September 29, 2011 / 0670022977
by Carmen Ferreiro
The latest volume in William Kennedy's novels on Albany, Changó´s
Beads and Two-Tone Shoes follows Daniel Quinn's adventures
from Cuba in March 1957 to Albany, NY, on June 5, 1968 the day Bobby
Kennedy was mortally shot.
An Albany native (we meet him briefly, in an introduction, when,
as a young boy, he meets Bing Crosby and falls in love with jazz),
Daniel Quinn, following on the footsteps of his grandfather, has
come to Cuba with the hope of meeting Hemingway and interviewing
Fidel Castro who, back in 1957, was still hidden in the jungle fighting
Batista. As fate has it, he meets both and also Renata, a beautiful
young woman he marries on the spot and brings to Albany.
We meet them ten years later in Albany, and, as the city explodes
in a night of shooting and riots, Daniel and Renata, whose relationship
has grown cold over the years, are brought together again by the
dramatic circumstances around them. Or maybe not.
A complex book on politics, racism, revolution, drugs, with a good
dose of music and a pinch of the supernatural, Changó's
Beads and Two-Tone Shoes is not a book to rush through but
one to read at leisure to better capture its rhythm. Its characters,
bigger than life, seem more an excuse to tell a story, than real
people and the story is itself difficult to define, a story of an
island and a city and of its people. Or maybe about what it means
to be a human being and to grow older.
A good read that will entertain you, teach you a thing or two and
make you think. What more could a book be?