Chester McGroovy appears in only one paragraph of [Toure]'s audacious and inventive debut collection. Though he is a mere walk- on in The Portable Promised Land's bizarre, and brilliantly monikered, cast of hundreds, Chester McGroovy, in one respect, bears an unmistakable resemblance to his author. Like Toure, he is a collector of "Certified Authentic Negrified artifacts." McGroovy's antique shop in the phantasmagorical Soul City includes such rare items as "a guitar played by Robert Johnson. . . . a Richard Pryor crack pipe. . . . as well as Harriet Tubman's running shoes." Among Toure's own "Negrified artifacts" are hit songs, hairstyles, household objects, facial expressions, physical gestures and, most important, expressions of speech, all scrupulously catalogued with a mix of ancestor worship and irreverent wit. If this makes The Portable Promised Land sound a bit crazy and chaotic, that's because it is. But in the best of these 24 short stories, the reader feels a bracing, biting gust of literary fresh air.
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