John R. Keene was born in St. Louis in 1965. He graduated from the St. Louis Priory School and later from Harvard College, where he studied history and American literature and was a member of the Art Board of the Harvard Advocate. In 1989, Mr. Keene joined the Dark Room Writers Collective, a year later won one of three Fellowships in Fiction awarded by the Artists Foundation of Massachusetts. He was a Lecturer in the General Faculty of the University of Virginia, and the Managing Editor of Callaloo. He is currently The New York Times Fellow at New York University. Annotations is John Keene’s astonishing first novel about growing up in St. Louis.
Ranging from the 17th century to the present and crossing multiple continents, Counternarratives’ novellas and stories draw upon memoirs, newspaper accounts, detective stories, interrogation transcripts, and speculative fiction to create new and strange perspectives on our past and present. In “Rivers,” a free Jim meets up decades later with his former raftmate Huckleberry Finn; “An Outtake” chronicles an escaped slave’s fate in the American Revolution; “On Brazil, or Dénouement” burrows deep into slavery and sorcery in early colonial South America; and in “Blues” the great poets Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia meet in Depression-era New York and share more than secrets.
Available: May 05 2015
An experimental first novel of poem-like compression, Annotations has a great deal to say about growing up Black in St. Louis. Reminiscent of Jean Toomer’s Cane, the book is in part a meditation on African-American autobiography. Keene explores questions of identity from many angles––from race to social class to sexuality (gay and straight). Employing all manner of textual play and rhythmic and rhetorical maneuvers, he (re)creates his life story as a jazz fugue-in-words.