A young man reinvents himself as a professor to share his late father's wisdom at an unorthodox university, only to encounter fellow intellectuals who have insights into his father's hidden past. By the award-winning author of the Easy Rawlins mysteries. - (Baker & Taylor)
A young man reinvents himself as a professor to share his late father's wisdom at an unorthodox university, only to encounter fellow intellectuals who have insights into his father's hidden past. - (Baker & Taylor)
From the award-winning Walter Mosley comes a dazzling novel of ideas about the sexual and intellectual coming-of-age of an unusual man who goes by the name Woman - (Perseus Publishing)
A convention-defying novel by bestselling writer Walter Mosley, John Woman recounts the transformation of an unassuming boy named Cornelius Jones into John Woman, an unconventional history professor—while the legacy of a hideous crime lurks in the shadows.
At twelve years old, Cornelius, the son of an Italian-American woman and an older black man from Mississippi named Herman, secretly takes over his father’s job at a silent film theater in New York’s East Village. Five years later, as Herman lives out his last days, he shares his wisdom with his son, explaining that the person who controls the narrative of history controls their own fate. After his father dies and his mother disappears, Cornelius sets about reinventing himself—as Professor John Woman, a man who will spread Herman’s teachings into the classrooms of his unorthodox southwestern university and beyond. But there are other individuals who are attempting to influence the narrative of John Woman, and who might know something about the facts of his hidden past.
Engaging with some of the most provocative ideas of recent intellectual history, John Woman is a compulsively readable, deliciously unexpected novel about the way we tell stories, and whether the stories we tell have the power to change the world. - (Pgw)
One evening Herman stopped his son in the middle of The Confessions of Saint Augustine
and said, “This is the power of the world, boy. The memory of an unattainable paradise where everything is predictable and outwardly control-lable. It is all that we are; history, memory. It is what happened, or what we decide on believing has happened. It is yesterday and a million years ago. It is today but still we cannot grasp it.”
“I don’t know what you mean, dad,” Cornelius said. He was sixteen that day but his father, for all his interest in history, did not remember the date. Since he was in his bed almost twenty-four hours a day he had no need for a calendar.
“I mean that the person who controls history controls their fate. The man who can tell you what happened, or did not happen, is lord and master of all he surveys.”
“But if he claims something that isn’t true then he’s master of a lie,” Cornelius reasoned.
Herman smiled and leaned forward. “But,” he said, holding up a lecturing finger, “if everyone believes the lie then he controls a truth that we all as-sent to. There is no true event, Cornelius, only a series of occurrences open to interpretation.”
Though Cornelius did not know it for many years, this was the moment of the birth of John Woman.
*Starred Review* Cornelius' beautiful, Italian American mother has left him with his father, Herman, an African American from Mississippi who works as a projectionist in a rundown East Village theater screening silent films, but whose true calling is studying history. When Herman's health fails, Cornelius covertly takes over his job. Solitary and scholarly, he acquires a radical education from his philosopher father, who tells him, "There is no true event, Cornelius, only a series of occurrences open to interpretation." Cornered and desperate, Cornelius commits a serious crime; succumbs to the rough bewitchment of an investigating policewoman; then escapes, eventually surfacing as Professor John Woman at a private university run by a secret society in the southwestern desert. His unnervingly innovative and democratizing approach to teaching history earns him adoration and hate; then, inevitably, his hidden past erupts. After launching his promising new series featuring PI Joe King Oliver with Down the River unto the Sea (2018), Mosley is at his commanding, comfort-zone-blasting best in this heady tale of a fugitive genius. His hero's lectures are marvels of intellectual pyrotechnics and provocative inquiries; intense sex scenes raise questions about gender roles and intimacy; and John Woman's increasingly drastic predicament and complex moral quandary precipitate arresting insights into race, freedom, power, and the stories we tell to try to make sense of the ceaseless torrent of human conflict and desire. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Versatile, masterful Mosley is a reader magnet, and this collision of crime and academic jousting will incite special interest. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.
Library Journal Reviews
In this intellectually exciting work, Mystery Grand Master Mosley creates a different kind of suspense as Cornelius Jones, son of a passionate Italian American mother and autodidact African American father, remakes himself after terrible loss and a moment of violence in his teenage years. During his father's prolonged final illness, with his mother having vanished, young Cornelius surreptitiously took over his father's job at a silent movie theater in New York. An incident there led to his meeting Det. Colette Margolis and his first, tough sexual relationship; with his father's death, he worked his way swiftly through higher education. Eventually, Cornelius remakes himself as Professor John Woman, inspired by his father's example to teach his students that while history is indeed an incontrovertible series of events, it's made of too many trillions of stories to grasp. He ends up teaching his brand of deconstructionist history at a Southwestern university, where he's loved by his select handful of students, reviled by the administration, and targeted by a mystical group as perfect for their needs, even as his own history circles back to get him. VERDICT Highly recommended for all smart readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Copyright 2018 Library Journal.