Jul 18 2006

Mr Commitment

Mike Gayle is a British novelist. He writes books that, if you were feeling snarky, you might call chick-lit that guys can read too. Less snarkily, he writes light contemporary drama. I’ll admit to a small weakness for the genre, at least in its British variant. Although the plots are wildly predictable, the details of melodrama in a separated-by-common-language culture fascinate me. Plus Gayle is good with dialogue and doesn’t go for cheap ploys.

And there’s another thing: Gayle’s black. As are his characters. Or at least they might be, though I had to admit I did not picture them as black at first. He chooses not to make much use of physical description, so it seems clear that he’s at the very least quite aware of the ambiguity he’s creating. On the other hand, I wonder if there aren’t subtler cues–neighborhoods where the characters live, other parts of their background–that would tip off British readers. Anyone else have this experience? Or more broadly, what would tip you off that a London-based character was black, without being a physical description or too much of a stereotype?

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