Review: Andre Williams – “Sweets and Other Stories” (Kicks Books)

And now we come to the subject of “Outsider Literature”, which subject I had hitherto never considered.  However, I hesitate to apply said sobriquet to this fine new outing from Mr. Williams, because the whole idea behind outsider art is that the artists have had no prior training in their chosen medium, and it could in no wise be implied that Andre Williams is not an experienced writer.  His legendary musical bona fides need not be recounted here; suffice to say Williams is one of those giants whose garments the rest of us feebly aspire to brush with our grimy mitts.

 

In this, Williams’ first literary work, he recounts the tales of two female protagonists (the eponymous Sweets, and another, unnamed heroine) from the Chicago neighbourhoods where he has spent the majority of his adult life.  Williams’ prose is dense, almost claustrophobic at times in its depiction of prostitutes, dealers, and other south-side hustlers out to make that fabled ‘Big Score’.  His deeply urban prosody was left largely intact by the editors, and so the work bears the unmistakable stamp of a truly unique literary voice.

 

Let’s be straight here: this ain’t no “East Of Eden”, but a solid and compelling story takes this book pretty far on its own merits.  Some of you also know that I am an aquaintance of Andre Williams; indeed, we’ve worked together several times in the past, but regular readers will know that I pull no punches here; if I didn’t like this book, you would know.  Anyway:

 

Fans of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines will find themselves right at home in the pages of ‘Sweets’: a headlong run through a gritty underworld written with the intimate veritas of someone who has most definitely lived there.  A bit expensive for its size (US$12.95 for 103 pages), ‘Sweets and Other Stories’ is nonetheless a worthwhile read and an excellent debut.  A+, y’all.

 

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