Monthly Archives: January 2007

Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, by Alice Randall

 (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)

I kept Goddesses in Art way too long overdue from the library.  Not that it was that good…it was a basic overview with lots of good pictures…it served my purposes followed by a spin of buying and reading books about altering books.  I have fallen in love with altering books which I show at Seamless Skin, my other blog.  I’ve been nose deep into altering books since mid-December.

The current fiction is Pushkin and the Queen of Spades, by Alice Randall.  I purchased this book because I thought the author was a poet from Atlanta whose reading I attended many years ago at UofL and I wanted to see what she had to say in fiction.  But I was confused and after the book arrived I discovered my error.  Alice Randall was the author of The Wind Done Gone which caused controversy with the keepers of the estate of Margaret Mitchell.  The Wind Done Gone was either a book that readers hated or loved.  I enjoyed the book but was annoyed by the central character the way that I am with Windsor Armstrong, the central character of the current read.  Its like staying so long in the heads of people who are “getting it all out” (i.e. processing their life situations) and the reader is the psychologist trying to stay awake in a session in overtime and waiting for all the disparate stories and thoughts of his client to connect.

 Windsor is a Harvard educated scholar of Russian literature (specifically “Afro-Russianess” to use the character’s own words) born of parents who struggled and strived and thrived in Detroit’s gangster and hustler side of life.  Her son, Pushkin X., named after the Alexander Pushkin and Malcolm X, shunned the academic life that Windsor had planned for him, (a life that freed her from having to be completely defined by her past)  by becoming a professional football player who is a super star.  For Windsor, further insult comes from his plans to marry Tanya, a Russian lap dancer.  To complicate life even further for Windsor, Pushkin is the product of rape and is demanding to know the name of his biological father.

Windsor is a wonderful and complex character who combines her academic knowledge with Motown street-smarts.  She is examing her past for answers of how life has come to the point of what she feels is her son’s betrayal.  She is weighing her experiences as a mother and scholar and a Black Woman against the choices Pushkin, her son, is making for himself.   For this reason, my identification with the character is fairly strong in spite of my complaints thus far of the book. 

I’m into chapter 9, a little over 100 pages of 280 book and have stayed in the psyche of Windsor.  Even with the introduction of interesting background information about the people in her up-bringing, I still feel a little claustrophobic and stagnant having not gone outside of Windsor’s perspective.

Here is the author’s official web site:  http://www.alicerandall.com/

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