Author: Errol Mc Donald
Publisher : LMH Bookpublishing (Jamaica)
Reviewer: Oren O. Cousins
This Novel gives a rare and radically exciting bird’s eye view of “runnings” in the underworld. Susan Adjelolo , a lovely Jamaica girl from rural Greenville, goes to Kingston Town to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. ( This reminds us of Jimmy Cliff in “The Harder They Come,” Jamaica’s first full length movie, but ‘Legitimate Resistance” is far more complex and sensitive ). As usually happen to many country girls who go to town , Susan seeks shelter with her aunt in the ghetto. She meets with Silver , a handsome gangster, and they fall in love.
The process of Legitimate Resistance takes the reader through the inner cities of Kingston to the seamy sites of New York and London. The story begins with an introduction to the GR’s (Ghost Riders) and a glimpse of life in a inner city “yard” where love-hate- and- violence lurks between those who live in adversity. Almost at once, the reader begins to experience a writer who exercises no restraints , no inhibitions nor bonds and boundaries, to his descriptive and narrative skill. He makes no bones about his attention to detail.
The GR’s are men on the wrong side of the law. They are commanded by Click, an ex-soldier who believes he is destined to establish a new order. Silver is one of Click’s lieutenants. He is considered the ‘baddest’ of the GR’s. Click and his men see themselves as “freedom fighters” bent on overturning the status quo. “We are the guardians a di people,” Their point of view is that their lawless deeds are acts of legitimate resistance to what they considered to be oppression by the authorities. We a go establish an impenetrable and indomitable empire dedicated to the upliftment of poor people and the advancement of the cause of justice and the true development of the human spirit,” Click declared. Police Inspector Fata , representing the forces of law and order, does not think the resistance is legitimate, but an unlawful threat to law and order, “They are preparing a military offensive against the government,” he reports to a meeting of high ranking officers. “ Dem is no ordinary criminal”. Fata does not know that he is marked for early death in a failed assault against the GR’s .
Chapter 3 creates an insight into how organized crime operates in Jamaica—extortion, protection, rape , executions, retaliation, drugs being the criminals’ forte. Author Mc. Donald does not hesitate to throw the reader into the maelstrom of violence in his novel, thus setting a rapid and turbulent pace for the narrative. Page 32, points, without sublety, to the tendency of present day newsmen to “glorify dons” and to glamourize the sensational. Pinstripe’s funeral is a glowingly described as a “ gala affair”..
The revolutionary mood of General Click urges the reader to proceed with urgent curiosity towards the denouement. ‘Yu know sey a madman sey mi destined to lead a popular uprising in Jamaica?” he declares to his henchmen. (P. 33).
The Revolution theme, though revolting most of the times, must not be taken seriously. It appears in the first instance, to be a display of Mc. Donald’s skill of superb, dramatic narrative and descriptive writing. Secondly ,it serves as an engine or vehicle for driving the phantasma of the narrative forward, creating horror, anxiety, suspense, toward climaxing as the violent creation of a social, political and economic Utopia.
Chapter 20, does not give the feeling that all is fiction, as it seems too close to what obtains in Jamaica today. It appears too much like a newsman’s report of an actual situation. It is a bit discomforting.
CAREER AND ROMANCE
Susan is growing in popularity with her very first song, “Sugar, Sugar”. “Every minute dem play y yu song pon radi,” Byron said. Chapter 23 puts the spotlight on Susan. Anywhere Susan performed, the crowds were frenzied. Susan’s musical career and her conflicts of the heart, biographically and idyllically penned, is a welcome relief to the otherwise stark harshness and callousness Mc. Donald shows remarkable skill in developing his plot, often contrasting turbulence against calm, without appearing to do so.
“Touted as an international sensation , Susan’s success grew at an astounding rate. She loves Silver and her son , Judah. She wishes for a change in Silver’s modos operandi . She wants to find a way to spend the rest of their life peacefully together. Did the change take place? Silver undergoes change, but Susan is disappointed , because his idea of change is to discard his former activities and to engage in “legitimate business” which is really a front or cover for massive trafficking in marijuana. In the meantime, he buys Susan a house. He demonstrates that there is good in the worst of us. In setting up himself as a “legitimate businessman”, he continues to live in his ghetto where he is esteemed as a philanthropist and a “super-hero”. Will the change in him that Susan wants occur? One needs to read the novel to determine if she achieved her wish.
