Magazine article World Literature Today

Love Is Power, or Something like That

Magazine article World Literature Today

Love Is Power, or Something like That

Article excerpt

A. Igoni Barrett. Love Is Power, or Something Like That. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Graywolf. 2013. isbn 9781555976408

The final words of Nigerian author A. Igoni Barrett's debut collection of short stories are "love does not mean marriage, a baby, forever. Love means you make me happy until you don't." How readers react to such sentiments may determine how they regard this book. The egoism, cruelty, and cynicism expressed here fittingly bring to a close a book that strives to capture an edgy, dangerous, volatile society struggling under corruption and, frequently, disregard for the well-being of other people. Barrett interjects violence throughout his stories-a boy hurls a stone into the head of a "madwoman," a police officer remembers breaking his wife's arm in a drunken rage, armed thugs prepare to rape and murder members of a family. Whether such acts are prevalent in Lagos (the setting of most of the stories), Barrett could do more to convey why he wants to write about them. Too frequently his stories lack self-reflection or insight into what makes his characters act the way they do. After the narrator of a story has sex with a woman introduced to him by Babasegun, a recent acquaintance, he remarks that the woman "was everything I wanted-especially with the knowledge that the first time was the last. My only regret was that I couldn't chat about it afterward with Babasegun over a cold bottle of Trophy." Barrett's narrative technique offers no alternative to this callous, exploitative perspective; the reason for representing such a dispiriting point of view remains unclear. …

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