United States, 2006. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Life of Death is a potent, poisonous powerhouse of rage, desperation, and desire laced with maniacal comedy. In one long delirious outburst, narrator Louie Phillips takes aim at life in a crumbling suburb of Washington, D.C., and skewers the bourgeois attitudes that keep him from succeeding as an artist. Phillips, living in a state of rock-bottom exasperation, plots to escape his parents and the education at a black college that he believes is designed to whiten him termined to make enough money to launch his European art career, Phillips accepts a job for low wages at the Dummheit Cafe, a branch of a worldwide corporation with investments in South Africa. There his co-workers' petty politics and hysterically erotic lifestyle ensnare him. Although he resents his exploitation, the need for money daily lures him back, and fear of his parents' and bosses' reprisals tempers any expression of his true feelings. Finally, when his mother steals the pittance he saved from his wages, he retaliates by swiping her jewelry and all the money from Dummheit's safe and fleeing to Istanbul.Life of Death creates a stunning narration of a young black man's initiation into adult life and the American workplace. It is a remarkable debut from a writer unafraid of exploding the comforting myths masquerading as contemporary American culture. Seller Inventory # AAN9780932511751

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