The passage of Susan’s career and romantic conflict appears into the limelight again in with the same tempo and by no means less intense. She falls in love with Michael Levy , her manager, but does not want to desert Silver who adores her. Conflict of the heart tends to be salacious and appeals as suspenseful and exciting . But Mc Donald does not go overboard with , nor does he downplay Susan’s romantic turmoil. He is in control of this theme of love, and he leisurely moves toward a happy resolution.
HUMOUR AND PATHOS
There are rare flashes of humour as the story progresses , The Story of The Chimpanzees, for instance. Pathos is cleverly interwoven into the fabric of the story, evoking the vibrant humanity of Susan , her capacity for love, and revealing a “soft spot in the hard core of Silver’s disposition. Love does magical things to the toughest of hearts, “He wanted to pour out all his feelings to her”. (P.131) Silver’s profession of love for Susan is of lyrical and idyllic proportions. Yu know Susan ,you are my home. …You are where my sun rises in the morning and burns throughout the whole live-long day to set again in the evening”
McDonalds’s character sketches are bold, his analyses of emotion are deeply etched. He paints with broad , bold and bright strokes of the brush. He does not confine himself to the exterior appearances of his characters. He delves masterly into their minds and souls. He wrote of Silver, “His pains and emotions were private and hidden in a far and secret place in himself that only he was allowed to visit”.
McDonald’s liberated style tends to inadvertently hit one in the stomach, kick one in the butt, sock one in the eye , horrify , then deliberately and mischievously turns to titillate with anxiety and suspense. It is thoughtful and thought provocative.
“LEGITIMATE RESISTANCE” bears a message .that a government in a civil society owes a duty to the people it governs to see to their common welfare.
CENSORSHIP BY THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The University of The West Indies has refused to stock this novel in its campus bookshops, without giving a cause for censorship.
Is UWI prudish enough to object to the graphical treatment of sexuality in this novel, when the sex is displayed daily on television, on the internet , in advertisement s and pornographic magazines?
Is UWI revolted by the scant sprinkling of old colonial “forty shillings’ expletives here and there in this novel? Orlando Patterson ‘s “Sons of Sisyphus” was not banned from the campus. Was it?
Is it that this novel, being a work of fiction seems to stick too close to realities? A novel is a microcosm . . It observes how a selected group (the characters) representing the whole universally, act or interact under a selected set of circumstances.
Does UWI censorship sees the development of the revolution in “Legitimate Resistance” as a blueprint for subversiveness or civil disobedience? The theme of revolution suffers from McDonald’s superb craftsmanship. He has succeeded in making it look less like fiction and more like reality. But the theme must not be viewed with a myopic of jaundiced eye. It is merely fiction in which McDonald becomes over-exuberant towards the climax, probably hyperventilated and exploded into wild fantasy and drama. No one can truly deny that it is not effective writing. But UWI need not be paranoid about this novel. . The Jamaica psyche would not accommodate Click’s Utopia. There would be tremendous and sustained counter- resistance assisted by outside forces , if need be. I am not comfortable, either, with the glorification of marijuana as the elixir to fuel the engine of change, to remedy the ills of society and to improve the condition of life among the poor.
The modern novel , however, must be a mirror or reflection of truth. Realism must be an essential component of the modern novel , if creative fiction is to secure and sustain credibility in reflecting what is and what could be or could not be. Legitimate Resistance is a masterful work . Doubtlessly those innocents whose virtue UWI futilely sets out to protect by censorship, will take a peek and go for it without parental guidance. It is not precisely a PG13 novel or X-rated. It is simply great adult reading. The poignant history of Susan from “rags to riches”, by hard work and ambition legitimately, is enough to make this novel delightful reading.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Errol McDonald was born in St. Mary , Jamaica in 1959. A poet and song –writer and musician, he currently resides in Tanzania with his wife and children. He is a member of the Chakula reggae band. He is a graduate of Jamaica College(JC) and the State University of New York at Stonybrook.
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