By Chris Abani
Picador USA, Paperback, 9780312425289, 336pp.
Publication Date: January 26, 2005
Graceland is a dazzling debut by a singular new talent
The sprawling, swampy, cacophonous city of Lagos, Nigeria, provides the backdrop to the story of Elvis, a teenage Elvis impersonator hoping to make his way out of the ghetto. Broke, beset by floods, and beatings by his alcoholic father, and with no job opportunities in sight, Elvis is tempted by a life of crime. Thus begins his odyssey into the dangerous underworld of Lagos, guided by his friend Redemption and accompanied by a restless hybrid of voices including The King of Beggars, Sunday, Innocent and Comfort. Ultimately, young Elvis, drenched in reggae and jazz, and besotted with American film heroes and images, must find his way to a GraceLand of his own.
Nuanced, lyrical, and pitch perfect, Abani has created a remarkable story of a son and his father, and an examination of postcolonial Nigeria where the trappings of American culture reign supreme.
"A richly detailed, poignant, and utterly fascinating look into another culture and how it is cross-pollinated by our own. It brings to mind the work of Ha Jin in its power and revelation of the new."--T. Coraghessan Boyle
"Abani's intensely visual style--and his sense of humor--convert the stuff of hopelessness into the stuff of hope."--San Francisco Chronicle
"Extraordinary...This book works brilliantly in two ways. As a convincing and unpatronizing record of life in a poor Nigerian slum, and as a frighteningly honest insight into a world skewed by casual violence, it's wonderful...And for all the horrors, there are sweet scenes in Graceland too, and they're a thousand times better for being entirely unsentimental...Lovely." --The New York Times Book Review
"To say that this is a Nigerian or African novel is to miss the point. This absolutely beautiful work of fiction is about complex strained political structures, the irony of the West being a measure of civilization, and the tricky business of being a son. Abani's language is beautiful and his story is important."--Percival Everett