Synopses & Reviews
Charles Johnson's innovative and richly imagined collection is full of stories sly, witty, and insightful that bring the world into focus. Each is a vivid cultural and philosophical portrait that deftly explores issues of identity and race. "Kwoon" follows the spiritual journey of a martial arts teacher on Chicago's South Side. "Sweet Dreams" is a Kafkaesque tale set in a world where dreams are taxed and a man and his dreamlife are being audited. "The Gift of the Osuo" is a fable about the dangers of getting what you wish for. In "Cultural Relativity," a young woman falls in love with the son of the president of an African nation but is forbidden to ever kiss him. The title story is an illuminating and deeply human tale about pre-Montgomery Martin Luther King Jr. and a revelation he had when he looked into his refrigerator late one night.
Provocative, engaging, and compassionate, Dr. King's Refrigerator is a superb and important collection from a major American voice.
"Sages squabble, philosophers deliberate and kings dream in this collection of eight short stories by National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passage, etc.). Like fairy tales for policy-minded grownups, the stories revolve around ethical and philosophical decision making. In 'Executive Decisions,' the head of a Seattle company ponders which of two candidates to hire for an important post. The easy favorite is a white woman, capable and personable; the other contender is a tense, watchful black man, who knows 'firsthand and through research...the contributions from people of color.' In the end, the narrator's decision hinges on a revelation about the role of a black woman in his own white father's past. Though wooden in conception (like many of these stories), the tale comes to life at its ambiguous ending. Johnson's longer, more carefully fleshed out stories are most effective. In 'The Gift of the Osuo,' the king of a 17th-century African tribe is given a magic chalk that allows him to draw anything and make it come to life. The things he draws resemble 'not the Real, but the Real transfigured,' and it's the magic of this vision that transforms an otherwise ordinary fable. The didactic flatness of most of the other entries including the title story, in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. finds inspiration in lettuce and grapefruit isn't quite obscured by occasional bursts of inventive language and insight. Agent, Anne Borchardt." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Johnson's collection of short stories highlight his storytelling abilities as well as his powerful grasp of the historical and political significance of the small details of race and identity." Booklist
"An ingenious psychological whodunit." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Johnson is once again at the ready with his quirky, professorial writing style and his melange of Buddhism, Western philosophy and African magic realism." Z. Z. Packer, The New York Times Book Review
This insightful and witty collection of recently published stories by National Book Award-winning author Charles Johnson explores issues of identity and race.
Winner of the National Book Award
“A novel in the honorable tradition of Billy Budd and Moby Dick…heroic in proportion… fiction that hooks into the mind.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Long after we’d stopped believing in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that.” — Chicago Tribune
“It’s a joy to read fiction in which there is a cultivated vision at work...the greatest victory of Dreamer is the light it shines on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.”
—Dennis McFarland, The New York Times Book Review
“In their remarkable simplicity these stories reach into...the African American experience with surprising freshness and the fluency of years of gathered wisdom. This book is a deeply satisfying reading adventure.” — Black Issues Book Review
About the Author
Dr. Charles Johnson, a 1998 MacArthur fellow, is the S. Wilson and Grace M. Pollock Endowed Professor of English at the University of Washington in Seattle. His fiction includes Dr. King's Refrigerator, Dreamer, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.
Table of Contents
Sweet dreams -- Cultural relativity -- Dr. King's refrigerator -- The gift of the Osuo -- Executive decision -- Better than counting sheep -- The queen and the philosopher -- Kwoon.