Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Search of America

The plotless (and widely acclaimed) novel Open City by Teju Cole (who visits Friday 2/10) is essentially a meandering story about meanderings.

At one point the Nigerian-American narrator visits an immigration detention center in Queens and meets a young Liberian man who has long nurtured dreams of emigrating to America.

The Liberian has undertaken an arduous journey from Liberia to Mali to Morocco to Spain to Portugal, gradually saving up enough money to purchase a false passport and fly to JFK airport in New York City. The narrator hears his story from behind a wall of plexiglass.

"The man who sat in front of me had a broad white smile. He was young, and dressed in an orange jumpsuit, as were all the other inmates. I introduced myself, and he smiled immediately and asked if I was African. He was as good-looking, as striking in appearance as any man I had ever seen. He had delicate cheekbones, a dark, even complexion, and the whites of his eyes were as vivid as his white teeth...."

To read more, buy the book.