The Dragon Can't Dance

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Overview

Lovelace's classic novel of Carnival.
Carnival takes on social and political importance in this recognized classic. The people of the shantytown Calvary Hill, usually invisible to the rest of society, join the throng and flaunt their neighborhood personas in masquerade during Carnival. Aldrick, the dashing "king of the Hill," becomes a glorious, dancing dragon; his lovely Sylvia, a princess; Fisheye, rebel idealist, a fierce steel band contestant; and Philo, Calypso songwriter, ...

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Overview

Lovelace's classic novel of Carnival.
Carnival takes on social and political importance in this recognized classic. The people of the shantytown Calvary Hill, usually invisible to the rest of society, join the throng and flaunt their neighborhood personas in masquerade during Carnival. Aldrick, the dashing "king of the Hill," becomes a glorious, dancing dragon; his lovely Sylvia, a princess; Fisheye, rebel idealist, a fierce steel band contestant; and Philo, Calypso songwriter, a star. Then a business sponsors Fisheye's band, Philo gets a hit song, and Sylvia leaves the Hill with a prosperous older man. For Aldrick, it will take one more masquerade—this time, involving guns and hostages—before the illusion of power becomes reality.

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Editorial Reviews

MultiCultural Review
A wonderful work, filled with insight, depth, and truth.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The lilting, metallic harmonies of steel drums and the musical rhythm of Trinidadian Creole patois are elegantly rendered by consummate Caribbean man-of-letters Lovelace (Salt) in this novel, published in England in 1979. As always, Lovelace is concerned with how West Indian men and women struggle to find their individual identities in the face of dehumanizing living conditions, and how they resist cultural assimilation. For two days a year, the festival-parade of Carnival allows struggling Trinidadians to forget their poverty and embrace the frenzy and glory that masquerade provides. For the hilltop shack communities that dot the outskirts of Port-of-Spain, Carnival takes on mythic proportions. The respect that hustler Aldrick gains for his portrayal of an intricately scaled dragon carries him through the year. But the old order is fading: aging Carnival queen Cleothilde is forced to give way to beautiful, free-spirited Sylvia; drummer Fisheye fights to preserve his pride; and corporate sponsors rush to profit from Carnival and do away with its old customs of warriorhood between rival bands in favor of a more tourist-friendly version of the festivities. Conflicts arise when whose who resist control by the corporations alienate neighbors by challenging the inevitable commercialization of Carnival. Kaleidoscopically colorful characters and a faithful ear help make this quest for personhood one of Lovelace's best works. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Caribbean writer Lovelace, whose Salt won the 1997 Commonwealth Writer's Prize, returns with a story (first published in England in 1979) that offers a defining and luminously sensitive portrait of postcolonial island life. The island in question is recently independent Trinidad, but it could be any Caribbean island settled by European planters, African slaves, and indentured East Indians. Carnival time is at hand, and the inhabitants of the Hill, former slaves, who "survive here, holding their poverty as a possession," are getting ready for this Mardi Graslike celebration: Steel bands are practicing, calypso singers and writers—like the diffident Philo—are creating new songs, and Aldrick Prospect, as usual, is working on his dragon costume. Aldrick, who, like most of the men, is unemployed, comes alive at Carnival, where it's his mission to do the Dragon dance, a dance that expresses all the people's frustrations and memories of their warrior past, and affirms their power—power that, if provoked, could burn down the city. But this year Aldrick, who's spurned the advances of young Sylvia, finds himself brooding. Change is in the air—those steel bands are acquiring commercial sponsors, the old fighting spirit of the people is changing to passive acceptance, and Aldrick's friends are drifting away and making new lives. After Carnival, Aldrick, feeling like "the last symbol of rebellion," continues to brood, especially when he sees Sylvia take up with Guy, a notorious womanizer. He befriends Fisheye, an angry radical, and joins a futile rebellion against the government. Aldrick is jailed but, unlike the others, doesn't accept defeat, and once released—stilldepressed—he returns to the Hill. Finally, a quiet epiphany and a promise of Sylvia's affection present him with hope and reason enough to give up the impotent protest of the Dragon's dance. A poignant, beautifully crafted tale about a man and his country on the cusp of change.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780892552726
  • Publisher: Persea Books
  • Publication date: 6/16/2003
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 7.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

A statesman of Caribbean letters, Earl Lovelace is the author of five novels and many plays and essays. He lives in his native
Trinidad and is presently on the faculty of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

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