Sunday, September 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay, excerpt fourteen)

from Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay:

Tasan was introduced to Diup Wuluff. Diup was a West African who had made several attempts to create an African theatre in Harlem by drawing upon his extensive knowledge of native African amusement patterns. But he had never tasted the sweet fruit of success with any of his ventures. He possessed original ideas of the native African scene but could not develop and clothe them properly to meet the exigencies of the modern American stage. He had staged impressive exhibtiions in obscure Harlem places. There were parts that came up heaving like the hulk of an elephant or sharp like the menacing horn of a furious rhinoceros, but they were never expertly welded together to make the whole of the performance a triumph. And apparently Diup could not or would not learn the sophisticated tricks.

When Maxim Tasan made contact with Diup, the latter was destitute and willing to sell his talents for any fee. He supplied Tasan with details of the various native African pastimes. And one above all fascinated Tasan—the Society of African Leopard Men. Tasan thought that nothing could be more original than staging a leopard dance in Harlem. Harlem had witnessed many curiously native African things: dances of African masks, fetishers and medicine men in an orgy of supernatural manifestations, totem-taboo extravangazas, festivals of circumcision, and rituals of obscure primitive phallicisms. But Harlem had never had a leopard dance. And that was Maxim Tasan’s choice.

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