Long Division Reviewed By Gordon Osmond of
Gordon Osmond

Reviewer Gordon Osmond : Gordon is a produced and award-winning playwright and author of: So You Think You Know English--A Guide to English for Those Who Think They Don't Need One, Wet Firecrackers--The Unauthorized Autobiography of Gordon Osmond and his debut novel Slipping on Stardust.

He has reviewed books and stageplays for and for the Bertha Klausner International Literary Agency. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Law School and practiced law on Wall Street for many years before concentrating on writing fiction and non-fiction. You can find out more about Gordon by clicking HERE

Gordon can also be heard on the Electic Authors Showcase.

By Gordon Osmond
Published on June 4, 2013

Author:Kiese Laymon

Publisher:Agate Publishing

Author:Kiese Laymon

Publisher:Agate Publishing

Two rival teenagers are sent off to compete in a televised contest the challenge of which is not to spell, but to define. Both fail to win in their individual ways, and the one that is the primary focus of the novel is sent off, again, for some time-out with his grandmother. While with her, he is baptized, beaten up by thugs, and involved in the retaliation for that and other offenses against his family. The prospect of being the star of a new reality TV show based on his contest performance is dangled, which brings his co-contestant down to visit in a hurry.

I rather like this story, particularly when told by such a captivating voice, but I strongly suspect that Kiese Laymon would rather take pills than limit himself to it. In his admirable effort to say so much more, he ends up, in this reviewer’s view, realizing a bit less. For appended to this basic plot is a tale of time travel that is often bewildering.

The story starts at a super-contemporary point. Indeed, I half expected to learn the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case when turning a page. But before we’re done, we’ve revisited the ‘60s, the ‘80s, and perhaps other decades, all courtesy of a sylvan time tunnel that proves irresistible. These trips involve interaction with whites, blacks, Jews, Klansmen, and perhaps other groups I missed. For, truth be told, once the reader was taken down the hole, this one got a bit lost in the weeds. These time travels are set out in a distinctive unornamented font, and I confess to being relieved by the reappearance of serifs.

Citoyen Coldson is an unlikely hero, but not an anti one. He’s portly and hardly travels light, more or less constantly carrying a comb, a book, and/or a computer, all of which have, no doubt, talismanic significance. However, he’s a GQ model compared to some of those he encounters. One of the author’s major strengths is his ability to portray in almost poetic, albeit smart/quirky terms human functioning at its most gross.

Citoyen Coldson has other problems if the objective is to create a character with whom a reader can relate. Clearly he’s no dunce; so why does he suffer such egregious lapses in deportment when faced by a contest ruling that is clearly correct, and a benign baptism?

Long Division is no easy read, but there are considerable rewards along the rocky way. In the words of LaVander Peeler, whom the author, somewhat preciously, cannot bring himself to identify with only his first name, “all things considered,” some readers may feel that it’s well worth the effort.

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