It was then that he would realize that he was different and vulnerable and that the simple joy of being in love and expressing it with straightforward passion was denied him, and he would retreat into an indigo funk. 
Horace Cross is smart and nerdy; but the 16-year-old is tired of his suffocating life. He wants to spend the rest of his appointed time on earth not as a torture human being but as a bird. Through the practice of sorcery he summons a demon that will spirit him away from his family and achieve metamorphosis. In a night of horror and transformation, unexpected demons tear him away from his soul. Instead of turning him into a bird, the demons make him to be a ghost and situate him back to the stations of his life: the church dominated by his aunts and grandfather, and in which his elder cousin Thomas Malachi Greene has become a preacher, the school where he discovers knowledge and wisdom, the forbidden pleasures of sex, and all his past dreams that have hellishly turned into reality.
[Horace] had been created by this society. He was a son of the community, more than most. His season for existing, it would seem, was for the salvation of his people. But he was flawed as far as the community was concerned. First, he loved men; a simple, normal deviation, but a deviation this community would never accept. And second, he didn’t quite know who he was. 
The root of his suffering is sexuality: homosexuality and cultural homophobia. In school he befriends with a sissy boy whom he later jilts fir a group of well-to-do white jocks in an effort to dismantle his bookish image and assimilate. Against his conservative and religious background of his family, Horace’s existence is a continual battle between repression and desire. A professional male black actor is what convinces Horace that his mind has lied to his heart.
He suspected that his family might object to his action. But he had no idea they would pronounce treason and declare war. From top to bottom, uniformly, they condemned him. It was not the piercing of his ear, it was what it represented, they said . . . Then white boys done took a hold of your mind . . . Shames me to see you come to this. [238-9]
In a style that is literary and volatile, reminiscent of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, A Visitation of Spirits is interwoven with memory that fits past events into a matrix of the present. Whether or not Horace is truly possessed by demons that he invites, he is possessed by his own sexuality, and to control and suppress that desire he is rendered hallucinated (or schizophrenic). Shares the same struggle but from a different root is Reverend James Greene, who lives the tradition and expectation that Horace feels he has betrayed. James Greene is the norm by which Horace Cross is raised; but in fulfilling the hopes of family, choked and haunted by the ghost of his unfaithful wife, he is also denied of his promise. That the norms cannot provide an answer to Horace makes it all the more ironic for demons to deliver a way of life that is not condoned.
257 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]
Filed under: American Literature, Books, Contemporary Literature, Literature | Tagged: A Visitation of Spirits, African American Literature, Books, Contemporary Literature, Literature, Randall Kenan |