Jamaica Kincaid's first obsession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi driver who makes his living along the wide, open roads that pass the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried. The sun shines squarely overhead, the ocean lies on every side, and suppressed passion fills the air. Misery infects the unstudied, slow pace of this island and of Mr. Potter's days. As Kincaid's narrative unfolds in linked vignettes, his story becomes the story of a vital, crippled community. Kincaid strings together a moving picture of Mr. Potter's ancestors - beginning with memories of his father, a poor fisherman, and his mother, who committed suicide - and the outside world that presses in on his life, in the persons of his Lebanese employer and, later, a couple fleeing World War II. Within these surroundings, Mr. Potter struggles to live at ease: to purchase a car, to have girlfriends, to shake off the encumbrance of his daughters - one of whom will return to Antigua after he dies - to tell his story with equal measures of distance and sympathy.
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
July 16, 2006
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Excerpt from Mr. Potter by Jamaica Kincaid
And that day, the sun was in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky, and it shone in its usual way so harshly bright, making even the shadows pale, making even the shadows seek shelter; that day the sun was in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky, but Mr. Potter did not note this, so accustomed was he to this, the sun in its usual place, up above and in the middle of the sky; if the sun had not been in its usual place, that would have made a great big change in Mr. Potter's day, it would have meant rain, however briefly such a thing, rain, might fall, but it would have changed Mr. Potter's day, so used was he to the sun in its usual place, way up above and in the middle of the sky. Mr. Potter breathed in his normal way, his heart was beating in its normal way, up and down underneath the covering of his black skin, up and down underneath his white knitted cotton vest next to his very black skin, up and down underneath his plainly woven white cotton shirt that was on top of the knitted cotton vest which lay next to his skin; so his heart breathed in its normal way. And he put on his trousers and in the pocket of his trousers he placed a white handkerchief; and all this was as normal as the way his heart beat; all this, his putting on his clothes in just that way, as normal as the way his heart beat, the heart beating normally and the clothes reassuring to Mr. Potter and to things beyond Mr. Potter, things that did not know they needed such reassurance.